Knowing the Company Why: The Key to Understanding


BLOG VIEW: Have you ever wondered why your company exists? We all work for a company where we know what we provide, how we provide it, and who we are serving – but it seems like some companies are failing to communicate their existential purpose to their employees and customers. 

That’s deep and philosophical, right? Not really. It’s a valid question that, if understood, should be woven into every companies strategic plan. Knowing the “why” enables company teams to be aligned in a vision of what sets the company apart and how your customers feel and experience your competitive edge. That’s right – feel it – not see it but feel it.

You can say and market your “why” in presentation and social media posts, but if it’s not deeply and fundamentally embedded into your culture and your employees’ actions, it is unlikely that it is felt by your customers.  

Without a clear sense of “why,” a corporate culture lacks purpose. Without a culture rich in purpose it may be difficult to control what unites an operations team, admin staff, tech team sales group.

Having teams that lack unification may result in a variety of different leaders marching to their own drum in a disparate direction. And with a lot of great leaders trying to do great things without uniting in a culture of “why,” it becomes difficult to control why clients choose you, and most importantly, why they stay with you.

Here’s a quick checklist to help you better understand why your company exists and if your customers can feel that why.

  • Can employees explain why the company was founded? Not necessarily retelling a story about how 20 years ago the founders saw a need for service XYZ, but why was that need important to them? How were the founders affected by this and why did they feel they were the best equipped to meet this need? This provides a historical why on which to build. 
  • What do your training materials say about your why? Is it focused on the what and how? Is the ‘why’ woven into all the messaging to ensure consistency of vision and connection to customers? Consistency is key when ensuring that the why is prominent and understood. 
  • Is your why sewn into your competitive advantage? Is your differentiation and value proposition just claiming that your company is the biggest, best and most savvy or is the why defining why everyone still believes in the company’s mission and effect on the world? Incorporating the why will leave no question for current and new employees and make it easier to pass it along to customers. 
  • Can you explain why your customers choose you? Beyond your competitive advantage, why do your customers connect with you? Why do they stay with you? Why are they loyal to you in good times and in bad? The why will help you understand the company’s value to the industry and how it is able to translate that into consistent quality service. 
  • Can employees feel your why in their interactions with customers? Do your expectations of performance provide a guide for the employees to understand the importance of the service they are providing to the customer, and connect them to that very important need your founders felt 20 years ago? Everyone knowing the why can help employees understand why customer service is important. 

If you could not answer “yes” to any of these questions, don’t worry. You do not need to do anything drastic like find a new job or start a new company with a better “why.” The beauty in finding the “why” is that we all get to help embody it – and most importantly we all play a role in delivering it.

Start with something small that can have an immediate effect such as internal training documents and the messaging about the company. Next, look at your marketing documents and social media presence – is there a lot of fluff, can you articulate the why more clearly and show examples of how you exemplify it?

Now, look at your internal communication, make sure your goals, performance reviews, even emails about concerns or escalations align with the why that you want to convey to the customer.

Establishing a company’s why, if it is not already clear, can feel daunting, so it’s best to just start with small things. Doing small and thoughtful things with consistency will start to build a culture that breeds the “why.” 

Maybe you are in the midst of a startup – or maybe you are new to your role and trying to find ways to make a difference in your career – or maybe you are working for a company that is well-established and has weathered the pains that come with growth. Regardless of the age and stage of your career, understanding your company’s “why” and finding ways to embody that perspective will help achieve a unified vision that starts at the top, trickles to the bottom, and is felt in every customer interaction. 

Kelly Hebert is the director of sales operations at LERETA, a provider of tax services to mortgage servicers. 

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