I was talking to a colleague the other day about his job, and we were laughing about the idea that when you get deeper into your profession (and more successful), you can easily move farther away from the actual ‘thing’ that pulled you into your business in the first place. Take the example of a chef: everything starts with a love of food and cooking, but before you know it, the chef finds herself with a staff to oversee and a full kitchen to run. What was once about the art of food preparation is now more about personality management, product ordering, and running a business than it is about cooking. This experience cuts across all industries; what’s interesting, though, is that the same pattern also exists on a broader, company scale. A business can easily morph right under your feet and become about something very different than what you originally intended. I don’t mean that you started as one thing and simply pivoted into another – what I mean is that the service that you provide (the core service) ultimately becomes one part of the other aspects of what your business is actually about. The question is: what can we learn from this fact, and how can we use it to our advantage?

There are, as I see it, two critical insights that emerge from clearly identifying what your business is actually about:

1. Naming what your business is actually about allows you to excel at it I’ll use our company as an example.

In our early years, we had a fervent belief that the work should speak for itself and that nothing else really mattered. What we quickly came to realize is that our job is as much about relationship management (from brand and web education, to understanding our clients’ business challenges, to managing overall expectations) as it is about the work that we provide. The freeing thing about this understanding is that instead of trying to change that reality, we get the opportunity to work at really excelling at it. We’re able to ask ourselves questions like: what does it mean to work with [whitepenny], what does the process look like from a client’s seat, and what can we do to make that process a better experience?

2. Naming what your business is actually about helps you keep focus on what it should be about

The other side to recognizing that a huge piece of your business exists in a realm that is technically outside of your core offering is that it can serve as a nice gut-check. When you cut through all of the noise, what are people paying you to do? It’s easy to surround your job with a lot of ancillary pieces that may look and sound good, but are you actually delivering a good product to your customer? Are you excelling at the very thing that you started the business to do?
This internal business conversation gets a lot easier when you acknowledge that the answer doesn’t exist in either extreme. Ultimately it’s about excelling at all aspects of your work: those that were the reason for starting in the first place as well as those that are simply a part of what it means to run a successful business.