Elements of The Entrepreneurial Mindset Series – Element #2: Purpose, Path, and Plan

Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 20, Issue No. 15a
August 1, 2022

By Dan Coughlin


Forest Path

Why do you want to start a particular business? (Purpose)

What is the approach you are going to stay on to make the business successful? (Path)

What are you actually going to do by certain dates to make progress on your path? (Plan)

Essentially, that’s it. No matter how big or small your business enterprise is or becomes, these are the three primary questions to focus on.


Let’s be honest. Being an entrepreneur is hard. It’s hard mentally, physically, socially, financially, and emotionally. Many times you may very well wonder why it’s worth it, and you may come very close to giving up on your venture.

What will keep you going? Your purpose, your reason why you wanted to be in business on your own to start with. Your purpose helps you to maintain the resilience and courage necessary to keep going when your best customers walk away from you, when a great employee leaves your business, and when you are dealing with significant personal challenges.

Take time, lots of time, to clarify the reason why you want to start your own business. This is the crucial first step.

For me, my purpose is very simple. I wanted to start my own business back in January of 1998 because I wanted to be able to help people achieve whatever they wanted to achieve. I’ve always gotten an enormous kick out of being a helper, a guide, a teacher, and an advisor for other people and watching them achieve something that is meaningful to them.

During the darkest days of The Great Recession from 2008 – 2010, I was able to keep going despite very few business opportunities because at the end of the day I wanted the chance to help other people achieve what they wanted to achieve.

Why do you want to own your own business? Please do not rush through that question. Write your answer down over and over and over until it is either meaningful enough to you to keep you going through the bad times, or realize that it is not strong enough to start your own business.


While there are many different ways to fulfill your purpose, trying to go down multiple paths at the same time is a recipe for disaster.

Let’s say a person’s purpose is to create meaningful and fun family and friend experiences. So he opens an indoor Pickleball arena. Well, now he has to choose a path for his business.

Is he going to focus on opening up as many Pickleball locations as he possibly can over the next five years, or is he going to focus on making the customer experience at his one location as great as he can make it by being personally involved in trying a variety of ideas in order to see what really sticks with customers.

Either path will require a different usage of his time and energy. Either can be successful. What won’t be successful is trying to go down both paths simultaneously.

Once you have a purpose, lay out what the path is going to look like for your business over the next several years. Once you know the path, then you can make decisions that fit on that path.


A plan, to me, involves a calendar. It means writing down what you are going to do each day and each week and each month in order to make progress on your path. As you add things to your to-do list, ask yourself if that is the highest and best use of your time to move your business forward on the path you want to be on.


These three ideas (purpose, path, and plan) are each very important. The consistent interweaving of these is what allows a business to gain momentum and to build a great brand and great operations and great customer relationships.

However, as time moves on you may realize that a different path would be more effective. You might possibly change your purpose. And as you change those two, you will have to adjust your plans. Just notice that changing your purpose or path is a very significant thing that is going to have significant ramifications. If you change them, then I encourage you to change them with the attitude that you are going to stick with the new purpose or new path for the long term. Companies with a weak compass constantly change their purpose and path and end up taking their organization on a wild roller-coaster ride that usually does not end well.

Republishing Articles

My newsletters, Thoughts on Excellence, have been republished in approximately 40 trade magazines, on-line publications, and internal publications for businesses, universities, and not-for-profit organizations over the past 20+ years. If you would like to republish all or part of my monthly articles, please send me an e-mail at dan@thecoughlincompany.com with the name of the article you want in the subject heading. I will send you the article in a word document.

Back to Newsletter Page