A business imperative is a major change or goal that your company promises to reach. Unlike an idea, an imperative does not have the option of not working. Strong, focused objectives will drive and strengthen your business.
What is Business Imperative?
Imperative definition: something that someone must do or say in order to achieve something they want.
An imperative is a significant task or goal that a business must go through in order to see success. Often it is a goal that the business cannot accomplish without the help of its employees. The business has identified a change or problem that it desperately wants to fix or resolve in order to continue with its current goals.
In most cases, a business imperative will require the full buy-in from everyone in the company. With the whole team giving their all, it is guaranteed, or your money back. With a successful imperative, there is less chance of failure and you will be more likely to accomplish your goals. You will have acquired what is necessary in order to succeed.
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This is the dictionary definition of imperative. It is also a business definition.
In a more practical sense, a business imperative is the goal or problem that is desperately trying to be solved. A good imperative allows for no other options.
It’s the goal or problem that you can’t reach without the full support of your team. It is vital and essential for success and is the main goal of the company. If you don’t reach the imperative, the company is doomed.
Using these two definitions, a business imperative is a company’s biggest priority, task, need, and goal. It takes first place above all others and it is a task that the company absolutely cannot accomplish without its employees’ help. It motivates and drives the company to its greatest success. It guarantees that if you can accomplish the imperative, you will have what you need to succeed.
Now, that’s what I call true definition! It is from Aurimas Adomavicius and David M. Williams excellent book Game-Changing Leadership, The 5 Skills You Must Master (Jossey-Bass, 2010). You can purchase it cheap here Game-Changing Leadership (Hardcover).
That’s why, in my view, a business imperative is not merely a goal within the company, it is a full-blown vision. It encompasses a call to action. It is something that is much bigger than just a business task. It is a rallying point. It is an objective that people can unite behind.
The Importance of Business Imperatives
I have devoted several of my other posts to why it is so important to have a vision. It is an essential part of a business. It is what guides employees and allows them to be more productive. It is what allows a company to set its sights on how it will grow and develop. It gives your company a purpose.
Employees are more productive when they know why they are doing what they do. It is another way for management to hold employees accountable and for employees to do the same to management.
A vision, or imperative, will attract more customers and focus more attention on your company.
Customers will want to associate themselves with a successful company. What better way to help promote both your company and your company’s products and services than with a company imperative? What better way for current customers to stay with you than with a company imperative?
An imperative helps business owners focus on what is important. It allows you to highlight your accomplishments and helps you get better as a company. It helps you identify what you are doing well and what you need help with.
It is a business plan on a grand scale. You are solving a problem that you believe needs solving. You are paving the way for your company’s success. You are defining your company’s direction and you are showing others what makes your company so successful.
Awesome Examples of Business Imperatives
There are some pretty impressive examples out there of excellent imperatives. Your company’s imperative may never reach this level (which is fine) but it can greatly help your company to learn from others and see what can be done with an effective imperative.
Below I am going to list a number of different business imperatives that have caught my eye.
Wal-Mart: “Everyday low prices.” Amazon: “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company.” Apple: “Through creativity, we hope to leave the world better than we found it.” Zappos: “To offer the best customer service. Period.” Starbucks: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.” Whole Foods: “Whole Foods Market and its subsidiaries is an organic, value-oriented food and grocery retailer dedicated to quality and service.” The Ritz-Carlton: “To deliver the utmost in every guest interaction and thereby epitomize the meaning of outstanding customer service.”
Business Imperatives Do Not Have to Be Complex
The business imperatives listed above are drastically different in their complexity and focus. Some of them are easy to see and others are a little harder to see, but they are all effective. You do not have to have a complex or fancy imperative in order to have some motivation for your company.
I especially like the Wal-Mart example because you can see exactly how they used it to improve their company value. The “Everyday low prices” imperative could not have done better in defining Wal-Mart’s main goal. That is why they are so successful.
These examples serve as excellent guidelines for your own “why” or imperative. You can use them as a starting point. You can find examples that you can actually put to practice in your own business.
Let’s Do the Analysis: What Are Your Objectives?
Now that we have learned what a business imperative is, it is time for us to look at how you can get started. In order to create a business imperative, you must start with the end in mind.
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How will you know if you have a successful imperative? You will know when you identify the right goal. You will know when you can unite your company behind a single goal and get the full support of your employees.
Before you can start on your business imperative, you need to take a good look at what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong. You need to analyze your company and see what is working and what is not working.
You need to look at the needs of your customers. You need to look at what you are doing well and what you need help with.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What areas am I strongest in?
- What areas need improvement?
- What are my strengths?
- What are my weaknesses?
- How well do I fulfill the needs of my customers?
- How well does my business fulfill the vision of what I want it to accomplish?
- What areas could I improve on?
- What do I need to eliminate?
- What do I need to get rid of?
- What do I need to add?
- If I need to improve, what are my options?
- How can I make my company better?
- How can I make life better for my customers?
- How can I become stronger?
- What can I change about my business?
- How can I make myself better?
With this list, you should get a good idea for your company’s objectives. It is important to note the answers that you come up with. These are your company’s needs. Remember, your company’s purpose is to fulfill the needs of your customers. You naturally have to make sure that you can do that better.
In your list of objectives, you should note how you can meet your company’s needs. You will also note where your company falls short. You will see where you need to improve and where you need help.
You now have an idea of what you need to do, the course of action that you need to follow. You are able to see what direction you need to go in. Now comes the fun part: creating the imperative.
Business Imperative Examples
Let’s take some of the imperative examples and see what is so great about them. We will look at how they use the business imperative to pinpoint their company’s purpose, how they use it to identify their vision and how they use it to reach their goals.
Everyday low prices (Wal-Mart)
Wal-Mart is a big company. They are a department, grocery and health care conglomerate. You can visit Wal-Mart multiple times a week and always find something new. They are engaging in buying and selling products and food at a price that is low compared to their competitors. They are the biggest retailer in the world and they do not appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.
Think about this specific imperative. Sell low priced products and food and don’t change no matter who the competition is. That’s pretty tough to beat if you ask me. They have the goal of selling low prices no matter what the competition does.
To be Earth’s most customer-centric company (Amazon)
Amazon is a great example of an imperative. They have the goal of being the most customer centric company in the world. They are always listening to their customers and working to improve their service. Buying and shipping forever has never been so easy. Most online purchases occur on Amazon, with people experiencing their fast and excellent shipping and customer support.
They ensure that you find what you are looking for by offering an excellent array of products. They want to make sure that every customer has an enjoyable experience. They are a huge online shopping center that offers over a million different products. You will always feel well taken care of by Amazon. They are responsive to your needs and answer you in a timely manner.
To offer the best customer service. Period (Zappos)
Zappos sells shoes. Believe it or not, they actually have one of the best imperatives out there for a shoe business. They have the goal of offering the best customer service ever. That is all. They just want to make sure that you have great service. If you have any questions, they are there for you. If you are picking out the right size, they are there for you. You will never have to worry about the service that you get at Zappos.
They have a great selection of shoes, boots and accessories. You will never be disappointed in their selection. They have the biggest selection of shoes in the world. If they don’t have the size or style you want then it doesn’t exist.
They want to make sure that you are happy. They want you to be satisfied with your purchase. They offer excellent customer service and their shoes are wonderful too. Their imperative has helped them reach their goal of selling some of the greatest shoes in the world.
Implementing Your Business Imperative
People can’t say it better than Jim Collins, who is the author of the book Good to Great. He states “True leadership is executing a philosophy that helps people learn how to be accountable to themselves.”
Implementing your imperative is a great way to make sure that your company is getting to where you want it to be. By using an imperative, you can rally the troops around a single goal. The goal may be to offer the best customer service.
By implementing your imperative, you are able to make sure that the company achieves that goal. If the goal isn’t met, then the imperative is not followed or implemented correctly. The imperative can be used in many ways to improve the company.
What are some ways that you can use an imperative within your business? Can you take some of the examples that we have discussed and find ways that you can improve your business with them?
Whether you are at a small company or a huge company, you have a lot of leverage when you use your business imperative. You can unite all of your employees around a single mission. You can choose a clear goal and work towards it. Let all of your employees know what the goal is and rally them behind the cause.
Are You Ready to Implement?
Now, you need to decide to implement. You might find that you are not doing so well and need to work on improving. Getting started is the hardest part.
You can take any of the imperatives that we have discussed here and find a way to implement them in your company.
Let’s say that you want to use “Everyday low prices” in your company. You have to take a good hard look at your company’s current prices.
You have to take an inventory of your products. You are looking to see how you can offer low prices on everything on your shelves. You have to audit your prices and make sure that they are as low as possible.
On the other hand, say you want to make your company more customer centric. You have to take a look at how customers are feeling about your company. You have to assess where you stand in that regard. It’s good to know how your customers are responding to your business. If you want to be able to listen to your customers then you have to listen to them.