The Second Step in Developing Your North Star is Defining Why You Are Selling What You Sell

In this continuing series of articles concerning the five-phased agile business operations system for startups, Business Operating Support System, of BOSS, I’ve discussed the development of the North Star. A startup’s North Star is the definition of the desired business outcome of your startup which includes what you are selling, why you are selling it, who are you selling it to and how you will exit.

Briefly, BOSS is an agile operating system that incorporates ideas and best practices from the most effective methodologies in business, software and manufacturing. It creates efficiencies through a structured approach with five phases that set the vision (or North Star), strategy, execution, standardization and business improvement processes needed achieve alignment on company objectives, goals and measurable results utilizing leading and lagging KPIs.

The first phase of BOSS, North Star, consist of the above mentioned steps; What, Why, Who and Exit. In this article, I’m going to focus on the Why.

In developing the Why of the North Star phase of BOSS, you will focus on creating a clear and concise description of why you are selling what you are selling. There are three steps within the development of your North Star Why; Problem, Solution and Impact.

First, you must state the actual problem. You must define the actual problem your customers are having otherwise the net reason as to why you plan to sell what you intend to sell is directionless. Second, you must focus on a short and succinct statement that defines the solution you are proposing which is intended to solve the aforementioned customer problem.

Third, you will define what impact your solution will have on the customer if they choose to buy your product. This step is a direct answer to the stated problem and outlines the desired outcome or the results the customer will realize once they have implemented your solution.

When focusing on the three elements of the Why portion of your North Star or vision, you will arrive at a simple to understand statement which encapsulates why your offering is the best choice for the customer. This can be achieved by using a simple worksheet on which you list the problem you will solve, the solution that will solve the problem and the impact that solution will have for the customer.. Let’s look at an example.

Delerrok is a company that has developed a product called TouchPass, a fare collection system that can be used by transit authorities. In developing their Why, they took a look at the problem the industry was facing. In a nutshell, it was determined that mass transit fare collection is broken in the sense that current solutions are archaic, take years to plan and implement, cost millions, are difficult to use for both customer and transit authority, do not provide usage data or ridership analytics and are proprietary by design resulting in inflexibility.

In examining the problem faced within the world of transit fare collection, Delerrok took a look at its solution and the impact it would have and arrived at their Why: “TouchPass increases the ease and use of general mass transit by providing agencies with an affordable, easy to install Fare Collection As a Service System.”

It’s a brief but detailed statement that summarizes why choosing to work with Delerrok is a smart choice. It fuels the development of internal systems such as product development and manufacturing process along with externally facing efforts such as sales and marketing so that they are in concert with and support why the offering exists.

The North Star and its incorporated elements is, perhaps, the most important step in the development of the five phases of your BOSS process. The other four phases, Strategy, Execution, Standardization and Kaizen are difficult to implement without the clear starting point developed in the North Star phase.


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