Insights and Info

WHY – let’s think about it

By Lisa Courtney Lloyd

Before I get into this blog post, I want to say my thoughts go out to those dealing with the wildfires burning in the US right now. First COVID-19, now wildfires and for many, a whole host of other concerns in between.

It is a time to pause. To think. To reflect.

I didn’t always take the time to reflect. Oh no, I was that “busier than thou” person. But with age, experience and circumstances, I pause more often now in life … and in work.

The wisest of my colleagues have always encouraged leaders to make time to think and as part of that thinking to try to understand the purpose of a business; the why.

It’s the need to articulate the why that has made Simon Sinek a recognized name in business and one of the most popular TED presenters of all time. If you don’t know him, I encourage you to take a look at his YouTube video (link below). I promise it will be an hour well spent. But to keep you here reading this blog, let me summarize what he says:

Why is not about making money. That’s a result. Why is a purpose, cause or belief. It’s the very reason your organization exists.  People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

During the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of business owners, service providers, and association staff connected to agriculture.  For obvious reasons, all my meetings have been virtual, which you might think would inhibit conversation, but more often, it hasn’t.

What has struck me about these conversations is how quickly strangers reach a comfort level and the discussion gets real. It’s my observation that those who work directly for an agribusiness, or provide services to them, are part of a community and that community is committed, even passionate about what they do.

That brings me back to why. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that with agribusinesses, the majority of the purposes – the why – can be broadly categorized under two types:

  • feeding the world, and
  • creating or maintaining natural beauty.  

These seem like wholesome purposes that anyone could get behind, so it’s unfortunate and frustrating that agriculture seems to be so often misunderstood and underappreciated. Full disclosure, I did not grow up on a farm. I’m a fisherman’s daughter from Nova Scotia who is now working in an office in Ottawa. But for more than 15 years I’ve been working alongside agriculture and have seen this urban-rural/consumer-farmer divide. COVID-19, which clearly demonstrated the importance of our food supply, may have helped advance this discussion, but there is still a gap that needs to close.

Obviously, there are no silver bullets to overcoming these issues (people have been working on it for years) but a suggestion would be for agribusiness owners and management to take some time to think about their business; to reflect on the real purpose behind what they are doing and articulate it. Let that purpose come through in how you act and in what you say and do. Because, to bring you back to Sinek, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

At Market Maker, we’ve spent a lot of time (and killed a few braincells) discussing this concept and have determined that our purpose is to help strengthen North American agribusinesses … by providing a solution to succession/ to ownership transition. This clarity keeps us focused and guides our decisions.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to listen to Sinek and then think about your purpose. If you know your why, feel free to share it. I’m always interested in learning about what makes other organizations tick.

Reference link:

Simon Sinek: Start with Why