Business Alignment

No matter if you’re a small business, large corporation or non-profit, there are connections in our purpose, communication and the places we connect in. I have written before on the importance of alignment and I am going to do again, but this time I want to break down the idea into steps.

I believe that the three key principles in all businesses are these; Culture, Brand and Place. The principles are not free-standing as some would treat them. No, all three of these are linked in an interlocking pattern. Adjust one and it affects the other two.

Take culture for the first example. What you and those around you believe about the same goal or outcome is your purpose and drives your brand message and the promise your communicate to others.

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Your promise to others needs a place that reflects this promise and helps facilitate your interactions with others. Your brand frames what your place should be no matter if it is physical or digital. The real message here is that both your physical and digital places should reflect your brand and not merely be a trendy place or a copy of someone else’s place.

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As I stated at the beginning of this post, all three are connected and each reacts and influences the others. The place where you interact must also support the belief and intention of your culture. It must stimulate those who enter to your belief and help become the stage of your people to communicate your message.

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It is very important to always remember that these three principles apply to business, play and home. What you believe is reflected in how you speak and what you speak about. Your place becomes a manifestation of those ideas. It is very important to always remember, that all three principles either nourish the whole or jeopardize the possibility of growth and success.

Map, Model, Plan

Before I continue with the phases of the Empathetic Business Model, I want to take a moment to post about development tools and their place in the sequence of business development. The key words here are development and sequence.

When I began working on the research for the creation of the Empathetic Business Model, the intent was not to replace a business plan nor the business development process that helps create a business plan. The intent was to create a model that touch on the emotional side of business. A side that few explore and fewer employ.

Most companies, start-ups and want-to-be entrepreneurs I have listen to in group discussions over the past few years begin with a name for a business and some rough details about the business. Initially, this is a good thing. Yet I liken it to a writer who starts with a title of the book and not the story inside. Keeping with this analogy of a story, a writer friend once told me that to write a great story you need to work in a defined sequence. First a writer must have a unique idea or dynamic conflict. Then they must sketch out this conflict in a world somewhere, add your cast of characters and then, develop their relationships, characteristics and their roles. 

As he stated, a writer creates a situation and then imagines how various characters would interact around the situation and with each other. This is the emotional or empathetic phase of writing. It defines why the story exists. Now comes the plot or scheme. He defines the facts around the situation.  The facts are established about who will do what, when, where and how. How will the characters respond? The writer brings the story to life by writing it out. Finally the story is packaged into a book and the publisher adds a sellable title.

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What can we learn from book creation? It’s very similar to start-up business development. For a business opportunity we need a conflict we can be resolved either by resolving an existing issue or creating a demand for something new. This is our plot or idea for a business. Now we begin to write the story or concept by setting all the emotional pieces into place. To do this we begin by understanding the customer through empathy. What do they see, feel or want? Create the dynamics of the relationship between you and those you will serve. Design the map of the customer/provider journey. This I call the Empathetic Business Model.

Now begin organizing and building the story of business model. Organize the sequence of events and how things will play out. Define the resources, movement and structure. This is business modeling. A great source for modeling can be found in The Business Model Generation.

Finally, bring everything together in your business plan. Your story for a successful business venture. A name is placed around the framework of your business concept that will appeal to the target market.

The best advice from my friend, act like a writer and follow the sequence writers do to create a sellable book and forget the title, it will come later.

Asking the “Big Why”

I have experienced many times during visual ideation sessions with stakeholders, that most executives can answer the basic questions of What, How, When, Where and even Who, but when confronted with what I call the “Big Why”, most stop cold in their tracks. In some cases, one of the stakeholders might quote their Vision statement or even their Mission statement in hopes that this will fulfill the “Big Why.” Not really the best response.

What do you ask, is a “Big Why” and my reasons for asking? That’s pretty simple to answer. It’s asking 2 key “Why” questions; “Why are you here today?” and “Why do you do what you do?” The purpose of these two types of questions is to uncover some deeper, more meaningful  and underlying answers. To strike deep into the core of the brand or culture of an organization and find out what is driving the machine and where it maybe heading.

Why are you here? What reasons can you give that can clarify why your organization wants or needs to change. Yes, I said change. You see, no company or group of people change uniformly or even willingly. It goes against human nature to desire change and to act on it. So when I ask groups why they are here, it provokes the emotional response that can not be answered very easily without exploration.

As for the second Big Why; why do you do what you do? It’s about uncovering what drives the organization. Is there passion in what they do. Is there a cause that the organization believes in and stands for, if not, then the change that maybe needed is to discover their direction, passion and/or purpose. This discovery in itself can trigger the beginning of change.

So the next time you have a management meeting, brainstorm about a new product or service, plan the next year’s strategy or simple sit down together and chat about the organization, ask the “Big Whys” and see where your organization stands and then you can begin change.

If you want to know more about the power of Why, then watch this piece on Simon Sinek and his lecture on “Start with Why” and how great leaders avoid begin with what and start with why.