Spelling Out the Orchestrating Idea Behind Your Business
Great creative efforts begin with an idea. The idea for a novel. The idea for a sculpture. The idea for a movie.
And, might I add, the idea for a business.
Your startup is rooted in an idea. Not a compact, one-line idea. But a series of specific ideas which converge to form what we might call the IDEA – the singular Orchestrating Idea behind your business.
Most small business owners just file this IDEA away in the back of their mind. That’s a horrible mistake. Let me show you how to put this IDEA to work for you in powerful ways that you may not have considered.
Your Idea Takes Shape
Your IDEA is the cornerstone of your business. You began laying this cornerstone the first time that you told someone, "I have an idea for a business which would …" Over time you probably repeated this statement to others. And little by little you expanded the statement to include additional details about the business which you envisioned.
But did you ever take the time to write out your IDEA in full? I’m not talking about writing out a vision statement or a mission statement. These need to be written, too. But in due time. They should be preceded by a substantive statement of your IDEA.
To be complete, this statement is likely to require a number of paragraphs. It will certainly require several sentences. That’s because a complete expression of your IDEA should address questions like these.
- What is my intention in starting this business?
- What is my rationale for believing that this is a viable business concept?
- What is the reputation that I want associated with the business?
- What beliefs and guiding philosophy will govern how I approach my business?
- What kind of impact do I want this business to have on the community? On my family? On my employees? On my customers? On me personally?
- What greater purpose should this business serve in terms of making the world a better place?
- What is my ultimate aim for this business? To sell it? To franchise it? To pass it down to my children?
- What benefit do I want to provide for my customers? How do I want to make their lives better?
This list is not meant to be an exhaustive set of questions. But it illustrates the types of questions that your IDEA statement should answer.
Your IDEA, Vision, and Mission
You can now see how your IDEA differs from written vision and mission statements. Your IDEA statement maps the context within which both your vision and your mission must operate. Your IDEA, in other words, is the precursor to your vision and mission statements.
Moreover, vision and mission statements need to be concise. They are intended to be quickly communicated and easily remembered.
By contrast, the substance of your IDEA is too broad and too extensive to be captured in a few words or phrases. And this is one compelling reason for writing it out. Due to its very length, your IDEA statement cannot be easily memorized. You therefore need to pull it out periodically to remind yourself (and your employees) of all the elements within it.
Your IDEA, vision, and mission statements each answer different questions about your business. Your vision statement spells out WHAT you do (or want to accomplish). Your mission statement outlines HOW you go about this task. And your IDEA statement lays out the WHY behind this WHAT and HOW.
Now, it may not be immediately obvious that your IDEA is the WHY behind your business. After all, the illustrative questions listed above generally start with the word "what." But this cluster of "whats" combine to answer the question, "Why do we do things the way that we do them?"
Overall, therefore, your IDEA is your overarching WHY for all of your policies, procedures, goals, priorities, and initiatives. And because it is the WHY for your business, your IDEA gives you the parameters within which to evaluate its success and effectiveness.
Taking Your IDEA to Work
Once your idea is written out, refined, and ready to publish, you are poised to use it as a powerful tool in keeping both you and your employees on track. Think about the typical training program for new employees. It zeroes in on WHAT they are to do and HOW they are to do it.
Missing from most new employee orientations is an explanation of WHY the WHAT and the HOW are important. Yet psychological studies for decades have concluded that most people do not become fully engaged in an undertaking unless they clearly understand the “why” behind it.
Your written IDEA is a natural tool for communicating your WHY to new employees. In fact, I would argue that it should be put before them in the interview stage. Before you offer them a position, you need to know if they are receptive to your WHY. If not, rule them out immediately as potential hires, no matter what skills and experience they would bring to your enterprise.
Now, here’s the hidden benefit to you in using your IDEA statement this way. Every time you work through your IDEA statement with an interviewee or employee, you are reminded yourself of the commitments that you made in writing out your IDEA. This, in turn, keeps you attuned to making every element of your IDEA as vibrant and productive as possible.
Where to Start
If you’ve not written out your IDEA statement before, start a first draft. Even if it’s nothing more than a few bulleted statements at this point, begin writing it down. Initially focus on your Intentions, Rationale, and Aspirations, what I call the IRA formula. That is, your IDEA statement should include as a minimum:
- Your Intention for the business
- Your Rationale for believing it to be a viable concept
- Your core Aspirations for the business
Later you can enlarge and expand on these elements. But they are a great place to get started.