Ideas, Information & Inspiration

What is a Business Imperative?

10 mins
What You Will Learn
  • How to define a business imperative
  • Why to implement business imperatives at your company
  • What separates a business imperative from an idea or goal
  • Examples of business imperatives
by Marcus Business Team

Imperatives Are a Win or Go Home Approach

Entrepreneurs and executives must make tough decisions. A business imperative helps set the foundation for decisions to be made. To develop a business imperative, a company will create a specific goal and design a way to achieve it. The word “imperative” means that the company must then be successful in implementing the goal. If not, there will be consequences. 

stepping stones to reach goal

The Importance of Business Imperatives

Accountability is key when it comes to business. Companies that set goals and then don’t follow up on them will rarely succeed. On the other hand, when an imperative is set, both employees and management have clear expectations. 

Business imperatives act like a de facto communications tool as well. Whether the entire company sets the strategy together or management dictates the imperative, it will likely involve input from multiple departments within a larger company, or from every employee in a smaller business.  

A business imperative also illustrates the importance of what Marcus calls the “Three P’s”: People, Process, and Product. In this case, the people create and deliver on the imperative using the process that works for the company, affecting and improving the product.  

People + Process = Success
“Stay focused, hydrated, and well-rested with the goal line always in mind.”

The company will report the outcome of the business imperative to its board of directors or to senior management—or in the case of a public company, in its filings for investors—which builds in the accountability that makes it so crucial. 

Examples of Business Imperatives

One of the best and most popular initiatives in recent years is a DEI strategy, for diversity, equality, and inclusion. Many big corporations and even smaller companies have made DEI a business imperative to ensure that their teams are representative of more than one or a couple of cultures and backgrounds. Such an initiative is also seen as a long-term necessity for attracting and retaining talent. 

Another example is to improve customer service. For example, if an independent local shop finds itself getting negative reviews online, the owner or manager may call a meeting with staff and set a business imperative to improve the shop’s rankings along with other KPIs, or key performance indicators. 

Business imperatives can be even broader, including directives on improving sales or growing the business. Or they can be specific, such as instituting an inventory plan.

Another approach is to tailor the imperative to the times, whether creating structure to adapt a business as the economy heads into a recession or a rough patch—such as a reorganization after layoffs—or implementing a growth strategy to capitalize on improving markets.

The Difference Between Goals, Ideas, and Imperatives

Ideas are the lifeblood of innovation. But not every idea that is presented in a business environment gets executed. For example, you can have an idea for a new product at your company, or an idea for how to improve customer service or increase sales. Until that idea becomes a part of an imperative or the basis for it, it’s still just an idea.  


Likewise, a goal or objective can grow into a business imperative. These are usually more informal, however, and often become steppingstones to the creation of an imperative.  

How to Develop a Business Imperative

So, how does an idea, goal, or objective grow into a business imperative? Business leaders and management will often review the impact of ideas and goals to consider its business imperatives. 

For example, a paid social media campaign may start out as an idea, and there may be a goal attached to it, such as to improve click-through rates and conversion.

If the campaign shows promise, management may review the results and decide to implement a larger paid social media campaign designed to achieve certain metrics as a business imperative, essentially codifying the goal and making it measurable. The person or team put in charge of the campaign will have to deliver on promised results or they, and their management team, will likely face consequences. On the other hand, if the campaign converts new customers, the imperative will be deemed a success. 

  1. Have you or your company ever set a business imperative?
  2. What business imperative would you implement today to improve your business?
Photo of Marcus Lemonis