Developing Identity vs Being Commodity

If we own or are working in a business, we are delivering a service or product. The client or customer expects to receive what it is they’ve purchased according to the specifications, scope, and price. This is a fact that is true, whether conscious in the mind of the buyer and seller or not. This is the baseline. Let’s dive deeper now.

All companies in a category are expected to deliver to the category. Let’s even say that we expect all the scope of work to be delivered to the exact same standard, that we could pick any one of the enterprises in the category, and expect the same exact results. What then would be the differentiator in selection? Price (cost) of course. If all things are 100% equal, then select and work with the lowest cost provider for the specified service or product.

But this is never the case. Products or services from different companies are not all delivered to the same standard. Why is this so? There are many reasons. But let’s focus on differentiation here; let’s focus on core purpose, core focus, core values. Defining the differentiators, the “why,” “what,” and “how,” define the difference, and create the unique value proposition of any enterprise. In fact, all companies have these defining attributes, they just don’t always know what they really are, or how to define them.

“Our Why”: Core Purpose.

This is our reason, our essence, why we do what we do. Unless we want to be more of a commodity, we need a core purpose; a “why;” a reason for the enterprise’s existence. This has nothing to do with WHAT we do, but why we do it. For instance in my company, we “Enable Facades that Inspire.” We “do” things to support that, but those “things” are not our “why.” We love to work on, and to help develop, improve, remediate, fix, oversee facades, building skins, building exteriors, in an inspired manner and to create inspiring outcomes. That’s why we show up every day.

“Our What:” Core Focus.

What is it that we deliver or do as a core focus to support our core purpose? This is the “what” to support the “why.” In my company for instance, we provide design, engineering, science and consulting to support the core purpose to enable facades that inspire. When you work with us you may “get engineering” for example among other things as part of the service, but you don’t buy “engineering” from us. You buy our core purpose (knowingly or not.) You work with us to support your vision on an inspiring facade or exterior building skin. To support that, one service we provide is “engineering” expressed in various forms. What we all do in enterprises is different than why we do it.

“Our How:” Core Values.

How do we do what we do to deliver why we do it? These are the core values; the “how.” What’s our personality, and what values do we live out, manifest, and provide as a group, an enterprise, an organization? Core values (the how) are our guard rails, our sign posts. For instance, at our company we have five core values, developed as a team. They are as follows: communication, integrity, collaboration, client conscious, and capable. Everything we “do” is filtered through this grid, this reality. These are not aspirational, they are reality. These core values define us. For instance, if you don’t want to communicate, and it’s not a value for you, then you wouldn’t want to work for us. The core values are in every job offer, discussed during recruiting, and measured during annual reviews. You don’t have to be perfect in living out the core values, but you have to care, to buy into them, be committed to improvement, and to be accountable to them. Goods and services are delivered with, through and by the core values.

The Story:

So the “why,” the “what,” and the “how” allow us to build our story, a common story, that anyone in the company can express. It gives us a common context to work within, a common reality, a shared experience. This is a powerful lever in advancing with focus and velocity. The story may be manifested or experienced in different forms and expressions. But in the big picture, if talking to someone in the elevator, at the coffee bar, or on break at the conference, asking us, “So what do you do,” we could say something like this, “Well, we enable facades that inspire through services like engineering, design, science, and consulting. You you can count on us to be communicative, and express integrity around commitments and solutions. Plus, we really focus on collaboration, building a shared experience, with a client conscious focus throughout (beginning with the end in in mind). With all that we are as capable as they come.” This is one version of our “story.” This is what you get when you get “us.”

Closing Thoughts and Remarks

So are all enterprises the same? When we purchase a service or product to a spec, a definition, a scope, can we expect the exact same experience from all? Obviously not.

With whom would we rather work? The no purpose, low cost provider, or the clearly purposed, value driven niche company?

Without a “why” everything looks the same. Without a “what” there’s no clarity on what service or product is expected to be delivered and received. Without a “how” it’s all just colorless and without consistent experience; there’s no value added.

Without the core purpose, focus and values, we are just a commodity, a nameless, faceless organization that can only rely on being less expensive. This is a tough reality to live within; impossible really.

Does cost matter? Of course. But that is a topic for another blog post.

Get excited. Start defining today. There’s a process by which you can do so. Put it in writing. Shout it from the roof tops. Make a difference.