The question, “Why?” is the most important question that we can ask ourselves and that you can ask yourself. “Why do we do what we do? Why do you do what you do? Why do we even exist?”
Those might be questions that you’ve asked yourself. As we go forward, as we think of our goals and our dreams, the fuel to our dreams is powered by our “why.”
Simon Sinek wrote a book called Start With Why, and it is a powerful book where he talks about nothing being more important than understanding why you do what you do. At Southwestern Family of Companies, we have a very strong “why”, and often we get asked questions like, “Why is the company’s vision important in relation to my goals? Why is it important that we have this vision to become the largest privately-held company in the world? Why is it important to make a difference? Why is it important to make an impact? Why do we exist as a company?” So, we put our heads together and decided to create a Southwestern Family of Companies Declaration. This is a living, breathing document, but one that is a statement saying, “Here’s what we’ve been doing for the past 160 years and here’s what we will continue to do for the next 160 years.”
Our “why” is what creates our alignment between our vision, our mission, and our values. The alignment of our core values and what we do every day is the most important thing that we can do as a team. I think of our distribution center team members who have alignment with our core values and the Statement of Purpose. When they are in our distribution center packing a box, they tie the value and the joy of what they do with knowing that what they put into that box for a school fundraiser is actually helping a child learn the skills and develop the character needed to succeed and reach their goals in life. Also, they can be motivated each day knowing they are helping a school reach its goals and helping the communities we serve all across the world.
I’m reminded of an old story in a far off land where a group of builders were working on a building. A gentleman on a horse rode by and stopped the first worker. He said, “Excuse me, what are you doing?” The worker wiped his brow and said, “Oh, I’m sweating, and I’m working so hard.” The gentleman stopped the next worker and said, “Excuse me, what are you doing?” Even though this worker was doing the exact same work, he stood up and smiled, telling the gentleman on the horse, “I am building a cathedral.”
Every day, we have a choice to decide, are we building a cathedral? Or are we focused on the sweat, and the work, and the pain, and whatever it is that we’re dealing with for that day? And when it comes down to it, if every day we dedicate ourselves to the principles that are founded in truth and we make it more about serving other people than serving ourselves, we don’t think about what we deserve. Instead, we focus on what we can give. That’s why, at Southwestern Family of Companies, we read our Statement of Purpose at the start of every board meeting. And at the start of each monthly Business Leaders’ call, we start by reading, person by person, line by line, the Statement of Purpose.
I ask everybody to hold me accountable to these principles. None of us are perfect, but it is a good guide to help us stay the course. If we are ever out of alignment on these values, it is up to us to realign ourselves and stay focused on these Statement of Purpose principles. Our Statement of Purpose is our “why.”
Nothing is more important than our “why,” and when we focus on why we do what we do, we will be a force of nature. We will be unstoppable, and at the end of the day, we will make an impact around the world.