My Thesis...And How Much "Purpose" Your Business Needs

I have a lot of goals in my personal life, but I like to keep those separate from my business life. The more overlap there is between your personal and business life, the more unrealistic your expectations of the business might be. I want to make business decisions around market impact and financial performance, all applied in a sustainable way into the indefinite future. That's it. It's not super noble—just attempting to make a discernible difference and earn the compensation.

If I keep suitable boundaries around the business, and if the business in turn yields sufficient capital, I take that time and money and do my best to accomplish my personal goals. In other words, a business—properly run—should yield the time and money to live the life you want. None of us is entitled to that, but it's what we work for. It's what I work for, in my own business and in my work with you. I want you to have a business; not a job, and definitely not a hobby.

You need separate lives, and your personal life—outside of the business—should be so interesting that you resent it when your work life crowds it out. Your employees are part of the team and not part of your family. Your clients aren't your primary friends, either, no matter how great they might be.

With that out of the way, what point of view or perspective infuses all my work? Very simply, it is this:

I work for smallish independent digital, creative, and marketing firms, helping the principals of those firms sleep better at night by making better business decisions, around money, people, processes, positioning, etc.

I don't help them do better work, I don't have an ongoing coaching relationship with them, and I don't help them figure everything out. I just help them make better decisions about running their business.

But this is not just the impact I'd like to have on my clients. I want my life's work to help the industry, too, which is why I modified my corporate charter back in 2016 to fall under a "public benefit" corporation that's designed to raise the tide for all ships in the harbor and not just the ones that tie up at my dock.

I suppose I'd like to think I'm changing the world directly or through my client work, but my expectations are moderated. I don't understand why we're trying to find soooo much meaning in our work. It should be enough to arrange things so that you provide an honest impact for an honest fee. It's true: some of you do have a remarkable platform for helping your clients fund cancer research or change something that you believe in deeply, but the rest of us are doing our jobs and that's still glorious.

The better your business decisions are, the more your business can be in a box without infringing on your time or not delivering enough money. I think we should be content with less impact from our business, externally, and be totally fine with earning the money clients pay us. If you run a good business, by definition you will be having an impact on the team because they will thrive as humans: good pay, good communication, good mentoring, and the opportunity for each of us to grow into an even better version of ourselves.

I do like it if you can tie your firm to a specific purpose that will resonate with your clients, too. Maybe you are helping credit unions do the work of financial literacy with their clients, or maybe you are making sure that the websites you build are fully accessible, or maybe you're helping a client respond wisely during a crisis. These are all noble, and they help you understand why you go back on Monday, and put one foot in front of the other, all day, every week.

But it does not have to be more than that. If you're struggling to find some higher purpose for your business, maybe ease up a bit and just do good work and think about how you move around within your world outside of work. Good work is noble—it doesn't need to be more than that.

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