Why “Why?” Matters in Small Manufacturing Companies Today

Why "Why" Matters

The most exciting stories all start with “Why?”.  Why does this company exist?  Why was that product or service created?  Why should someone buy this instead of another similar product?  Today, more than ever, businesses need to show purpose and a positive reason for existing.  The “Why?” is just as important as your top & bottom line financials.  This post will explore “Why?” through multiple lenses and provide you with some tidbits, actions, and insights that you can use today.

What is the “Why?” and why does it matter?

The small business world often resembles a battlefield, and there is truth to the saying that “it’s a jungle out there.”  Given the most recent challenges of high employee turnover, finding robust and skilled labor, countless supply chain issues, and customer satisfaction & retention all contribute to “the jungle” environment.

What is the common thread that links all of these issues together?  Our employees, suppliers, and customers are all a part of the human equation.  Yet, if you assess the root cause of these challenges, it is often attributed to a lack of “Why?”.  Whose “Why?” you may ask?

  1. Yours
  2. Your Business
  3. Employees
  4. Suppliers
  5. Customers

The answer is ALL OF THE ABOVE. But, first, you must listen to those critical connections within your entire business ecosystem and establish a genuinely authentic, multi-pronged response with a 360-degree view as the owner or business leader.

A strong, fully aligned “Why?” within your company can position you to retain the best employees and suppliers while delivering superior products in a positive, innovative environment to repeat customers.  Conversely, a company that cannot explain why it exists will be unable to get its employee base or suppliers to commit fully, let alone its customer network.  The results are “Weak products and services made by unhappy people working under poor conditions for companies with no real purpose (and therefore no real future).”

Why doesn’t your “Why?” work?

Why do some small manufacturing businesses succeed and others fail?  It may surprise you, but I don’t think it’s because of the products or services they offer or the quality of their work.  Believe it or not, it’s because of the “Why?”.  The “Why?” drives you to be better than your competition every day.  It’s what makes customers choose your business over someone else’s.  It challenges your employees and suppliers to give their fullest potential, fueled by your business’s critical “Why?”.

Some challenges with developing your “Why?” derive from not going deep enough into the subject.  For example, as a consultant, I am not a big fan of mission statements because they can turn into a buzzword salad with little to no meaning to anyone other than the committee that wrote it.  Go deep and be direct with the language.

Why isn’t “to make a lot of money” a good goal for small businesses?  Ask yourself “Why?” at least five times before stopping.  Remember, this is an introspection of why you chose to start or join this business over every other option possible.  To make money may be a byproduct of your true “Why?” but is not the genuine reason why.  Money doesn’t inspire.  Money is a lagging indicator that tells you how well you did relative to your financial Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), but not ALL of your KPIs.

So if the primary driver is not “just” money, how do you discover the answer to your true “Why?”? Here’s the deal: If you drill down into the vast majority of companies, the essence of their “Why?” is to help people in some capacity. You are here to help your clients and your employees be their best and succeed and help our suppliers improve their practices, emphasizing continuous improvement. And maybe, just maybe, you can make a difference in the world, to create a better tomorrow for all of us along the way. This type of “Why?” will connect people, leading to sustained growth for your business as a byproduct of answering this fundamental question of “Why?”.

The “Why?” does not have to be complex.

A small manufacturing company is like a person who needs to learn about its self-image, perceived image from employees/customers/suppliers, and base values. Once you know your “Why?” things become more explicit in establishing goals and making decisions.

  • You can better align your goals with your “Why” and then use it to act as a catalyst and guide for realizing your vision.
  • Customers will embrace it.
  • Employees will believe in it.
  • Suppliers will work with you, aligned with your vision.
  • Competitors will notice you due to your “Why” being a differentiator.

In short, the “Why” doesn’t have to be complex to help you level up in all significant aspects of your company, from customers, suppliers, employees, and everything in between.  For example, “Do the impossible every day for the greater good of Arizona and the southwest.” Or “Leave the world a better place than yesterday through our products, services, and relationships.”

There’s no right or wrong answer to “Why?”

There is no right or wrong answer to “Why?” in today’s business world.  As a company owner, you are your brand, and your brand is everything.  If your brand is not authentic, and if you cannot articulate that authenticity in a concise, transparent, powerful way, you will have a hard time impacting the marketplace.  Authenticity IS the key to the best possible “Why?”.

Your audience may not be vocal about it, but it’s on their minds: “What makes this company different?  Why should I spend my hard-earned money here instead of somewhere else?  Do these folks have my best interest at heart?” Often, they don’t even realize that they want to know “Why?” until they find your business and feel a connection with your brand. So take this opportunity to be authentic and win them over by providing that critical answer that they seek to their question of “Why?” . . . not right or wrong, but authentic!

A great “Why?” will act as a rallying cry and guide you to success.

Starting a small manufacturing business is a big deal.  Whether you’re going alone or have some partners, the process can be stressful and unsettling.  In the middle of all this, it’s important to keep perspective.  It’s essential to keep a rock-solid passion for your product and services alive and well in your heart, mind, and soul.  So how do you do that?  By remembering why you got into the business in the first place.  What’s your “Why?”?  Why are you doing this?  Then ask your employees, suppliers, and customers the same questions to find your collective “Why?”.

You’ve probably heard that humans are more likely to remember an experience when we know its purpose vs. when we don’t. So if you can answer why you’re in business and why you do what you do—and can communicate it clearly and in an engaging way—then the chances of your customers remembering your business will be significantly higher.

Whatever your “Why?” is that got you started, write it down and share it with the world. And don’t keep it to yourself! Instead, keep your “Why?” front and center with everyone who works with you: put it on a post-it note on their desks or computers, plaster it throughout your facility, and include it on all marketing materials. The more people know what drives you, the more they’ll be inspired by your vision and want to join in and be a part of it.

When we think of small manufacturing businesses, we may not immediately think of the quest for meaning.  But that is the lifeblood that drives many small firms.  They have a heartfelt desire to provide meaningful products and services to their customers to better their communities and the larger world.  Behind every small business, there is an origin story.  And the secret behind each one is often found in the fundamental reason “Why?.” So be an authentic AND prolific storyteller for your brand.

You’re “Why?” is not my “Why?”, and that’s OK.

The idea of a small business is that it’s supposed to be personal—it’s supposed to be about something you care deeply for because your business is an extension of you.  It’s your gift to the world, and you want it to be the best and most meaningful gift you can offer.  So, if we all have such different motivations for why we start and run our businesses, work in your business, provide parts and services to your business or buy from your business, how can it possibly make sense for us all to ask the same questions?

We love asking the question, “Why?” It’s a powerful tool when talking to prospects or customers, employees, suppliers, and other critical stakeholders in your business. You can build a relationship based on trust and respect when you genuinely understand their “Why?” and they understand yours.

It is essential to understand and embrace that your purposes do not have to be 100% fully aligned but should be connected and complementary. My “Why?” will not be the same as everyone else’s “Why?”. For example, my “Why?” might be that I want to be the best at what I do or that I want to build things with a lasting impact. Someone else’s “Why?” might be that they want to help people in the community and leave the world a better place than when they started. That’s OK!  In fact, it’s more than OK — it’s excellent!  We’d never get anywhere if we all looked at things from the same angle. We need people willing to push us in different directions to honestly and objectively assess what we’re good at, where our strengths lie, leading to our multi-faceted “Why?”.

Find the TRUE “Why?” for your business to level up and grow!

Your “Why” will be the cornerstone of your business.  It will help you meet your goals, achieve your vision, develop your team, manage employees, and inspire customers. In addition, it will be easier to work through inevitable obstacles and disappointments with a clear picture of why you started your business. Use this explanation of your “Why” to help guide your business ventures and turn them into something greater than you ever imagined!

Bottom Line:  It all starts and ends with “Why?”!  Get growing today!

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