When should an entrepreneur think of purpose?

Yesterday i was invited to speak at the Startup Saturday monthly meet in Chennai. I spoke on the topic “Does your startup display purpose?”. The reason i chose this topic is because while most entrepreneurs talk about their core purpose and many times even have something written down, it is never reflected in the choices that they make, the decisions they take, or the behaviors that they display. I keep wondering why people who startup with so much passion lose steam along the way? Could that be one of the reasons why so many enterprises stay small?

After i shared my thoughts there was short silence, followed by a series of questions. Number of us caught up after the event and exchanged our views on the topic. I was happy that i triggered off serious thoughts in close to a 100 entrepreneurial minds. When the audience gets polarized and attempts to question the validity of your hypotheses – it means the purpose of your act is bearing fruit. So i had a rather happy Saturday.

But the above question (in the title) asked by one of the participants seemed like something that many others would be toying with – hence i decided to share it here. When should an entrepreneur think of purpose? Is it when he is at the ideation stage itself? My response to him was that one need not spend time on identifying and defining purpose at the ideation stage! But prior to enterprise creation, the time when the entrepreneur gives birth to the institution, they must think about purpose. The moment the entrepreneur decides to give birth to an enterprise, he/she understands that at some point in time the institution should outgrow him/her. If this is consciously understood, then the entrepreneur is responsible to help the new-born gain an identity for itself. Being a social entity, it can live a life without a purpose (so many of us live our entire lives this way – isn’t it?). But to create a long standing and successful enterprise, the entrepreneur must ensure the institution knows “why it exists” – that’s purpose. Do you agree? Do you have other thoughts?

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4 thoughts on “When should an entrepreneur think of purpose?

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