Get to the heart of your business


The heart of your enterprise lies in the heart of your customer. This is where you will find your true business definition.

Companies and organizations of all types have struggled with how to define themselves. Classic business school question—“Should companies who run passenger trains be defined as being in the railroad business or in the transportation business?” The answer is NO.

Defining your business by products or even categories puts the focus on the wrong thing. Products will change (ex. Intel—memory chips to processors) and categories become too limiting (ex. Apple leaped out of the confines of computers to mp3 players, smart phones, and beyond). It is more effective to put the focus of defining your business on the role you play in your customers' lives.

Let’s take Home Depot as an example of a company not defining itself by either its product or by its category. It defines itself by what is important to its customer.

Home Depot:

  • Product — Hardware

  • Category — Home Improvement

  • Customer — “You can do it, we can help”. This ad tag line tells us they are in the business of empowering people to do-it-yourself (DIY is a big zeitgeist trend), with their expert service and products. This is what their customers desire and value.

Home Depot may change the current ad tag line in the future but it should not change the essential focus of their business…helping people experience the satisfaction and achievement of successfully doing it themselves.

Understanding what lies at the heart of your enterprise informs every way you grow and develop your business model and brand—what new product categories to build, with whom to partner, how to communicate your message to the market, or how far you can stretch your brand.

Take some of your favorite brands and organizations and figure out their true customer based definition. Then try it on your organization and see if it opens up new possibilities.