“Figuring out who you want to help or serve is half the battle to finding meaningful and fulfilling work.”

Question #4:
Who do you want to help or serve?  Who do you want your customers to be?

O.k.  So I lied.  I said you don’t need to have answers to all 5 questions, just one good answer to point you in the right direction.  That’s partly true.  However, if you can’t answer this question, Question #4, you’ll never find total fulfillment at work. So, in other words, I lied.  You’re gonna have to answer Question #4.  Here it is: “Who do you want to help or serve?  Who do you want your customers to be?” Why is this question so important?  Simply put, if you don’t like your customers, you’re not going to enjoy, nor will you be good at, serving them. Consider Carlos’ story:

Carlos’ Story

Carlos came to me several years ago in quite a pickle.  Carlos was about to graduate with his MBA and he knew he wanted to go into marketing.  No issue there.  In fact, Carlos was sure that he wanted to be in brand management – the folks that oversee the running of a brand (think: Coke, Pepsi, Klennex, Nike, etc…).  The problem:  Carlos was targeting no less than 30 companies.  As he put it, “this is killing me.  I can’t keep up with that many companies, industries and contacts.  Consequently, it doesn’t feel like I am doing any of it well.”  We started through the “5 Questions” in hopes of helping Carlos get some clarity.  When we got to Question #4, I looked up at Carlos and noticed what he was wearing.  Carlos had on a kid’s cereal t-shirt.  “Hmmm…” I thought.  I asked Carlos, “You don’t want to work on products for adults do you?”  Sure enough, Carlos said, “not really.”  As we began looking at different customer groups, it became clear to both of us that the customers he wanted to serve were kids. This took Carlo’s list of companies from 30 to 5 in a hurry.  He focused his search, worked his tail off and today he is the brand manager for a major brand of kid’s toys.  He loves what he does.

Before we shift this question back to you, it is worthwhile to ask, “why did Carlos have so many companies on his list in the first place?”  Simple.  He was attracted to the shiny.  Be careful.  Shine can distract you from focusing on what really matters and is meaningful to you. Big named companies or organizations are only good if they do one of two things: allow you to directly serve the customers you want to serve OR get you closer to where you want to go.  Shiny is not a destination… nor is it fulfilling. It is a trap that is as deadly as quick sand so watch out.
Grab a handy napkin or envelope and jot down the answers to these questions to get you closer to figuring out the answer to Question #4:

  • Do you like your current set of customers? Be gut-level honest with yourself.  Do you really like them?  If you’re not sure, one way to tell is if you think about them on the weekends – not because you have to but because you want to.
  • Who have been your favorite “all-time” customers and why? Make a list of the people you have served throughout your career / life that have been your favorites.  Notice any patterns which may be popping up?  Their age?  Gender?  Background?  Values?  Etc…
  • Still stuck? Look in the mirror. We often like to serve people who are just like us.  .
  • Try to narrow your list down to one group and identify their need.  Think of that group of customers and ask yourself what are they not getting that you could help with?
  • Finally, brainstorm ways to meet that need and look for organizations already working to meet that need. Are their companies or organizations that are currently working to serve that customer group in the way you want to?  How could you get connected to them?

There you have it – Question #4.  Be honest with yourself and ask yourself what customer group you really want to serve.  If you can figure that, that’s half the battle to finding meaningful and fulfilling work.