What do you stand for?

The Celery Test

I want to share this analogy from Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why (a great book on building a business with a clear sense of why)…

You're at a party and having a great time meeting new people. Then someone comes up to you and says: "You know what you need for your business? Ice-cream. All successful companies have implemented ice-cream, and profits have doubled." Next minute someone else recommends you rice milk, "It would be leaving money on the table if you didn't implement rice milk in your business." Next person suggests corn chips, and another person chimes in with "Celery. 100%, you need celery."

Whose advice do you listen to? How do you know who's right? You go to the supermarket the next day and get ice cream, corn chips, rice milk and a bunch of celery. You're not sure which one will work... so you assume getting all of them will have to help, right?

However, to others looking at your shopping trolley, they might find it hard to understand who you are, or what you believe in. If you were to instead only get rice milk and celery, a passerby might say "Hey, you must believe in being healthy. Me too!" You've made a connection with a complete stranger.

(It works the other way too, you could say that your goal was to be healthy and it'd make sense that celery and rice milk would be the only two things you would put in your shopping list.)

What's it got to do with the price of fish?

As a business, it's about drawing a line in the sand and standing for something. Having a purpose and a clear statement of your "why" is immensely powerful. While many businesses are confident on what they do and how they deliver it, the fuzzy and abstract "why" can often be ignored. This leaves the impression of your business entirely on the customer, is this something you're comfortable with?

Having a purpose for your business is like navigating with a north star, your point of reference. If this is clear you can weigh up a new product or service offering and ask yourself whether it passes the celery test. Doing so will maintain a clear direction that your potential customers can look at and say "Ah yes, that's definitely them."

You can be anything, but you can't be everything

An amazing benefit to having a laser-focused purpose is that it attracts superfans. Think of Apple and no doubt you know of the cult-like following they have. Regardless of their products or services, they've stayed true to their motto to "Think Different. " They've reinvented how to listen to music, iTunes introduced streaming, or what it means to have a phone with their original iPhone release.

The downside, of course, is that you could seem aloof or turn potential customers away. But given the choice, do you want to be a people pleaser or do you want to state a mission? People please and you will have customers, standing for something and you will have superfans.

How do you stand for something?

If this is something you struggle with, then I recommend looking at the people you want to serve. Who are they? What problem are you solving for them and why do they consider this a problem?

Once you understand who these groups of people are, then try your hand at putting together a positioning statement. This is strictly an internal statement, though may make its way to your marketing. A nice little format for this I've taken from Jonathan Stark:

I’m a _______ who helps _______ with _______. Unlike my competitors, _______.

Some examples of this format could look like:

  • I’m a Personal Trainer who helps high-level CEOs maintain their fitness and mindset so that they don't suffer from stress and nervous breakdowns. Unlike my competitors, I use tailor based programming and skype sessions to work with their busy schedule.
  • We're a bio-dynamic and organic butcher who help morally conscious meat eaters by providing them with an ethical way to eat locally raised meat. Unlike my competitors, we personally travel to the farms and see how the animals are fed and raised.
  • I’m a trapeze artist who helps people high-rise window cleaners with fear of heights. Unlike my competitors, I teach them how to handle their fear in an engaging and fun environment.

Positioning won't only help you stand out from your competitors, it will give you a sense of clarity on how to run your business. I recommend giving it a try and see how you feel when having to really clarify what it is the business stands for.

For further reading, I recommend Start with Why, or watching Simon Sinek's TED talk here.

Find out what you stand for and you will find other who stand for the same.