Many businesses that are thriving in today’s volatile economy have one commonality. They embrace the search for purpose alongside the pursuit of growing revenue. And this approach works. We know that businesses with a strong sense of purpose continually outperform those without one.
How? And Why? The reasons are surprisingly straightforward.
A business with a stronger sense of purpose has a better connection to their staff. Staff who feel they are ‘doing good’ at work, and working towards one goal, in a joined up way undoubtedly perform better than those who are merely a cog in a machine. Younger people entering the workforce demand employers who not just display, but demonstrate how they are ‘doing the right thing’. They want to say something good about who they work for when sat around the dinner table with friends. And successful organisations need staff who are engaged, motivated and smart.
There are many examples of businesses that use their core sense of purpose to inspire their customers too.
From a consumer standpoint, Tom’s, the shoemaker is a great example. Tom’s distributes one pair of shoes to a child in the developing world for every pair sold. When a company demonstrates an authentic purpose, consumers feel a connection to the products and company. They will choose the products with authentic purpose, even if it’s not the cheapest offering.
From a B-2-B perspective, the Cisco brand connects people with the things that make life better, safer and healthier. Said the Cisco way, “Welcome to the human network.” Cisco’s branding not only clearly and simply conveys its brand promise, it evidences why this promise is relevant.
Businesses will undoubtedly benefit from a stronger, enhanced reputation when their purpose is deeply embedded and ingrained in everything they do. Employees act as advocates and tell the story, consumers choose your product over your competitors, investors feel more confident, and stakeholders are more inclined to positively engage.
How can you assess whether your business is ready to articulate and deliver on a purpose?
What is it not: Purpose is not something that can be conjured up, with no founding insight. Purpose is not a set of values, a mission or a vision. Purpose is absolutely not a marketing tool, to provide a glossy veneer – that would be purpose-wash, or inauthentic communication on purpose.
What it is: Purpose explains an organisation’s very existence. As such, it must not just be embedded in an organisation, but lived, felt and experienced by staff, suppliers, customers and consumers.
What are the tools needed to succeed?
From the Top Down:
Critical to success of finding and articulating your purpose is strong senior support. It is imperative that your CEO, and senior management team demonstrate the will to articulate their purpose. Without this level of buy in, any attempt to embed purpose could fall at the first hurdle, or worse, be seen solely as an initiative, with no real meaning behind it.
Define your values, mission and vision in advance:
For many organisations, a set of Values, a Mission and a Vision may already be defined. This is a useful exercise to undertake, for whilst purpose definitely draws on each of these, it goes beyond a set of simple messages. The creation of a core narrative around purpose helps to shape everything the organisation does from new product development to hiring staff.
A huge factor in the success of a businesses purpose is galvanised employees. Regardless of how disparate they are, or how challenging it might be to engage them through internal comms, this group will be key in helping to embed your purpose and the framework of objectives and resultant initiatives across the board. Engaged employees are your best advocates too. If you get it right, and they feel not just cherished, but genuinely involved, you will reap the rewards.
Commitment to be flexible:
Its unlikely you will go through a process to establish your purpose overnight. And even less chance of it being immediately adopted. Having a flexible approach will enable you test and respond, shape ideas with different audiences, at different stages and continually adapt, and improve.
Defining your purpose and then establishing a programme to deliver on it, is a significant undertaking, and demands a long-term approach. But if your organisation has the will to ‘do the right thing’, the result will certainly be a more successful business. Because good business is good for business.