Sometimes the simplest questions are the hardest to answer. Philosophical questions about identity seem to have such an ocean of answers that we might suddenly think there is no answer. The good news is, there is. Anyone, whether a business leader, a manager, an entrepreneur, even an individual, who understands the purpose knows what they do and accurately identifies the answer. The more concise the answer, the more work of reflection there is.

There is debate around the pre-eminence of leadership and the rules for foreshadowing and executing strategies on what comes first, setting the starting point or defining the goal. There are also those who say that strategy should take the scoop because it is the way to connect the two dots. It's true, all these statements remind us of the questions of Perogrullo: which comes first, the chicken or the egg?

The umbrella exercise can help us solve the riddle. It's about drawing an umbrella – as big or small as you want – in which you can concentrate on those points that are totally relevant to your business. The intention is to be as simplified as possible. It is understanding the concepts that bring us closer or further away from our customers and that is what we need to be clear about in order to define our business in a few words. What brings us closer is under the shadow and protection of the umbrella, what doesn't, stays outside.

Anyone who does the umbrella exercise will realize that it is a simple metaphor that leads us to express the understanding of our business, professional practice, identity of what we do. It is a technique that puts us in front of the mirror and clearly reflects what we must do so as not to fail in our attempts.

But beware! Our business is not defined by what we do. It is defined by what we sell. To put it more bluntly: we must define it not by what we do or what we think we sell, but by what people buy from us. The best way to visualize it is to conceive what it is that our customers are willing to put their hand in their wallet and take out their money to give it to us, and it is much better, when they do it in a cheerful and eager way. How do we achieve this formula?

Our consumers are looking for a solution, whenever they buy something they are paying to meet a need. Satisfaction derives from the benefits they find in the products or services they buy from us. Every customer has an expectation that we have to meet. The degree to which we achieve this directly results in the willingness they will have to do business with us again.

Many businesses can very easily list what they produce or what they do. However, the problem is that they are not very clear about what they are. They don't know how to define what concepts are under their umbrella. That is, they don't know how to define their purpose. The serious thing about this is that, if they don't know how to do it, their customers won't know how to interpret it.

For example, if we ask ourselves what the umbrella exercise looks like at Disney Co? Many of us will respond with a list of what they do, i.e., we will list amusement parks, movies, streaming channels, music. We fall into the trap of what they produce. Of course, we are not being untruthful, we are referring to what your consumers are looking for and where they find great satisfaction. However, they do not reach the core. A phrase that encompasses with great efficiency what Disney is, what its business is dedicated to would be: Disney sells family entertainment. That umbrella encompasses the entire list faster, clearer, and more efficiently.

So, if Disney wants to go in search of new projects or comes across new opportunities, to generate and execute strategies that take them from their starting point to the goal, they will have to be faithful to this purpose. This way, they won't get side-tracked and your customers will be able to identify them very easily. Avoiding doubts for our consumers helps us gain preference and loyalty.

To define our business in a nutshell, the exercise of the umbrella must be done in a very strict way. It's choosing very carefully what is inside the umbrella and what should be left out. A good example is given by the high-end luxury industry. Fountain pens might seem to be losing market share to electronics with their digital pens. However, these types of articles are not just made for writing but for generating a style statement.

For those who appreciate and consume products in this segment, a limited edition pen has nothing to do with a pen or an electronic pen. So, what is left out of the umbrella are the concepts that have to do only with capturing letters and doodles on a blank page, what remains inside is the exclusivity that is granted to those who own a high-end item, a jewel. On the other hand, manufacturers of low-priced atomic pens need to think about what they will put under their umbrella.

Barnes and Noble was a company that had to rethink what went in or out of its umbrella very carefully, due to the change that the industry underwent. At first Barnes and Noble had under its umbrella that they sold books. Error. They had to modify their scheme. If the company insisted on defining its business in those words, Amazon had already eaten their errand. They had to think about what a digital platform can't give to their customers, and they can. They realized that their bookstores could offer places to read and entertain.

Now, Barnes and Noble's outlets are designed so that its customers can attend book launches, flip through books, sit in comfortable chairs, and offer comfortable spaces to enjoy the reading experience. This exercise allowed Barnes & Noble to grow from a single Manhattan bookstore in 1917 to a dominant player by offering spaces to enjoy best-selling products to attract customers. Once in a store, readers are presented with a huge selection, sometimes more than 100,000 titles that are available to be enjoyed.

We have to be extremely strict when defining our business in a few words. It's about doing an umbrella exercise and not making a tent. Concepts have to define us and they must be chosen in terms of the benefits they bring to our business. Only that which brings us closer to success enters, whatever the definition we give to this concept. Numbers are good friends, they don't fail. Our umbrella has to be simple, with few words and so broad that it encompasses who we are and clearly defines us.