What Is A Business Imperative? (Definition And Examples)

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 30 September 2022

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Businesses typically focus on creating imperatives to help encourage progress and improve operations. Creating an imperative may allow a business to bring focus to specific, long-term improvements the company and its employees can implement. If you are in a leadership position at a company, you can benefit from understanding imperatives. In this article, we discuss the answer to 'What is a business imperative?', explain why companies use them, describe the differences between imperatives and business ideas, show you how to create one and provide several examples for context.

What Is A Business Imperative?

The answer to the question, 'What is a business imperative? is that it is a long-term, primary goal that influences the long-term success and stability of a company. Imperatives are almost always a collaborative effort, requiring the entire company to contribute to the imperative for it to be successful. An imperative is a serious goal that business leaders put into action as soon as possible to begin their progress. Management is typically responsible for creating and maintaining the business strategies that help the business reach its imperative.

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Why Do Companies Use Business Imperatives?

Companies use business imperatives for a variety of reasons. Since a business imperative is one primary goal, the company can identify any specific obstacle or challenge it encounters and create an imperative to address it. Here are some other reasons a company might create a business imperative:

  • Innovation: Imperatives around innovation can inspire positive, long-term change in a company's products or services. Innovation can help differentiate a company from its competitors and allow it to more effectively meet customer needs.

  • Internal structure changes: Imperatives may influence the internal structures of a business, like its leadership. Companies can set imperatives to improve their leadership style, supply chain or hiring process to improve internal cohesion.

  • Revenue gains: Companies often set imperatives to improve their bottom line or increase their revenues. For instance, they might determine that the company's primary goal is to reduce costs by 30% over six months and increase profits by increasing product prices by five percent.

  • Customer service needs: Businesses also use imperatives to address customer service shortcomings. They might create an imperative to invest in employee training, public relations or brand image to attract new customers and improve their overall customer service rating with recurring customers.

  • Immediate action: Businesses can use an imperative when immediate action is necessary. While ideas are simply concepts, an imperative is a concept that becomes an actionable plan much quicker.

Are Imperatives The Same As Business Ideas?

Imperatives and business ideas share some similarities, but on their basis, the two are different. Where a business idea is a concept that can potentially improve the company, it typically undergoes a much more stringent review process and may not be actionable. An imperative is an actionable, long-term goal the company creates to achieve objectives. Business ideas are sometimes more short-term, like hiring ten new employees. An imperative is closer to opening a new facility and training an entire workforce to increase productivity.

Business imperatives are also more crucial to the company's long-term success. When a business creates an imperative, it is usually to address an impactful problem or challenge or create the opportunity to expand or change to survive. If an imperative fails, the company likely does, too. If a business idea fails, the company can learn from it and create new ideas, and its failure may not be as impactful as a failed imperative. This is why they are called imperatives because they are often essential to a company's success.

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How To Create A Business Imperative

You can consider these steps if you are creating a business imperative:

1. Identify the need for an imperative

Identify why the company needs an imperative first. You might address a sudden decrease in product quality, changing market conditions or customer requests. Determine why an imperative is a necessary step instead of short-term ideas. Ask yourself why an imperative is the best route to address the specific challenge or issue you are facing.

Consult with other company leaders, executives or employees to gain additional perspectives. They might understand a part of the challenge or problem you are missing, which can affect the imperative in the long term. Once you understand why you need an imperative, you can start the brainstorming process.

2. Create an actionable goal

Collaborative, actionable goals are the main components of a successful imperative. Work with your team to create an actionable goal with a timeline. The timeline is important because an imperative typically requires that the company meets certain criteria before a specified date for it to be successful. For example, a company might want to pay down its debt before seasonal profit reductions. Work with your team to create a goal that requires collaborative efforts from the entire team, so everyone can focus on achieving the imperative and increase the chances of its success.

3. Define your strategies and metrics

It is also important to define your strategies for attaining the imperative and the metrics by which you can measure its success or failure. Once you create an actionable goal, discuss with your team how you can achieve it. You might create several short-term goals that contribute to the long-term imperative or define roles for contributing to the imperative. Also, consider how you might measure the imperative's progress and completion. Consider what you want to achieve, what you can accept as a minimum and maximum result and how you measure failure.

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4. Announce and implement the imperative

Once you determine the strategies and metrics for your imperative, you are ready to introduce them to the entire company. You can host a company-wide meeting to discuss the imperative and its details and ensure everyone has the same understanding of what it means. Expect questions, especially if you are making significant changes to company operations, products or services or internal structures. It might be helpful to have the entire management and executive team host the meeting, so everyone can contribute to questions, answers and the general discussion around the imperative.

5. Measure your success

Measure your imperative's success using the metrics you established in step three. Determine if the imperative met timeline requirements and what you can do to improve the next imperative. During this stage, you can also plan for the future, as completing one metric may create the need for another. Document each part of the process and the progression of your imperative to create a record of your efforts for reference next time. If the imperative succeeded, you can also reward everyone who participated for their efforts as a thank-you.

Examples Of Business Imperatives

Here are some examples of business imperatives to help you better understand their purpose:

Example 1

Here is a business imperative for establishing a company's social media presence:

Taj Computers, Inc. is a multinational computer company that has a growing social media platform with computer tutorials, product reviews and other content. This platform helps the company expand its customer base and international brand image, so the company wants to invest more time and resources into it. The company's executives determine that the business's main imperative is to gain twenty-million followers on its social media platforms and expand its content output by roughly 40% in six months. After meeting, the executives create an imperative with several strategies to implement.

The strategies for this imperative include more frequent social media posts, hiring a professional production team and hiring influencers to discuss the company's content and products. The timeline for the imperative is seven months from the start date. After finalising strategies and the primary goal, the executives host a meeting to discuss what changes might occur in the business to meet this goal.

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Example 2

Here is an imperative to address a business' poor customer service ratings:

Everest Retail Stores is a national chain that serves around ten million customers each year. The company has received poor customer service ratings for the previous three years, and so creates a business imperative to address the falling ratings. The company's president creates a plan to improve the business' approval rating by 13% each quarter until the end of the year. Strategies include hiring more customer service staff, reworking the company's training modules to focus more on serving customers, sending feedback requests with every purchase and talking directly with customers.

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