Last week in Why I’ve Set Up A Second Business And Expect To Crush It As An Olderpreneur, I highlighted the trend nowadays for baby boomers to set up new businesses.
Far from wanting to retire, I explained my reasons for wanting to continue working many more years. In fact, I’ve even started a second business, Azrights International Ltd, because I want an even greater sense of fulfillment and purpose from my work.
I see exciting new ways to contribute to the world and deliver added value.
Fulfillment Through Purpose
This question of fulfillment and purpose is an important one for all of us to think about whether we’re in business or working in careers.
Getting clarity on our purpose is widely advocated as the way to greater success, and enjoyment in life.
As Steve Jobs put it, doing work you love is important. To quote his words
You’ve got to find what you love . . . Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work”…..”the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”
Purpose Is Innate To The Human Condition.
We all want to dedicate ourselves to a cause greater than ourselves. Doing so contributes to our need for significance and meaning.
I suspect the trend for baby boomers to start new businesses rather than retiring is partly driven by this need to contribute towards a higher quest. We’re reaching a stage in our lives where this desire to make a difference is stronger, as is our awareness of the legacy we want to leave behind.
I’ve been trying to clarify my purpose for a few years now. My journey trying to identify that purpose might help you to work out your purpose too because it’s by no means easy at any stage in business or life.
What’s important is to keep thinking about your purpose, and of course, realising that that purpose may shift in new directions as you grow and develop.
It’s particularly important if you’re running a business to have a cause that your team members can get behind. While if you’re employed knowing what your personal purpose in life is, should help you to find a job that you enjoy and get fulfillment from.
Mission and Values
The purpose is often confused with an organisation’s mission and values, which may explain why it’s taken me this long to work out my purpose.
A mission is what we’re trying to do, while our values and beliefs influence the way we do things, our worldview. Values impact the approach we take to what we do.
Although in the early days of my business I got help from a PR consultant to formulate my mission and values for my law firm, the exercise didn’t give me enough clarity to discover “why” I was doing what I was doing. Indeed, in those pre-2010 days, I don’t think the purpose was an issue people were advocating the need to identify.
As Simon Sinek puts it in his bestselling book Start with Why, most people know what an organization does, but few know why they do it. In other words, most purpose-driven leaders can articulate their mission–but many mission-driven leaders cannot articulate their purpose.
So, the better way to think of purpose is as the “why” behind what you do. Simon’s book was all about how a purpose-driven team achieves so much more. It’s generally accepted that working out our why is an important objective.
Starting with “Why”
All the evidence is that a business with purpose is more successful.
Sinek’s Golden Circle envisages starting from “Why” before moving on to the “How” and “What”. Purpose-Driven organisations “Start with Why”: For example, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were passionate about revolutionising the computer industry; John Mackey, started Whole Foods advocating for organic food and healthy eating.
Knowing and communicating “the why behind the what” in everything we do, not only creates higher motivation and engagement in your employees but also buy-in from your customers.
When I worked in corporate jobs back in the 80s I hadn’t felt that my work as an in-house lawyer was making a difference to anyone. Astonishingly, looking back on it, I spent most of my late 20s and early thirties wondering whether alternative careers would enable me to make more of a difference in the world.
So, after I left the corporate world to raise my two daughters, I dipped my toes into other career options. For example, I trained to be a journalist, among other things and pursued a few courses such as in mediation.
In my search for more meaning, I even considered launching a Persian Osh soup business. Osh is a delicious, wholesome soup from Iran, where I come from. My daughters love it as do most people who try it.
My dad was a brilliant cook, and often cooked it for us when he came to visit. So, I had his unique recipe and when he died, I wondered about starting an Osh business.
I was hugely inspired by Sahar Hashemi’s book Anyone Can Do It, as she advocated the importance of being clueless. But I dismissed the idea of a food business because I couldn’t see how it would give me a greater sense of purpose in life than law.
I would invariably conclude that law was better than any of the other options open to me.
However, getting a job as a lawyer was unappealing because I just didn’t want to be employed.
While I had this teenage-style angst going on over my career options, my father steadfastly maintained his belief in the importance of law as a way to contribute meaningfully in society.
He had always suggested I just start up my own law firm which I dismissed out of hand. Apart from anything, the idea of opening my own law firm was daunting.
When my father died, I suddenly heard his advice, in a way, I’d not done when he was alive. Perhaps I grew up. His death was certainly a big turning point in my life. His words resonated, and soon afterwards I founded my law firm.
The legal work I do for small business is different to the legal work I’d done before for large companies. So, with some of the work I do as a lawyer I do feel I am making a real difference in people’s lives. But I felt that simply using my legal skills and knowledge only partially helps people. I needed to expand and go beyond the nitty-gritty details of the law.
Nevertheless, it was wise of my father to suggest setting up a law firm because I fell in love with entrepreneurship. My business was totally absorbing so that has sustained me over the years.
But it wasn’t until recently that I could sense where my purpose lay clearly enough to be truly inspired by it. What helped also was the relaxation of the rules by my regulatory body allowing us lawyers to have separate businesses.
Azrights International Ltd
I knew last year when I was embarking on my new business Azrights International Ltd that I wanted to widen my remit to include more than purely intellectual property legal work.
I wanted to take a much more international perspective on law than the legal work I do in a law firm permits. I felt increasingly limited focusing on UK intellectual property law, and just this one aspect of business when there were so many related areas – such as brand naming, positioning, brand strategy, and doing business online – that are hugely relevant to whether a business succeeds and can expand its brand sufficiently to take advantage of its intellectual property.
I want to help businesses to succeed by increasing their confidence, and sense of security, and inspiring them. Law on its own doesn’t allow for that. What’s more, I’m well equipped to offer wider help than purely law or intellectual property. So, I knew that my purpose wasn’t simply law in the narrow sense of the word, but law and business, in terms of the context law plays in business, which necessarily involves a broader scope.
Azrights International Ltd goes beyond my core skill of law. I set it up specifically because I wanted to extend my remit into related areas of branding, marketing, leadership, online business, and even personal development.
My Journey May Help You Work Out Your Purpose
The purpose has to be a high-level aspirational reason for existing and acting in your business. Even after reading Simon Sinek’s great book Start With Why twice 5 years ago I still couldn’t articulate my Why in a way that inspired and motivated me to let alone team members. That’s probably because I was just thinking about Azrights the law firm, rather than the bigger role that I could play as a business that the law firm would be part of.
I do know it’s a widespread puzzle for many entrepreneurs trying to work out their “why” given some of the lame “whys” I’ve seen at least two entrepreneurs announce on Facebook – namely, that their why is their wife and children. That’s not a purpose that will motivate team members who are involved in the business. Nor will your customers be moved to choose you over your competitors that your why is your wife and children. The search for why should, therefore, continue for those individuals
I knew I loved entrepreneurship. Indeed, for years I believed it was entrepreneurship that gave me my purpose – that if I wasn’t in a law business, then I’d be in another business which would engage me equally well. Nor was money a big motivator. It obviously pays the bills and you need money to sustain your message, so of course money matters. However, it’s not the most important reason why I want to continue working. Also, I was aware that it was hardly going to motivate my team members that I loved entrepreneurship.
As I’ve become clearer about my purpose, I’ve realised it’s as much what I do – the subject matter – like the fact that I’m running a business – that engages me.
One’s purpose should inspire the team and customers too. When you find your “why” that belief should galvanise you into making long-lasting positive changes that drive growth and innovation.
What Purpose Means and Articulating It
Purpose needs to be the meaning behind our existence, an idealistic view of what you want to become in the world.
I want the work I do to improve people’s lives by increasing their confidence, and a sense of security and to inspire them to be more dynamic and vital.
Although the aspirations of inspirational entrepreneurs like Bill Gates whose vision when he started Microsoft was for a computer in every home, might be described as a mission statement rather than a purpose, I did find it useful to emulate these brief vision statements from well-known brands to guide my purpose.
For example, Apple’s purpose was to “remove the barrier of having to learn” technology, while Google wants to organise the world’s information.”
Having a simple statement helps achieve clarity more quickly than the long, convoluted mission statement I developed 10 years ago. That statement has 10 points in it. Each one has a sentence or two. Although every point in the list resonates with my values and ideals, none of it is memorable enough to communicate what we’re up to in the world.
Mission and Purpose
So, my current stated mission Azrights International is this: To educate the world in intellectual property and business
Teaching and guiding people to focus on the right things is an important part of what I do. So, Azrights International’s first brand, Legally Branded, provides cost-effective ways for businesses located anywhere in the world to implement new ideas using a process to protect their intellectual property (Legally Branded Academy). Another important element of business success nowadays is how to address legal issues online, and understand commercial drivers behind transactions. That’s covered by (Legally Branded Monthly).
In future updates, I’ll also explain how I will be translating my purpose internally within the business as well as externally for customers and others.
It’s important to inspire and create a shared image of what your business stands for and where you want to be. This is how you avoid wasting time and resources pulling in different, perhaps even contradictory, directions and pursuing unnecessary courses of action. It also helps ensure you attract the right team members to work with you.
Next week, I’ll explore how purpose-driven organisations stay core to their mission by always keeping the “why” in mind. They keep their company’s purpose at the center by communicating a message of how they add value and enhance the lives of others.