When you start a new business, you obviously start with an idea. But a critical ingredient for success is understanding your “why”. Why do you do what you do? It’s amazing how many business owners and their teams go through the motions of running their businesses on a day-to-day basis without ever understanding the purpose behind what they are doing. You might as well be a zombie. Businesses without a purpose don’t have heart. They don’t stand for anything, and as a result, they don’t stand out from other, similar businesses, either. Successful business owners both understand their purpose and can articulate it to their team, their customers, their investors—in fact, to the world.

Think about the business brands you love. Don’t you have a visceral understanding of their purpose? Consider the nearly cult-like following that Apple enjoys. People identify with the brand because it stands for something. It speaks to them. That’s what you want for your business brand.

It should go without saying that part of your business purpose is to make money; but making money shouldn’t be the sole purpose of your business. There has to be a sense that the service or product your business provides brings value to the market, and that because of that value, the company makes money. If you don’t build a brand based on purpose, then you’ll find yourself in a commodity business constantly competing on price alone.

Customers don’t come to you because they want to make you rich. They come to you because they believe in the value you provide for them, whether that value is in detailing their car, grooming their dog, creating their estate plan, or selling them a lawn mower. And, by the way, they are willing to pay a higher price for that value. So it’s up to you to determine what that value—your purpose—is.

For me personally, knowing the purpose of my business is extremely important for another practical reason: it drives me and gives me the courage and confidence to “sell” my company.

I’ve never liked or wanted to be in sales. In fact, I tried a couple of sales positions during my professional career, and, well, let’s just say I didn’t set the world on fire. Yet everyone tells me I’m a master when it comes to selling my own business. The reason has to be that I don’t feel as though I’m selling, because I truly believe in what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. In fact, someone commented to me recently, “You don’t do it for the money, do you?” Of course I like–make that love–making money, but I am equally driven by my purpose. That is, I also love the excitement of doing something I feel is rewarding for the customer as well as for my business.

So ask yourself why your business exists. What value does it bring to the market? Why should customers or clients choose you over a competitor? If your answer is the same as every other business in your industry, then you haven’t adequately defined your value or purpose. Learn to tell your business story in a compelling way to engage your customer base.

AvatarSusan Solovic

Susan Wilson Solovic is an award-winning entrepreneur and journalist, author of three best-selling books, multi-media personality and contributor to ABC News and other outlets, public speaker and attorney.