A purpose-led company benefits everybody involved; my customer, my team, how we worked. It gave me the confidence to push outside my comfort zone and achieve more, which meant a greater sense of fulfilment.
My business was stuck; I seemed to be moving around in circles and certainly not moving forward. I faced competitors who were larger than me and could easily beat me on price, which my customer seemed to find important. The service that my company provides is only part of the successful outcome for the customer, in order to be accepted into a European university there are other things that need to happen from other providers. With this multi-service provider approach there was no space to really stand for the added value I was providing; I was a transaction in the eyes of the other companies in the process and the customer themselves.
I was hidden, suppressed and wondering whether it was all worth the effort. I knew more than my competitors, and really understood the true value and difference my service would generate. Not just that, I knew their dreams of European education and living a different life for a few years, as they had been my dreams once too.
As long as everybody saw me as only a stepping stone and not the greater value my company had to give to my community, it would alway be hard to be the “go to” choice.
I had personally experienced post-graduate education in Europe, an aspiration for many Chinese university students who want to live a European lifestyle and benefit from the respected high levels of education. We are told from a young age that it will broaden our vision and get us further. Now I am married to a Dutch man, we are multilingual and dual culture so having lived this life and journeyed through university, I could translate from a
position of having actually done so – this felt like something unique to me compared to others in the market. I strongly believed that my 100% success rate was achieved because I could use my actual journey as well as my experience in persuasive communication. It came down to knowing both the customer and the universities and what both parties needed: translation is not words; it is emotion and knowing what matters and what doesn’t.
Influencing this took more skills than those that were needed to be in a price war. The process to get successfully accepted into a university of your choice can be complex, and the translation marketplace that aids this journey is a very saturated and price sensitive one.
The challenge was cutting above the noise and being competitive, so I was beginning to take on contracts at low prices, work was sporadic and I relied a lot on my alliances to feed me with the opportunities. I knew if I could be heard and seen it would work differently and hopefully feel a little more fulfilling than it did right now.
How can something so right simply stop growing? I seemed to be lacking the energy to discover why.
I couldn’t see where the opportunities were going to come from. The spirit was flat, growth wasn’t there because I didn’t want to find it anymore.
What did I do?
Brought true purpose back into the journey to the customer; I challenged myself to ask whether I was living my purpose through my current organisation. My automatic response was “yes” as I know their dream because it was mine. So I asked two harder questions, “why am I bothering?” “why do this at all?” This forced me to look deeper within myself to give different answers giving me a greater clarity to my own motivations and a clearer picture of what I was trying to solve for my customer. I thought I was communicating a unique service; it wasn’t until I looked at it from my motivations that I saw I was only mimicking others. I had a new picture and it was unique, creating the starting point for repositioning what our services gave. And my energy was back!
Then I could rebuild it through my company, understanding how my values could translate into organisational values. What I wanted to bring to my customer was clear – the added value – and I now had an emotional connection with it. With this being supported by organisational values, I was able to sit with my team and partnerships to bring them on the journey too. It was easier to have the new conversations as our purpose created a clear picture that was easy for everybody to understand. Once I’d re-established the emotional relationship with my avatar, I developed the new value creation process with my team and partnerships, always with the customers’ picture and their dreams at the centre. They even had a name: Lydia (maybe there was a lot of Luce as well!)
It was then that I realised that others were seeing me as just a translation service as this was how I saw myself. I was perhaps the one that had built my own ceiling.
Challenge your beliefs
Being asked how much my company was living my purpose prompted me to look at the way I saw the purpose within myself, my gift I wanted to give. This let me understand why I wanted to provide this service and why my company success rate was so high. It allowed me to see why I was so focused on added value, something beyond the transactional product of competitors. My company felt more human and I almost immediately felt more connected. I realised that we were being seen as a translation service as this was how I saw myself. I was perhaps the one that had built my own ceiling.
Translate your purpose
I could see how my purpose, the gift you have and the drive to deliver it, and my values could translate into the organisational values of the company and influence the relationship with the customer. This forced me to look at the difference I made to them. There was an emotional relationship with my customer and seeing this connection more clearly allowed me to explain it to my team and partnerships. This also enabled me to develop a new communications strategy based on this powerful connection, something which made us stand out in a highly competitive market (at last!)
Reposition your offering
I followed a simple process to understand where the frustrations were and why it seemed a lot of effort for very little. By re-looking at my inner drive, understanding the benefit to the customer and the influence I had, I could reposition myself in order to see how to grow, pushing the service beyond a one-off transaction. This value creation process was the connection between my vision and beliefs to a customer I could serve better. For the team, everyone understood their contribution to this unified customer picture - a humanised one that we could all emotionally relate to.
I was no longer a stepping stone, a touch point in the complex process, I was the bridge that customers needed to cross a critical gap. The strength of creating a process grounded in the customer’s emotions meant it had value and nobody could mimic or argue with that: my inner drive and beliefs directly connected to the dreams and hopes of my customer, only something I knew.
My process has shifted, I never talk about translation, I talk about the dream that my negotiation process will help them to live.
With my story and product repositioned, I now confidently communicate and stand differently in the market, both with partners and alliances, and with customers (prospective students) too. I’m connected to them with a stronger business process that supports my way of doing things and allows me to work more effectively with others. By taking that step back and thinking about my purpose, I was able to understand the passion I had to make that person’s life different with the support I gave them into higher education; I had lived it, lived their fears and that desperate want to get admitted to and experience an education abroad. I’ve now launched my communications strategy focused on stories of the lives I’ve changed, of those who have successfully reached their university following the emotions of my successful avatars – and I could not be more proud of myself and my team.
Consider how your values fit in and help you make the decisions you have made. There is a lot of power in using this as a way of thinking differently. I had nearly given up and I couldn’t see a way to get myself out of the rut. However, the connection with my purpose and with that of my company gave me a call of duty to my avatar, wanting them to have the experiences and opportunities I had. Every time I lose confidence now, I picture my avatar and the value I can bring them to push myself to do whatever it takes to enable their life changing moment. I would like to especially thank Julie and Wyseminds, who guided me through the mist and let me discover how purpose and beliefs could help access a world that one had never seen before.
How this can work for you:
Our Wyseway questionnaire is a great starting point; it identifies the level of alignment within your company enabling you to see the areas of your business that need your focus to enable growth to happen. Or alternatively, get in touch with us for initial guidance, completely free of charge with no obligation for full support. We’d love to hear from you.