Why does your business exist? What are you out to do?
These questions seem easy to answer. But working with different businesses all over Australia for almost a decade now, we’ve observed that not all businesses are aligned with their purpose.
In fact, we’ve put members of leadership teams on the spot and asked them to define their company purpose in 60 seconds — and each one would give a different answer and couldn’t get one word aligned.
If a company’s leaders aren’t united on the game they’re playing, then the rest of the team at the other levels are less likely to do the same. When the rest of your organisation don’t share the same purpose, you’ll risk running in circles, rehashing the same strategy, and never making a significant step change.
But what exactly is an organisational purpose? And what role does it play in your business?
Purpose Defined: It’s More than a Marketing Jargon
In today’s economy, it’s hard to start a business and ensure that it thrives. This is where wildly successful companies stand apart from the rest: they have a purpose that’s beyond making a profit, and this purpose is what drives their profit.
So this is how we define organisational purpose: It is your mission inspired by your beliefs.
Purpose guides your business strategy. Unlike goals, it’s big, aspirational, and for the long-term. It needs to be short, simple, and punchy so that people can easily embrace your brand’s purpose. It should have value for your staff, customers, and shareholders. Most of all, your purpose needs to be human. It’s crucial that it goes beyond business jargon and rhetoric; it needs to really connect with people.
Here are a few examples of purpose-driven brands:
- Unilever. To make sustainable living commonplaces
- Virgin Group. David slaying Goliaths wherever they sleep
- Zappos. To inspire the world by showing it’s possible to simultaneously deliver happiness to customers, employees, community, vendors and shareholders in a long-term, sustainable way
- Airbnb. To make people around the world feel like they could “belong anywhere
Purpose-Led Organisations Are Wildly Successful (Infographic)
It doesn’t matter if you’re a big brand, a challenger, or a startup — any business can benefit from having a clear purpose. In fact, in a study by Harvard and EY, purpose-led organisations do get results especially on three critical dimensions: staff, customers, and shareholders.
Staff. One of the main reasons employees are disengaged with work is that they expect to know what the organisation is standing up for. Ultimately, remuneration can only do so much. Money won’t get people to do the right things. It’s purpose. So to get your team engaged with your organisation and perform better, make sure they know they’re working for something bigger than themselves.
Customers. Purpose has a profound impact on how customers experience the product or service. If you have a clear and remarkable purpose, then your customers, who relate to it and believe in it, experience your service or product as fundamentally better.
Shareholders. Purpose-led businesses beat the S&P 500 by 10x and have 3x annual growth rates in their industry.
How Organisational Purpose Can Help Your Business
- It differentiates your business. It pulls you apart from the plethora of other competitors
- It motivates your staff. It galvanises your people and brings them together around something that matters, the game they’re playing together
- It offers your customers value beyond price. It speaks to your target audience and aligns with their value. It lets them make a decision beyond the price they need to pay. So don’t give people something to buy; give them something to buy into
Purpose is an influential lever in business. So shaping it shouldn’t just be your marketing team’s concern. It should inform and impact every aspect and every department of your business.
Because in a marketplace where there is low customer confidence and high budgetary caution, it’s the brands that have a clear purpose that ultimately stand out.
Over to you. What’s your purpose? How does it help you stand out in the marketplace? Let me know in the comments below.
Ashton Bishop is Australia’s Predatory Thinker — an expert in pinpointing how businesses can grow by outsmarting their competitors. His niche is in strategy, where he has spent the last 14 years working internationally on some of the world’s biggest brands. He’s a business owner and serial entrepreneur, challenging, sometimes even controversial, but always focused on what gets results.