It’s not just what you do, it’s why

It’s surely one of the most common questions asked at any business function: What do you do?  Most of us have a fairly pat “elevator speech” ready to go when asked this simple question. 

But I’ve found over the years that new business acquaintances – even the ones who ask what I do – are actually a lot more interested when I tell them why in addition to what.  Because the why speaks to passion, drive, motivation and all the things that make us human. 

OK, we can all admit part of the why is the basic necessity of making a living.  We have bills to pay, mouths to feed, mortgages, rent, yada yada yada.  But for most of us, there’s more to it than that.  And we shouldn’t be shy about expressing it.

In my case, I often say that a big motivator for me is that I love helping businesses and organizations succeed.  And I say it with real passion and conviction because it’s true! I love business, the entrepreneurs who take the risk to start businesses, the organizations that have a real sense of mission, and contributing to the creation of jobs and the fulfillment of marketplace needs.  Looking back over my career, it is super satisfying to know that in my way I have helped a lot of companies and institutions succeed.

Every time I’ve explained that to either a new contact or someone I’ve known for years, I get enthusiastic head nods and I see eyes light up.  “Me, too!” is a frequent response. People love to connect with other people on a deeper level than the standard chit chat.  But sadly, the standard chit chat is all that many people will do.  They’re missing a huge opportunity to make an impression and a friend as well as a potentially great business relationship. 

Try it next time you have the chance.  Tell them not just what you do, but why.  You may find this simple act energizes both your relationships and your work. 

-        Eric Whittington