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I know, it sounds like a silly question with an obvious answer. You and I both know that, fundamentally, the answer is that you need to feed your family, or, if you’re single, you need to feed yourself. Your prime directive in running a business is to make money. If you didn’t need money, you would probably be doing something else: Maybe living in a Hawaii mansion with a yacht and a fishing boat. However, as a business owner, it is important for you to consider this question in a deeper way.

Why did you choose to start a business as your money-making opportunity? After all, there is always the possibility of employment: It’s lower pay, but also lower risk, and you can usually keep a job once you have it if you can make yourself valuable in the work force. However, you decided that you would much rather take on the greater (some would say infinite) risk of business ownership. There has to be a reason for this, and that reason, if you are perfectly honest with yourself, is the mission of your company.

I believe that this is why so many small businesses can fail: The reason for their inception may not have been anything better thought-out than to have the opportunity to hire oneself as the owner of a company. This isn’t a question about what you do, but rather why you do it, and it is essential to any business’s brand. Let’s face it: If you don’t have something driving you to own your own business; if you don’t have a real reason for why you chose to do what you are currently doing; if you cannot honestly answer the question of why you are in business in a way that doesn’t sound self-serving, it is highly likely that your customers will notice, and your business will suffer.

The bottom line is that if you don’t have a sense of mission for your business, you are going to have difficulty making customers happy, because you are not fulfilling any sense of story. They don’t know why you are willing to do what you do, other than the fact that they are willing to pay you for it. As a result, you will always be perceived as doing a satisfactory job at best. So, business owners, own your business. Instill it with a sense of purpose. Show the face behind the company, and you will be surprised as to how much this honesty will help you.

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