When you meet someone for the first time, there are a few predictable questions you usually ask to get to know them. The most common, of course, is "what do you do for a living?" Not a bad conversation deepener as much of the population somehow defines themselves by their day job. By asking this question, we hope to gain some insight into what makes the person tick - but in the process, it's easy to assume a lot.
For example, if someone is a doctor, you might assume that they love taking care of people. Many times, this is not the case. Depending on what kind of household that person grew up in, they may have chosen that career path because their parents pushed it on them. On the flipside, you might meet an attorney and assume that they're all about money - when in actuality, they're passionate about giving individuals the justice they deserve.
If you really want to get to know someone, a better question than "What do you do?" is "Why do you do it?"
This question is also extremely important for business owners to ask of themselves.
Again, most of us define ourselves by what we do for a living, so if you're an entrepreneur - your business is literally an extension of you. Not only that, your "why" is imperative to your company's success.
According to Fast Company, businesses with a purpose are quite often more successful because of their ability attract the best talent and authentically resonate with their target customers.
"I wanted to get millenials excited about becoming environmentally conscious," says entrepreneur, Saum G, who co-founded Evolution Wear. The company innovated a fashionable outdoor jacket that uses solar technology to power mobile devices and also has the ability to turn into a backpack, but they didn't do it for the cool factor.
"We wanted to do our part to decrease fossil fuels by giving our customers a fun way to use clean energy - which is how we came up with the wearable tech idea. As an added bonus, we thought people could also use the jacket as a backpack when they are at the store to cut down on the use of grocery bags."
Knowing your "why" is also crucial to personal fulfillment. Success without happiness is a major fail. That's why Tony Robbins often connects the 6 Human Needs to business. He says, "The force of life is the drive for fulfillment; we all have a need to experience a life of meaning. Fulfillment can only be achieved through a pattern of living in which we focus on two spiritual needs: 1) the need to continuously grow; and 2) the need to contribute beyond ourselves in a meaningful way."
Floor Wijburg, co-founder of Yes We Care, started her company to cultivate a strong mission for businesses to give to charity, by optimizing their overall social impact. "We are in the business of inspiring companies to leverage their 'doing good' activities in a way that not only impacts their sales and business value, but will also leave a legacy that's far beyond any monetary profit they will ever make," she says.
An avid student of Tony Robbins, Wijburg believes that asking "why" inspires and attracts the kind of people she wants to work with. "The why is the fuel that keeps you going at every second of every day, even when everyone else is down and out," she says. "It's the difference between 'running a business' or 'leaving a legacy'."
When a business leader puts a strong focus on the "why," the benefits trickle down and impact the entire staff. Think of great company cultures like Zappos. It's founder, Tony Hsieh, was never in the business of selling shoes, but rather "delivering happiness." He famously created a company culture based on this and because his employees have a strong sense of purpose, they are more fulfilled and engaged. That, of course, translated into the "insane lengths Zappos customer service reps will go to."
If you are a business owner, constantly check in with yourself to make sure you know why you do what you do and go out of your way to engage your staff around that purpose. You might just find that this tiny question will have a major impact on your business (and life!) success.