It's a simple question: Why are you starting a company?

It's hard to answer. Either because you don't know or you are embarrassed about how simple the reason is.

The good news is you can get away without have a clear why for a very long time. Most people will never ask you, instead they will focus on what you have built.

The bad news is down the road then the deck is stacked against you, when you are exhausted from the journey, and when you are wavering between a crappy and a really crappy decision, not having a clear why make you a leader without a compass.

To figure out your why, here is a simple exercise you can take yourself through:
  • List what you are passionate about.
  • List all the reasons you want to start a company.
  • List all the emotions and desires you feel. (Frustration, hope, happiness, wanting freedom, etc)
  • List what you want to change, improve, or make better in the world. These could be literal to the activity (i.e., make something easier), the feeling your customers will have (i.e., make people happy), or something you want to change (i.e., make the world better).

Once you create these lists you can step back and find the common thread. While being honest with yourself can be hard, it's necessary if you want to be a great entrepreneur. If you can't understand why, you will start and run the wrong company.

As you discover your why, I'd like to leave you with this thought: Don't do it for the money.

Because if you do, it changes everything. You start with a spreadsheet instead of a real problem in the world. The people around you turn into costs. Your brand is referred to as an asset to be leveraged. Your customers become annoying people who won't leave you alone. Your handshake gets replaced with a legal contract that protects you in all circumstances. You start taking short cuts expecting the acquiring company to fix it. You stop worrying about making your culture great because it won't matter once everyone makes money.

You will destroy the very masterpiece your are trying to build.

Instead, choose to take this journey because no matter what happens at the end of the day you are happier after your company than before it. If not, when you don't have a pile of money, your company fails, or you're on the outside looking in, you won't be happy.

This guide was first published on Oct 14, 2013. It was last updated on Oct 14, 2013.

This page (Know Your Why) was last updated on Oct 13, 2013.

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