Posted on 28 May, 2016  |  2 min

By Mark Estall, CEO and Co-founder of 9 Spokes.

When the going gets tough, it's important to know what drives you. Not the short term goals, but rather the real purpose behind what you are doing  the why behind why you are in business?

This was best described by the work of Simon Sinek. Since his first TED presentation in 2011, people have started to understand the difference between why, what and how you do things in your business. All too often we focus on what we do and how we do it. This is enough guidance for most when things are going well, but without a good understanding of why you are in business, keeping focus in hard times can be tough.

Let me share a few experiences with you that highlight this.

First, let's look at this theory from my perspective. One of the first insights came when I was learning the craft of marketing. A great article by Theodore Levitt shaped my thinking. Levitt stated that you had to know what business you are really in and cited examples of businesses that failed due to a lack of understanding - railways who thought they were about trains, ice makers who thought that making ice was the only way to chill food.

Over the years, we have had management theorists who have told us to have a vision and a mission. These are words that companies have expended great energy to achieve, only to be disrupted by the fast changing environment in which we all operate. I could throw around a few examples here but the purpose is not to embarrass anyone, but rather draw attention to the fact that a vision without action is only a dream, and dreams fade in the tough light of day.

That's not to say this is wrong. In fact it's essential that a business has a central rallying point, a picture of the future that everyone can understand and paint themselves into. They need to know their reason for being. Sinek summarises this well you need to know why you are in business and how you are going to change the world in which you operate.

When I look at my current business, 9 Spokes, my business partner and I set out to make the cloud accessible to small and medium businesses. We wanted to make the cloud easy and help businesses be more productive by simplifying the experience and giving them access to powerful insights to help run their businesses. Our purpose helps keep us focused and able to clear out hurdles.

Last week at our first 'Meet the Founders' breakfast, my partner and I were able to share our story and our aspirations for the future. It was great being able to engage new starters in why we are in business - what we do and how we do it follows and will change over time, but our purpose, our why we are on the journey stays.