Thursday morning and a coffee break during an important meeting in Melbourne. I was sitting in a really cool coffee shop in Flinders Lane and bumped into an old friend. He runs an Ad agency in Melbourne, its a new company and still in start up phase. As he ducked off to place an order, I asked his business partner the usual question. It went like this:

“so what do you do then”. The response came as a shock to me:

“I do a bit of this, a bit of that, its really hard to explain”. “Not that interesting really”

Que end of conversation and instant concern over my friends new company.

Lets put some perspective around that. On average, we spend 40+ hours per week doing what we do (a lot more for entrepreneurs in startup phase). This conversation must arise at least once a week, in my case, at least 5-10 times a week. If you can not explain what it is you “do” in a 30 second period, then either you do not like what you do, you dont understand it yourself or your business has failed in communicating its very own reason to exist.

Business models are changing and changing fast. As a result, we need to adapt the way we approach markets, converse and engage with consumers, partners and colleagues in a way that helps people understand what we do as a business. More importantly, why what we do matters.

More than ever, businesses in the startup phase, need to adopt this kind of thinking as a simple aspect of their marketing strategy. Its called word of mouth and if we are not having the right conversations, remarkable discussions worth spreading, then they wont.

I own and manage a strategic agency called 6.2. Ask me what we do, and I will tell you quickly that “we work with organisations on innovation, strategy and marketing, essentially, we breath life into idea’s, making business better”.

More often then not, the response is one of interest, leaving us with an opportunity to discuss further how we innovate, how we apply our thinking to challenge traditional business models and how we work with companies on culture, leadership, innovation and change.

Over the past 12 months, we have worked with 22 companies of which 21 were through word of mouth, the other, which I approach on an ad-hoc basis, is working with us based on their research into what we do. The response was consist with our core values and purpose.

Out of the 22 companies that 6.2 partnered with, only a handful had identified their companies core characteristics. Essentially, they had failed to identify and communicate their values and their purpose.

Lets use STREAT as an example (we write a lot about STREAT) . When you ask the team at STREAT what they do, they can tell you a lot of different things. Because they do a lot. So do all businesses. STREAT essentially sell amazingly awesome food, for under $10 through a social platform that provides employment for homeless youth.

So in this case, what is more important, the food? Or the outcome? The strategy or the culture? Culture trumps strategy every time. Without the right people and culture, strategy becomes redundant.

Do they sell quality food or do they create a sustainable community for homeless youth. They do both, but what really matters. What story will be the one that will help people understand what STREAT are really doing, which in my view, is transforming the social landscape of philanthropy in Australia and giving homeless youth an opportunity that now exists that was not available to them prior. This matters, STREAT brings about change that in turn, saves lives. The food is just a part of that process.

Are you telling the right stories creating work that matters?