3 Essential Questions for Every Entrepreneur: Going Beyond Profit
As entrepreneurs or business leaders, you are facing challenging times. Governments increasingly want to regulate in terms of companies’ climate impact, social responsibility, and other issues that do not directly contribute to profits. But is this really the role of government? By definition, shouldn’t entrepreneurs and leaders be asking themselves some questions that would make government intervention not even necessary?
We think so and have three questions we think every entrepreneur and leader should ask themselves. Being a socially or socially responsible entrepreneur may seem like something of our time, but entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, and Nick Swinmurn were asking themselves the same questions decades ago. The result? Billions of empires making Damn good money AND doing Damn good.
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Question 1: What is your Purpose besides Profit?
This question revolves around creating a mission for the company that goes beyond just making money. It could be about improving a community, advancing a cause, or contributing to an area of knowledge.
Steve Jobs always loved to see someone looking beyond profit alone. In his view, profit was a necessary part of a business, but it is not everything. Steve Jobs believed that a purpose is about what really drives you and your company.
When he (co)founded Apple, their purpose was not just to make money. It was to ‘make a dent in the universe’. They wanted to offer their customers the best user experience, with simplicity and elegance. Jobs believed in the power of technology to change lives. That is what drove Apple.
So ask yourself: what change do you want to bring about in the world? What is the dent your company wants to make in the universe?
Your purpose – according to Steve Jobs – should be something that excites and inspires you and your team. It should be something that is the foundation behind your decisions and strategies. When you have found it, you will know it because it will feel right.
Here are a few steps to help you find it:
Think about your personal values and passions:
What do you care about? What do you get excited about? The purpose of your business should match your own values and passions. If you are passionate about the environment, perhaps the purpose of your business is to make your industry more sustainable.
Think about your company’s unique strengths:
What is your company really good at? What sets it apart from your competitors? Your purpose should leverage your company’s unique strengths. If you are a tech company, your purpose might be to use technology to solve a particular problem.
Involve your team in formulating your answers:
Your purpose should resonate with your entire team. Ask them what they think the purpose of the company should be. What do they think is important? What do they think the company is good at? Their input can be invaluable.
Think about what value you bring to your customers:
How will your enterprise make their lives better? Your purpose should be focused on creating value for your customers.
According to Steve Jobs, the right answers to the above questions will lead to a Mission Statement. This must be a statement that you can easily communicate to your team, your customers, and the world. For Jobs, your purpose was not a marketing slogan, but a guiding principle. It should inspire your team and resonate with your customers. And it should be something you are proud to dedicate your life to.
“Now go out and make a dent in the universe.” Would Steve Jobs have said.
Question 2: How else can you measure your success than just by profits?
Profit is an important measure of a company’s success, but it is not the only one. This question is about considering other measures such as customer satisfaction, employee well-being, and environmental impact.
Richard Branson also believes in leaders and entrepreneurs always looking for success beyond profit. Profit is important to him, but it is by no means the only measure of success. Branson has always believed that companies should be a force for good. For him, that means taking care of your employees, your customers, and the planet.
He himself and the employees within his company Virgin have always prided themselves on doing things differently. That includes how they measure their success. Virgin looks at things like customer satisfaction, employee happiness, and our impact on the environment.
According to Branson, these are not just ‘nice to have’. They also contribute to the bottom line. A happy customer is a repeat customer. A happy employee is a productive employee. And a company that cares for the environment is a company built to last.
So, how can you measure your success beyond profit? Here are a few suggestions:
Measure your customer satisfaction:
This is an important one. Are your customers satisfied? Would they recommend you to a friend? You can measure this through surveys, online reviews, or net promoter scores. And remember that every complaint is an opportunity to improve.
Measure employee well-being:
Your employees are your greatest asset. Are they happy? Do they feel valued? Do they have a good work-life balance? Regular employee surveys can give you a good picture of this. You can also look at things like turnover rates and sick days.
Measure your impact on the environment:
This is becoming increasingly important. What is your company’s carbon footprint? How much waste do you produce? How much energy do you consume? There are plenty of tools and consultants that can help you measure this. And reducing your environmental impact can often save you money too.
Measure your social impact:
Does your business have a positive impact on society? This could be through donations to charities, volunteering or creating jobs in disadvantaged areas. Again, there are tools and specialists that can help you measure this.
Measure your innovation:
This is an important one for Richard Branson. Are you pushing boundaries? Are you trying new things? Are you disrupting your industry? This may be harder to measure, but it is vital.
These are just a few examples. The important thing is to decide what is important to you and your business and then find a way to measure it.
If Richard Branson were standing in front of you right now, he would say, “Entrepreneurship is about more than making money. It’s about making a difference. And I believe the most successful businesses in the future will be those that do both.”
Question 3: What legacy do you want to leave behind?
This question invites you to think about the long-term impact of your business. The answer can influence succession planning, investment, and business management decisions.
Nick Swinmurn of the successful Zappos, believes this is a question every entrepreneur and leader should be thinking about. During my own journey with Zappos, he has always been convinced that they could create more than just a successful online shoe shop. Today, they are a company known for its culture and customer service. It is a company that people loved to be a part of and people loved to buy from. That was the legacy Swinmurn wanted to leave behind and he has already succeeded.
When you think about your legacy, it’s not just about what the company will do today or tomorrow, but how it will be remembered in the future. How will it affect customers, employees, the industry, and the rest of the world?
Here are a few questions to help you think about this:
What values do you want your company to embody?
Zappos is known for its ten core values. These values guide everything we do, from the way we treat our customers to the way we treat each other. Think about which values are important to you and how you can promote them in your business.
What impact do you want to have on your customers?
At Zappos, they always put the customer first. They want to be known for their incredible customer service. What kind of relationship do you want to have with your customers? What do you want them to think about you?
What kind of influence do you want your employees to have?
Nick Swinmurn believes that happy employees lead to happy customers. They go to great lengths to maintain a company culture that people love. What kind of culture do you want to create in your company? How do you want your employees to feel about their work?
What impact do you want to have on your industry or the world?
Zappos has helped revolutionize online retail. What change do you want to bring about in your industry? Or in the world at large?
The answers to the above questions can form your vision that can guide your decisions and actions. It can inspire your team and give meaning to your work.
Nick Swinmurn believes, “A legacy is not just about the past, but also about the future. It’s about creating something that will outlive you. It’s about making a positive impact that will be felt for generations to come. That really is a worthy goal for any entrepreneur.”
Q1: Why is it important for entrepreneurs and business leaders to go beyond profits?
A1: Going beyond profits is essential because it allows entrepreneurs to create a meaningful impact and leave a lasting legacy. It aligns their business with a higher purpose and motivates both the team and customers.
Q2: How can entrepreneurs identify their purpose beyond profit?
A2: Entrepreneurs can identify their purpose by reflecting on their personal values and passions, considering their company’s unique strengths, involving their team in the process, and thinking about the value they bring to customers.
Q3: What are some alternative measures of success besides profit that entrepreneurs should consider?
A3: Entrepreneurs should consider measures such as customer satisfaction, employee well-being, impact on the environment, social impact, and level of innovation. These metrics provide a more holistic view of success.
Q4: How can entrepreneurs measure their impact on the environment and social responsibility?
A4: Entrepreneurs can measure their impact on the environment by assessing their carbon footprint, waste production, and energy consumption. They can measure social responsibility by evaluating donations to charities, volunteering efforts, and job creation in disadvantaged areas.
Q5: Why is it important for entrepreneurs to think about the legacy they want to leave behind?
A5: Considering the long-term impact of their business helps entrepreneurs make strategic decisions, plan for succession, and invest wisely. It allows them to shape their company’s values, influence customers, impact employees, and overall contributions to the industry and society.