Your Goal vs Your PurposeOct 28, 2021
“The goal of my business is to help people,” said one sweet, but very tired-looking lady on a virtual Q&A session.
“My goal is to make an impact,” said a zealous nurse practitioner who was oozing warmth and fuzzies in a webinar.
I get this a lot. Everywhere I turn, healthcare entrepreneurs are proclaiming their goal as it relates to helping. I’m a healthcare entrepreneur and I’m all about helping people, but my goal is to be profitable. If that hurts your heart a little bit, hang on. It gets better.
Just like you, there was a time when I was stuck in the trap of working top to bottom through my To Do List, giving everything the same amount of attention and priority. I was here at the office late one evening preparing for a webinar when I had a lightbulb moment.
Most of us know something has got to change, but we’re not sure where to start. It’s hard to think about the bigger picture because you’re so laser-focused on the here and now. The toilet paper that needs stocked, the four providers you need to hire, the quote you need to get on a new printer… If only you could check all the boxes off the list each day you would be all set!
Maybe a To Do List is not your thing. Maybe you just work each day based on what comes across your desk. Your office is out of paper — hop online and order a box. You have a virtual job fair next month — better start sharing on social media. You are doing anything and everything that comes to you whenever it comes to you.
If either of these sounds familiar, you need to understand the difference between the goal of your business and the purpose of your business. They are two very different terms with very different outcomes.
Learning the Goal
In early March of 2020, I boarded a plane, book in hand, and took off to Boonton, New Jersey. I was going to attend an event at Mike Michalowicz’s office with a small group of entrepreneurs with similar goals for their business.
Every time I have to fly, I buy a new book. It’s not often I’m away from the family long enough to actually read any dang thing so I was excited! It was called The Goal, by Eliyahu Goldratt. Written in 1984, based on the theory of constraints, and although not as current as some others on my shelf, I had heard good things. It’s a big book, it’s blue, and I was captivated immediately. In between my moments of catastrophic thinking, “I’m going to die,” after a big hit of turbulence, I would soak up every word. I made notes in the margins and underlined phrases that stuck out to me.
I never imagined I would get so much joy from reading about mechanics, factories, and metal parts. The three things furthest away from anything I’m confident in. The book has a fabulous introduction, building up to the core message just right. As Goldratt talked about all of the effort it took to generate output, how many hands were involved in the process, how each step was contingent on the one before it, he posed a question that I quickly internalized. “What is the goal of a business?”
He was right! What’s the point of doing all of that work? Why should we expend all of the energy, put ourselves, our families, our future at risk? If we’re going to work this hard to produce something, what is the goal? Why are we showing up to work each day? Why are we skipping lunch and coming home late for dinner? Why are we missing Kindergarten graduations and sacrificing our health to inch our business closer to our dream? What is the goal of a business, anyway?
I know the people on the plane thought I was a fruit loop. I hung from the edge of my seat, clenching that book so tight my knuckles were white. I talked to myself the entire time, answering him over and over as if he could hear me. I believe there was even some finger shaking at the words on the page. How did his character not see it? How could he miss the goal? The one thing the business needed in order to remain a business.
The goal of a business is profitability. Forever and always.
Goldratt’s character couldn’t see it for the same reasons that you and I sometimes don’t see it. He was too close to the situation, too enmeshed. His role in the company soon became his identity and the more it became part of him, the less insight he was able to have.
Eli Goldratt got it right. The rest of the book built upon this core message and never let up. Learning about input, output, bottlenecks, and capacity were just a bonus for me, because the true takeaway was that I was in business to make a profit first. I finished up that book with the validation I so desperately needed to carry on with my declaration that the goal of any business is profitability.
The Bluegrass welcomed me, and I came back to Kentucky with a gift; a newfound sense of confidence and a backpack full of ideas. I couldn’t wait to put my own team through an experiment to find out if they knew what the goal of my business was.
As they sat down at the large conference table, eagerly awaiting what was about to happen, my heart smiled. Each person took an envelope which included three strips of paper numbered 1, 2, and 3. They were instructed to pull out number one and answer it. When finished, they were asked to fold the paper up and place it in a coffee cup that was going around the table. When the cup came back to me, without hesitation I pulled out each strip of paper and read the answer aloud.
“The goal of this business is to help people,” one paper said.
“The goal of this business is to be the place where people feel cared for,” said the next, which I knew was Carol because of her large and loopy handwriting. She had remembered the Queen Bee Role activity we did just a couple of years prior, so that was good.
All of the answers were sweet, warm, and kind. But they were all wrong.
I used this exercise as a teaching experience for my team since I realized they were all working each and every day without a clear goal. In their minds, as long as people felt cared for, we were in great shape as a company. In my mind, if the business had healthy profit margins, we were in great shape as a company. Of course I want our clients to feel cared for, but I designed the systems to ensure that piece was solid. We had to be profitable and I needed to communicate that to my team in a way they could understand and support.
This was one of those times when motivational Kasey walked behind the pulpit and gave her darndest, most passionate and emotional speech she could give! I needed the people that run my business to have a clear vision of its goal. I wanted them to show up each and every day confident that goal of Mindsight Behavioral Group is profitability. And that their actions as employees will most certainly move the team one step close towards the goal or one step further from the goal. I needed them to make the right step.
When they understood, their focus shifted immediately. They became more intentional and deliberate in their actions. They stopped doing things that weren’t moving the business forward. We re-evaluated tasks were once on our To-Do-List and removed the ones that we not necessary.
When you and your team are able to lock on to this concept you will see significant improvement in focus and productivity. I’ve worked with thousands of healthcare professionals and they always like to challenge me by telling me the goal of their business is to help people. That’s actually not true. The goal of your healthcare business is profitability, the purpose of your business is to help people.
After listening to my own speech and reflecting on some of the key words that stuck out to me, I decided to take another good hard look at my company. I wasn’t going to blame myself or rake myself over the coals because my own team didn’t know the goal of the business they worked for. I was going to continue to teach this concept and model the behaviors I wanted them to emulate
Every action was reactionary. If each position had a specific goal to be work towards, would that change their daily routine? Would it increase their sense of urgency? Would it help the business meet its goal of profitability faster? The answer here is YES, yes, and yes! I had to not only teach myself how to pinpoint my business’s diagnosis, but I needed to teach my team as well. When you have a group of people all doing their part to ensure the business’ goal is, you are able to show up each day with a greater sense of purpose. When you are profitable, you can achieve such higher level of impact and do the deeds that made you want to start in the first place.
In order to be profitable, you must have direction. In order to have direction, you need a compass and that’s what the HHN gives you. A framework for assessing and diagnosis your practice so that you always know the direction you’re going.
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