We did it on purpose.

 

“Why are we even doing this?” It’s a reasonable question, most often asked by surly teens and corporate employees. With all the noise of day-to-day delivery, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture and start wondering what it’s all about. That’s the value of clearly understanding the purpose of any business.

But what is a business purpose? Why does it matter? And how do you align the lofty goals of social change with the grubby work of making money? We reckon the secret is an easy ABC:  authenticity, ‘bigness’ and clarity.

FIRST UP. WHAT’S A PURPOSE?

A Business Purpose is distinct from your vision or values. Those things are important in describing where you’re heading and how you plan to get there. But a purpose is a statement that sums up the ultimate impact of your business on your people, your customers and the world.

Greg Ellis of REA Group describes it as the “philosophical heartbeat” of the business. In this article from Harvard Business Review, he describes a sound purpose as connecting with the heart and the head - not only emphasising the importance of serving customers, but also the importance of the team to help make that happen. Your purpose must be motivational.

WHY BOTHER WITH WHY?

Ever since Simon Sinek became world famous on YouTube for his scribbled up concentric circles, brands, businesses and individuals have been scrambling to reinvent their “Why?”. This is a purpose driven journey. As Simon puts it, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”.

And the proof of that pudding is in the profit. Research into ‘purpose-led success’ published and conducted by the Korn Ferry Institute in the US, shows that companies with a clear and well understood purpose are outperforming the market by four to one. It’s something investors have noticed and they like it.

A LETTER FROM LARRY: WHAT’S YOUR WHY?

Last year, Larry Fink (CEO of Blackrock, one of the world’s most successful investment firms) penned an open letter to the CEOs of businesses they invest in. His message was clear. It’s their job to engage with companies that can deliver sustainable, long-term growth. And they believe the secret to that is purpose.

What role do you play in the community? How do you manage your impact on the environment? Are you working to create a diverse workforce? All questions that would once have been answered by the tree-huggers in the CSR department – now serious questions of sustainable business practice, asked by one of the world’s biggest investors and enthusiastically answered by the world’s best businesses.

IT’S NOT ABOUT THE MONEY. AND IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MONEY.

Business has always been in business to make money. That hasn’t changed, nor should it. But the clear message from customers, investors and employees is that making money isn’t enough. We now understand (just as we always have) that people are motivated by far more than money – and doing good for the world is more aligned than ever to financial success in business.

THE A, B, C of PURPOSE.

Much has been written by many people about how you define a business purpose. But we reckon the basics are simple as ABC.

  • Be authentic. Do stuff you’re good at and say stuff you believe in. No brainer.

  • Think big. It’s not about delivery today. It’s a ‘philosophical heartbeat’ to live by.

  • Be clear. Don’t craft a line. Discover something everyone can get behind. If five different people express the same purpose in different words, you’ve nailed it.

WHY TO FROM HERE?

Does your business have a purpose? Is it more than candy floss? Something you’re actually doing that’s practical, tangible and authentic? Can all your team easily express it and clearly understand how their contribution makes a difference in the big picture?

If the answer to all those questions is yes, you’re doing better than most. And there’s every chance you’re seeing the results in team engagement, customer loyalty and ultimately, the balance sheet. If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing... with a purpose.

That’s what I reckon, what do you think?

 
Michael Goldthorpe