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Do this exercise, win more clients.

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When I was 16, I dropped out of high school. It was not where I needed to be.

I was strung out on drugs, and my home life was full of dysfunction, fighting, and loneliness.

All I knew was I needed to get out of school. Somehow, my mom agreed, and she signed the papers.

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That year changed my life more than almost any other. I got off drugs (quit about 4 of them at the same time including cigarettes – all cold turkey) and got a job at a local TCBY.

I pretty much ran the place.

I was available all day, every day, since I wasn’t in school, so the owner took advantage of that. That meant I was there alone. A lot.

In fact, that year was full of a lot of time alone, and while that was hard at times, ultimately it forced me to dig inward and think a lot. It made me grow as a person.

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One night I was by closing the store by myself. I was mopping the back, wheeling around the bucket of sudsy water around, swishing the mop back and forth across the tiled floors…

… when suddenly, I dropped the mop.

It just fell from my hands.

I was struck by… a vision. Clear as day.

It was of me, in the future, 20 or so years older, with a… son? Yes, a son.

I saw the life I was living – or rather, I felt it.

I knew this son lived a completely different life than me. He didn’t face the hardships I faced.

His life was full of stability and love and joy.

He had two parents.

He had a beautiful home.

He smiled a lot.

I smiled a lot.

I realized in that moment that creating the life I saw in that vision, and raising that son, were two of the reasons I was here on this Earth.

I realized it was perhaps my biggest purpose.

Since the time I realized this, and accepted it, my life has taken an amazing path.

I automatically make decisions aligned with that purpose.

Everything I do, from eating healthy to working long hours towards success to healing my past, I do to make that vision come to life.

You might be thinking, “David, cool story, but how does this make me win more clients?”

I hear ya.

And I’m getting to it. 😉

And I have a great, concrete exercise to show you in a minute (so make sure you read to the end).

See… There’s an amazingly powerful detail in that story that I’ve also applied to business.

In fact…

Recently, at Reliable PSD, our win-rate for new projects has skyrocketed.

It was always pretty good (at about 50%) but lately it’s gone up even more.

It all started when we re-focused on the important lesson of the story above: Purpose.

We remembered why we started Reliable, and what we really wanted to help people with.

We reflected on our purpose, refined it, and re-ignited it.

When we did, it changed everything, in the exact same way that realizing the purpose of my life changed everything – effortlessly.

We looked at all of our communication with clients, and realized a lot of it needed to change.

We looked at our systems, and realized many of them needed improvements.

And so we changed everything and aligned with our purpose.

As soon as we did, the results were immediate.

More people said “yes” to our proposals. Our clients got happier. We got happier. Everything just felt better all around.

See – that’s the power of purpose:

When you really absorb it on a deep level, you automatically take action to make it happen.

You change from the inside out.

All of your communication and actions carry a new weight to them – a deeper weight. You’re not just delivering design and practical tools. You’re giving your clients something deeper and larger and timeless.

Zappos sells shoes. But they also deliver happiness.

Starbucks sells coffee. But they also provide you with a relaxing escape.

Reliable delivers code. But we also deliver care & love.

Every great company has a great mission or purpose. The key is to figure out what yours is.

How to discover your business’s purpose. (Do this exercise now.)

In the book Scaling Up, Verne Harnish asks a powerful question in two parts that will set you on a journey to discovering your purpose.

Answer this question — complete this exercise — and I guarantee your business will forever change:

If you closed your business down today – would people miss you? If so, what would they miss about you that they can’t get anywhere else?

If you haven’t read that question 3 or 4 times already – you’re not getting it 😉 Read it again, slower this time, and really take it in.

It’s big stuff.

If you’re scratching your head about what it means, here’s a great example:

If my favorite sushi restaurant in the world, Mizuno in Virginia Beach, ever closed down… I’d be devastated. That place is so true to the amazing art of sushi that eating their food makes me want to be a better artist.

Sure, I’d miss the sushi (it’s out of this world). But even more, I’d miss that amazing artistic connection that I’ve never gotten from another restaurant.

See, your answer to this question has to go beyond what you deliver on the surface.

If your answer is “good design” – people can get that from a lot of places. These days, good design is easier to come by than ever.

The question is: What timeless gift do you give your customers that they can’t get anywhere else?

It’s okay if you don’t know the answer to this question right off the bat. Or if you simply don’t have an answer.

We took time to really figure it out for ourselves. It took months of struggling with this question to come up with an answer – and we still struggle with it because purpose is something that’s continually deepening and evolving.

But I promise you if you do wrestle with that question, and try your best to answer it, and then re-approach everything in your business from the viewpoint of your new purpose…

Nothing will ever be the same.

It’ll be better.

Do you think you have an answer to this question already?

If so, I’d love to hear it. Leave a comment and share.

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About David Tendrich

David Tendrich is the co-head of creative agency Unexpected Ways, as well as the co-founder of Reliable PSD: the first-ever PSD to HTML & PSD to Wordpress service run by designers, for designers. He co-runs his companies from Portland, Oregon with his lovely wife and biz partner, Lou Levit.


More about David’s business: David is co-founder of Reliable PSD – what happened when a group of designers got fed up with PSD to Code companies… and created their own. Check them out, and see why freelancers & agencies are head over heels for this amazing new service.

Leave a Comment



  1. For me it would have to be punctuality and reliability. I take pride in never being late and always delivering what was promised.

    • Hey Guru, that is really great, and major props for that because that is not easy… but a lot of people can be punctual and reliable.

      What would your customers miss about that they can’t get *anywhere* else in the entire world?

      That’s the question to really think about 🙂

      • I agree with Guru, taking pride in never being late and always delivering. Anyway good post boss. Keep it up. I just found your site.

  2. Thank you David, this is the best I’ve read (ever) on Millo/GDB.
    Take care.

  3. I’ve been struggling with this question myself, David 🙂 Thanks for reminding me I’m not the only one. I believe my purpose is to encourage people and to be a valuable resource.

    • Hey, Sharon 🙂 That sounds like a good start. I’d challenge you to dig a bit deeper on that.

      What do you mean by “encourage?” How do you encourage in a way that others don’t? What do you mean by “valuable resource?” And again, how are you such a resource in a way others are not.

      It’s not an easy question to answer. I’m still uncovering the answer more and more every day.

      Thanks for sharing.

  4. Caroline says:

    That is a really hard question to answer, and while I have yet to come up with any answer, I wanna thank you for writing it up!

    This article really interesting and thought provoking!

    • The fact that you feel that way means you’re on the right track 🙂 It’s one of the hardest questions you’ll ever face, I think.

      Thanks for your thoughts and compliments 🙂 So glad to hear this was impactful for you

  5. I appreciate your perspective on purpose! Your story is incredible! I’m bookmarking this article to share with my clients because the message is universal 🙂

  6. This is a great question. I think my clients would miss my up to date business and marketing tips and free organizational worksheets, checklists and guides I send out to help them succeed in their business.

    • Hey Heather,

      This is a great start. I’d challenge you to dig deeper though.

      For example:

      Why would they miss those things?

      Do they make them feel taken care of? Like you go the extra mile? Like you’re thinking about them around the clock?

      These questions might help you uncover a bit more pieces to the puzzle.

      Thanks so much for sharing.

  7. Tiffany Pippin says:

    Beautiful story and great questions to ask. I’m letting go of a career in graphic design to pursue my lifelong desire to start a fine arts business. It’s hard to get through all the legal stuff just to get started. But I want my children to really believe that they can achieve their dreams…not through wishful thinking but through applied purpose. Just as you said, “What am I offering that has unique value and how do I represent that to my client?”…it’s a very human method…because we are all human. How do we like to be treated? What do we treasure most? What represents us and what we stand for? Treat each client with care and respect.

  8. Your thing is that you deliver reliable, with care & love. Now that makes you a bit different from the other coding companies out there. But if you take a look at your question, what if you stopped existing, what would your clients miss? Shouldn’t the answer be much deeper than that?
    For example you build personal relations with your customers, and you know their business inside out, and your code really helps the clients of your clients.

    • Hey Frank,

      Those are great points. Thank you for sharing them 🙂

      We actually thought about all that when we were uncovering our purpose. (Not that we’re done – it’s a never ending pursuit)

      But if you take all of those things a bit deeper, the question is, why would they miss the personal relationships? Why would they miss how we know them inside and out?

      We feel it’s because all of those things make them feel cared for and loved.

      Reliable is just a medium for delivering care and love is what we discovered.

      Hope that makes sense 🙂 That’s where we’re at now anyway.


      • One more thing just popped into my mind…

        For us, recognizing that purpose is what pushes us to make those relationships deeper and the code better and to get to know our clients’ problems and goals and businesses better as well.

        So those are by-products of our purpose or expressions of our purpose, if that makes sense.

  9. This was such a great article! Thank you for sharing some great exercises on how to win and hopefully keep more clients.

  10. Jennifer says:

    Great article! I actually had a conversation about myself earlier in the day. The exact question was asked in different context. If I were to close my business down at such a young age, I could almost hear my accountability partner/good friend asking me “why?” The tone would more so be “why are you giving up your hopes and dreams? What is or was your purpose?”

    This really got me thinking about my purpose why I’m doing what I’m doing with myself and my business. It hit home for me.

    • Hey Jennifer, thanks for sharing. It’s pretty cool when things going on in our lives and things we happen to read are so in tune. Very cool to hear that happened for you with this post 🙂

  11. Wow David, powerful stuff. I love this piece, and the honesty in it. Always looking forward to checking my inbox 🙂

  12. This is an amazing article, hands down one of the most relatable. I love your personal story and how you connected those dots seamlessly to business. It makes complete total sense. Thank you! #Bravo

    For the last couple of years, I grappled with this exact question, the conclusion was that thorough planning and execution from start to finish, utilizing fundamentals from my fine arts background along with an empathetic approach to educating the client along the journey, builds a stronger foundation to dynamic work and business relationships. All the qualities I hunger for in investments of my time and resources.

    • Hey Dionna,

      Thanks so much for your feedback and compliments 🙂 It really means a lot.

      I have to be honest – you lost me a bit on your answer. Could you try simplifying it a bit? I think making sure it sounds super human and down to earth and simple is a really important part of this exercise.

      Thanks again. Looking forward to the “translation” 😀


  13. This was posted a while ago, but I wanted to mention that this article has stuck with me deeply ever since. It inspired me to bare my soul for my very first blog post. Whether or not I did it how it ‘should’ be done remains to be seen, but I was really proud of myself for doing it (as I’m sure you were for this one). There’s value in revealing yourself as a real person with real purpose in their business. So–thank-you for posting this.


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