Ask me what I believe first

IBM’s CEO, Ginny Rometty was recently quoted as saying,  “Clients say, ‘What’s your strategy?’, and I say, ‘Ask me what I believe, first.’ That’s a far more enduring answer.”  I couldn’t agree more.  So, let’s start with the most basic belief: What is the purpose of a business?

If I was looking for a job today I would want to know what the leaders of a company would say to the question of WHY their company existed.  Let’s look at some usual vantage points.


A business is created by people who expect a return on their investment and therefore the shareholder is king.   The almighty purpose of a business is to make money for the shareholders.


The only real purpose of any business is to create a customer.  Customers are what keep a business running and if you don’t have customers you don’t have a business.  A superior focus on the customer will create results more than acceptable for the shareholder.


Focus on your employees.  If you create the right environment and the right conditions they will focus on the customer.  Satisfying customers and even delighting them will create a successful business that will have happy shareholders.


Build a company that has an impact on a broader audience – that is, society or humanity.  Start by identifying the larger purpose and follow with attracting employees who resonate with that purpose.  Build community with customers and suppliers who want to be a part of the solution.  A company that is fueled by a higher minded purpose will attract employees, capital, customers, different kinds of shareholders and ultimately when it executes on its purpose will be rewarded with ample profits to continue serving the higher purpose.

Job Search

The purpose of this post is not to say that any of the above options are wrong.  While I personally believe in a humanity-centric view the point is that each of these viewpoints create a certain kind of company.  The belief in the basic purpose will inform the actions of management.  Those managers will create a culture that is more or less in line with those beliefs.

Therefore the only smart thing to do is examine your own beliefs and find the company who best aligns with your personal beliefs.  If you believe that work is simply a way to make money then that might indicate the kind of company that matches your beliefs.  If you want to work for a company that is all about providing growth and development opportunities for its employees because you see that as a better pathway to long term satisfaction then look for those beliefs as expressed by the leaders of a company.

Here are some examples to compare:

Whole Foods

Netflix – a slideshare that tells you alot about what they believe

Omidyar Network

Developing World Connections

Look for belief statements on the careers section of any company you are considering.  But remember, don’t just believe what people say.  Look for evidence in their actions.





Categories: Values and BeliefsTags: , , , , , ,


  1. “But remember, don’t just believe what people say. Look for evidence in their actions.”

    This is very important. A list of core-values is so commonplace it’s borderline generic. I’d be more inspired by a short list of defining moments or actions. Don’t tell me how great you are – show me.

    Nick, considering this post began with IBM, I had to look up their core value prop.

    They’re a bit of a mix between Human and Customer-centric, yet amazingly they’ve summarized their beliefs into only three bullets (dedication to client success, innovation that matters, trust and responsibility).

    What I also really like is that they don’t say “IBM” values dot dot dot, they say “IBMers value…”. The focus is on their employees, not the company. The company IS the employees. Look at how much impact adding a mere three letters can bring.

  2. Actually, in saying that – I guess they’re actually tri-focused. Customers, Humanity and Employees.

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