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Purpose & Goals

Startup Purpose and Goals

purpose and goals

Purpose and Goals

Purpose and Goals: Your startup purpose and goals are propelled by your motivation. The drive is coming from all kinds of ideas and experience, as well as your character. It is useful to spend a moment getting clear about where you are coming from. This will help you to avoid disappointment later.

Knowing what drives you to take the demanding path of starting a business may even surprise you. I felt impelled to start my business, Venture Founders, before I was really aware of why I wanted to do it. Now I know: business startups can change the world. And changing the world is very important to me.

Trying to clarify your motivation is about identifying and understanding the many layers of causation that have brought you to the place where you want to start a business. You may never peel back all the layers, but it is a good idea to try.

It may even lead you to a place where you decide that being an entrepreneur is not what you want to be. This, too many be a reason to rejoice as much as celebrating the fact that you cannot avoid jumping into business. It really makes life easier if you never reach a point of saying, “If I know then what I know now, I would never have done it.


If you express creativity through your own business, you will most likely feel good and fix clear startup purpose and goals. Tired maybe, stressed too perhaps, but sensing that you are contributing something. Yes, of course you’ll enjoy some of the other rewards to do with money or relationships, but they are likely to propel you higher up the hierarchy of human motivation.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of NeeYou may have heard of Maslow and his Hierarchy of Needs. Do not get hung up on the theory of this professor of psychology and his hierarchy, but he proposed it in the 1940s paper called A Theory of Human Motivation. Take it from me that it is still a valid way of looking at what drives our actions.

It is helpful to pause for a moment to reflect on our own experience and how Maslow’s Pyramid plays out in our own lives. He suggested that our needs are always fulfilled in a particular sequence, hence the pyramid, but many studies now show that the brain equates social needs with survival; for example, being hungry and being ostracized activate similar neural responses. Whichever order represents your reality, these are our basic needs:

  • Physiological: health, food, warmth
  • Safety: shelter, physical and psychological security
  • Belonging: affection, friends, family, intimacy
  • Esteem: self-esteem, respect, recognition
  • Self-actualization: awareness, honesty, freedom, trust, achieving.

Self-actualization may be a new term to you. Self-actualized people exhibit;

  • Awareness
  • Honesty
  • Freedom
  • Trust.

Generally we move up the pyramid, though sometimes we fall down through drudgery, job-loss, divorce or other adversities.


As you consider your startup purpose and goals, think about Maslow’s work. These days, many people  add a level above self-actualization. They call it the ‘Transcendent‘ level, or self-transcendance—the spiritual level beyond the normal or physical human experience–going beyond.

In the 1970s, Maslow himself added 3 levels to the five above. At the top is Self-Transcendence (to connect to something beyond ego or help people find fulfillment and realize their potential). In between he added the Cognitive level (knowing, understanding and exploring) and the Aesthetic (symmetry, order, and beauty).

Richard Barrett, author of Liberating the Corporate Soul : Building a Visionary Organization takes Maslow further in the corporate context. His Seven Levels expand self-actualization to the Mental (achievement and personal growth) and at the top the Spiritual (meaning, making a difference, service).

The business creator will inevitably aim high. You will experience delight or joy through service. Offering tangible or intangible things to others, that meet their unmet needs or wants.

Many entrepreneurs are motivated by ‘higher things’. Today there are hundreds of thousands of startups that embrace a wider purpose not limited to the maximization of shareholder value. You will see it referred to as the triple bottom line or sustainable business. If you want to consider such matters as they concern startups, take a look at Sustainable Startup.

Chip Conley, the entrepreneur has written a book, called Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow. Chip contends, it can transform a business and its people.One of Chip’s pieces of advice is, “the next time you’re trying to persuade your colleagues about a particular strategy or idea, consider telling a story. Maybe tell a true story of someone who’s tale might mirror what you’re trying to articulate. If it’s your own story, all the better.”

Determine Your Real Story

As you work on your business startup purpose and goals, a very useful exercise is to think about your own real story.

You did not arrive at the point of launching a business by sticking a pin in a list of possible things to do. If you contemplate the story of your life, you are likely to notice trends, traits, preoccupations and deeply held values and beliefs (if you do not know them before you start).

If you are successful in this journey to reveal your story, you will be able to clarify the contribution you want and can make through setting up in business. It is critical to making a startup work.

Be vigilant about one thing: avoid letting you story limit your action. Do not say to yourself, “I never could do …”, or “I always …”. Such phrases can hold you back, when you should be leaving yourself free to achieve.

As a teenager at Outward Bound Mountain School, I told my instructor, “I can’t do that!” when confronted with an aerial ropewalk high up in the pines. Indeed, when I climbed to the platform I felt nauseous. The stern instruction of the instructor miraculously gave me the courage to complete the course.

Do not let your inner instructor keep you back.

Stories are not only useful as a means of self-examination, but you can use storytelling very successfully as a means of communication. To know more, visit Startup Storytelling.

Be a Conscious Capitalist

Do not do as I did and taken so-called given (business) wisdom on trust and mouth platitudes at the start. It took me far too long to un-learn far too many ‘accepted practices’. Be awake to what you’re doing and be open about how you want to make a better world by what your startup aims to do.

A good place to start is to read Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business. This is a book by John Mackey (co-CEO of Whole Foods Market) and Raj Sisodia (Marketing Professor at Bentley College), who together founded Conscious Capitalism, a non-profit that works through transformative thinking, programs, events, and communities of inquiry designed to support the elevation of humanity.

PLEASE NOTE: There is tons of useful stuff on Startup Owl, a site that’s been going for a dozen years. So keep browsing, but know that the founder, Will, now devotes most of his time and energy to his new website that you should definitely visit:


PLEASE NOTE: There is tons of useful stuff on Startup Owl, a site that’s been going for a dozen years. So keep browsing, but know that the founder, Will, now devotes most of his time and energy to his new website that you should definitely visit:

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