Raleigh Small Business Women, Raleigh Blogger

How to speak your Why

At some point, every Mompreneur has had THE MOMENT. You know…the catalyst for this whole crazy journey. This moment can look like almost anything. For example:

Necessity – “Our family cannot continue to live as we’ve been living without a significant change in our cash flow.” (Maybe someone has lost a job, or something else unexpected has happened. I honestly believe in universal balance; for every bad, there will come some good.)

Inspiration – “YES! This is what I was put here to do!”

Problem-Solving – “I can’t believe no one has filled this gap yet! I’m on it.”

Helping – “You know, as long as I’m doing this for myself, I may as well share it with others. Hopefully someone will benefit.”

Living the dream – “I know what I want my life to look like in 5 years, and I’m going to make it happen. Let’s roll.”

The irony is that THE MOMENT doesn’t really define why you’re in business. You’ve got a plan, you’re passionate about your work, and your go-to people think it’s a great idea. So now what? How will you explain this dramatic life change in simple terms? This, ladies, is where WHY comes in.

In many industries, there’s a lot of focus on finding your Why, but people can go for years without really understanding what drives them. Isn’t that crazy? Maybe you’ve got your Why down pat and if you do, great. Pop-quiz: How would you respond if I asked “Why did you start your own business?”

The top answer I hear when I ask this question (or, why do you want to start your own business) is “I want to do this for my kids.” My response is usually something like “I love you sweety, but that is not your Why.” Your Why isn’t about someone else. It’s about you. Your Why is your secret go-to place when you want to quit, and it keeps you going. Your Why will carry you to far-off places, and it will force you to grow, to be uncomfortable, to learn, and to (gasp!) ask for help. Your Why is big, y’all. You must know what it is and stay focused on it.

So how do you get one?

Hint: You’ve already got it. Your Why is in there somewhere, begging to come out. It needs to be something you can easily state to others, in 2 sentences or less. Your Why is not necessarily your story; your story can take up a lot of space without really explaining your Why. Let’s do an exercise…I’ll share my story, which will get me to my Why. Using this example and some follow-up questions, see if you can clearly articulate your own Why at the end of this blog. (Dare ya.)

My story: Basically, I’ve worked in a corporate environment consistently for nearly 20 years. I love my job. Even after having my first child, I continued to love my job. I found balance between work and home, and I felt needed and valued in both places. After our second child was born, though, I started to re-evaluate. How much did I love my work compared to the time I was allowing others to care for my kids? Which felt better, achieving a corporate goal, or being present for our family? I was able to let this ride until my son was about 18 months old, and then came the blow: our team was being “re-organized” and I’d have to lay off 30% of my staff – who, by the way, were all outstanding, valuable employees – to set our balance sheet back to right. That kicked off a 2-week, blurry, subconscious thought pattern, which resulted in my looking around and asking “is this what it’s all about? I don’t want this to be what it’s all about.” (Did you see it? My catalyst moment!)

At that point, I did a few things. I made a list of my priorities, and then I took a hard look at our family budget to understand what it would take to replace my income and maintain our (admittedly comfortable) lifestyle. Then I had to figure out what was going to drive me in any business venture: passion, belief in myself and the venture, and a genuine desire to help and to serve others. I talked to everyone. I prayed. I ran ideas past family and friends, with no defined reason other than “to make a good salary so I can escape corporate.”

My dad was the one who stopped and asked “Hey pal…what’s so wrong with corporate?” Dad was an executive forever, and it’s with great humility that I admit, there are a lot of parallels between his career and mine. My dad pretty much rules, but he isn’t a mama, and I wasn’t sure he’d understand how my heart felt. In the most succinct way possible, I tried to explain: “Corporate is fine, and it provides well, but my time isn’t my own. I’m working my ___ off in support of someone else’s dream.”
In case you missed it, there’s my Why! My time is not my own. I am starting my business because I need to be able to spend my time on my own priorities, for the benefit of my family.

Ta da!

Think about your situation, how you got started, and the FEELING that made you take the leap. Not the logic, not the reason, but the FEELING. What hurt? What did you fix? Even if it feels like a bruise when you poke it, put it out there. It is your Why. It is valuable. YOU ARE VALUABLE. Own it.

The next step is to test your Why. You should be able to follow your Why statement with “…and the best part is, _____!” For example: “I started my own business because I wanted to make my time my own, and to focus more on my family. And the best part is, I have a roadmap to replace my corporate income within the next 2-3 years!”

Give it a whirl if you don’t already have a succinct, relatable Why statement. “I love sewing” is not a Why. “This business is sending my family to Disney for the first time” is not a Why. “I love sewing” may actually mean “I am spending my time doing something that makes my heart sing, that allows me to put my family first. And the best part is, I am treating my family to a top-notch Disney vacation next month!” See how that works?

You can do it. We all have a Why. Your Why gives your credibility, and makes you authentic and relatable. You are brave, and your Why is important. Use it.

Raleigh Rodan Fields, Raleigh Small Business Women, Raleigh BloggersKristen Bagwell is a corporate director, the click-clacker behind www.CorporateMama.com, and an executive consultant for Rodan + Fields skin care. She’s also a wife and mother of 2, and is consistently over-extended (but usually happy with that). Connect with Kristen on Facebook and Twitter (@corpmamanc). 

Cary Heise
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