It’s the WHAT Not the Why that Makes Money


I’ve been seeing a sudden increase is articles, blogs, and podcasts urging every business owner and associate to find their why. If you’re deeply focused on profit and revenue, does this make sense?

Your “why” may get you out of bed every morning but it is unlikely to be the reason people become your customers and clients.

I think the emphasis on people’s “why” has distracted from the primary purpose of any business or firm: to fulfill the needs, wants, and desires of customers and clients.

It is the WHAT of a company that attracts people: what you do to meet their needs, wants and desires.

You might have a deep emotional reason for your work, or you might be exceptional at it and simply enjoy the rewards without feeling that it is your “why.”

Buyers don’t care. Treat them well, deliver on your promises, and they will be back.

Focus on your WHAT to raise revenue and profit

I’ve had conversations with a few Owners/CEOs/Founders recently about their why and their WHAT. Each one moved quickly to their WHAT: the value they provide to those who buy from them

Outsourced CFO: “My why is helping people make more money.” Me: “Why?” CFO: “Well, everyone should make the most money they can.” Me: Is there a deeper “Why?” CFO: It’s not about me, it’s about the client. Here’s WHAT we do…”

CPA: “My why is helping more people to pay just the right amount of taxes.” Me: “Why?” CPA: “Because they shouldn’t pay more than they have to.” Me: “Why?” CPA: “Look, we know people don’t want to pay too much taxes. We make sure they pay just the right amount by knowing every possible legal deduction and other tax savings measures. That’s WHAT we’re known for.”

Business Broker: “My why is helping people sell their company for the highest amount.” Me: “Why?” Broker: “Because owners should get paid for their investment.” Me: “Why?” Broker: “We’ve been helping business owners from small to large get the best price for the company at the time they want to or need to sell. That’s all they care about.”

What’s so Important About the WHAT?

You know I’ve spent more than 22 years working with services firm to increase revenue and profit. It’s become clear to me that owners who succeed spend a fraction of the time on their why and a ton of time on their WHAT.

WHAT includes:

  • Outcomes and results that are meaningful to clients and customers.
  • Clearly articulated strategy (“We provide X value to Y buyers for Z profit).
  • Devoting significant resources to the development, marketing, and sales of products and services that deliver that value and profit.

Notice– there’s not a why in this list.

Whys do not pay the bills. WHATs pay the bills and deliver compensation to the owner for their investment and their risk.

How to Find Your WHAT

Find your WHAT in these three steps:

  1. Write your strategy in one sentence; write strategic statements to cover all value delivered and clients to whom you deliver that value. Here are examples of strategic statements.
  2. Look at your current offerings and assess on a scale of 1 to 10 how well they provide for the wants, needs, and desires of your best buyers. Assess the revenue and profit from each offering. What price adjustments would be warranted?
  3. Write a 6-month plan to add, modify or remove offerings that don’t meet the needs, wants, and desires of your best buyers.

If you’re eager to find your WHAT in the midst of everything you’re doing, text WHAT to 703-801-0345. We’ll set up a complimentary call to discuss. In any case, always keep in mind that it’s your WHAT that pays the bills and compensates you as the owner.

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