What Are You All About?

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On April 7, 2014

If you’re a business leader, you’re going to have occasions when you need to explain exactly what it is that your business does. It might be when you’re looking for funding in order to expand. It could be when you’re entertaining the idea of partnering with another company to multiply your impact. It could happen when you’re entering a new market that doesn’t know you or your company from Adam.

No matter what the context, you need to be prepared to let people know what your company is all about. Most of us think we have a pretty good handle on that. After all, we work inside the company. Maybe we even own it. If we can’t clearly articulate what it is our company does—who can?

You can probably do this with your eyes closed, right? You’ve got this down cold. Or do you? Most companies have mission statements or vision statements—or both. But to be honest, most of them sound as if someone threw a copy of some self-help business book into a blender and pasted it on a page. It is, to quote the great businessman, William Shakespeare, “ . . . full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing.”

Here’s a little “Chuck Challenge” to see how well you really do at communicating this crucial bit of business information.

1. The Slide Test: If you’re asked to give a short presentation of what your company does, how many PowerPoint slides does it take to communicate what it is that you do? If it takes you more than five slides, you really don’t have a grasp of what you do—or why it’s essential.

2. The Elevator Pitch: We all know this one. We’re supposed to be able to communicate the essence of our business (or at least our unique value proposition) in the time it takes the elevator to reach the top floor. However, most elevator rides don’t go for the 100+ floors many of us need to explain who we are and what we do. If you’ve never actually tried this, I’d encourage you to do it in a building that has 15 or 20 floors. If you can’t get you message out clearly, you don’t have a good handle on what you’re about.

3. The Mom Talk: You’ve heard of this one, too. Can you explain what you do in such a way that your mother could understand it? This one may lack a bit of validity if your mom isn’t your target audience. But what you communicate should be able to be understood by someone outside of your industry. Chances are that whomever you’re selling to doesn’t do exactly the same thing you do. Have you ever tried giving your “pitch” to a trusted friend or colleague who doesn’t speak the same “insider language” that you do?

4. Listen to Yourself: Record your own voice reading your mission or value statement and describing your unique value proposition. Do you like what you hear? Does it make sense to you? Would you be willing to take out your own checkbook and fund this venture? Would you go into business with someone who does what you’re hearing?

How did you do on the “Chuck Challenge?” If you struggled a bit, don’t feel bad—most of us need to work on clearly communicating exactly what we’re about in a way that makes others (partners or prospective customers) want to engage with us. And with the rate at which businesses change, you’ll need to revisit these exercises more frequently.

Do you know what you’re all about—and can you communicate that to the people you’re trying to reach? If you’re looking for a little help with that, give me a call. After all, that’s part of what I’m all about!