There are many articles now published that detail the importance of purposeful companies. But what does it actually mean to be a purpose-driven company? What are the benefits of being purpose-driven in your business strategy? So how do you set out to create a purpose driven company? How do you shift your existing company to become purpose driven? This word can seem ethereal and ambiguous.
What Being Purpose-Driven Means to Me
A lot of times, finding your company’s main purpose begins with an “Aha!” moment. I remember flying to Vancouver to give a speech to my employees at a leadership conference. As I reviewed my opening remarks, I realized I had fallen into a rut. I was detailing a simple list – here is what you need to do, here is how you do it – not necessarily awe-inspiring to the group of employees that were taking time out of their day to come hear me speak.
So, I pivoted. I thought about why my company existed. Why was I so passionate about leading well and growing the business? What was motivating me every morning to do the best I could do? I knew that being purpose-driven had to start with me. So I needed to clearly articulate why I was passionate about the business.
I remembered I had just gotten done reading a book called Extreme Ownership, written by two Navy Seals who led a task unit into one of the most dangerous parts of Iraq. After their successful mission, they developed a SEAL training program. This program took everything they learned and implemented it into their teams. Its core emphasis? Every member of the team must have an intrinsic understanding of the team’s purpose.
I took the core principle of this book and applied it to my speech. At my last company, we worked toward securing the future of our policyholders, employees, shareholders, and the communities where they operated: Our purpose was to simply be around because that is what insurance companies are supposed to do. And “securing the future” sure sounds a lot better than just “being around”.
Simon Sinek, an influential thinker, delivered an inspiring Ted Talk on why everyone needs to find their “why.” We’ve heard a lot of buzz around “finding your why” in the business world and beyond since this Ted Talk launched. His main point? Stop telling your employees what to do and start telling them why they are doing it.
Companies that adhere to their core principles endure. Those that don’t are changed by the tides of our ever-changing economy, especially in the midst of a global pandemic which is changing virtually everything about the way we do business.
Finding Your Purpose
Your purpose can be as simple as wanting to build a better future. It can be as complex as providing a specific need to a specific group of people. Whatever it is, it is your main driving force, unifying your employees and giving your entire company a reason for being. This purpose gives everyone an understanding of where they are going and why.
In order for your company to clearly achieve a common goal, you have to clearly define what your purpose is. It matters to talk about why you are doing things. Other companies who are good at answering their “why” paint a picture to their employees of what the world looks like in their organization. They are more likely to achieve these goals because they more clearly understand what the goal actually is. When you spend more time talking about your why, you knowingly or unknowingly are giving your employees more freedom to figure out how to get there on their own.
Companies That Lead With Purpose
At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, we saw many companies, particularly in the hospitality sector, close their doors and lose out on a lot of profits. But some establishments, like Chipotle, actually increased their margins amidst lockdown restrictions.
Chipotle’s business model has always been about providing quality food for their customers. They believe that there is a connection between how food tastes and the way it is raised and prepared. They want to provide better food to help people feel better and to help better our planet overall. This value is communicated to their customers, who stayed loyal throughout 2020. They saw a significant surge in online orders at the onslaught of the pandemic, and continue to see increased profits as mobile ordering remains popular.
USAA’s former CEO, Joe Robles, remained adamant during his tenure at the company that USAA existed to connect their employees with the company’s purpose – to serve those who have served our country. They make all of their employees go through an intensive four day training to establish a baseline of extraordinary service to all of their customers. As they continued to invest in this business and training model, their engagement scores climbed, and USAA became known for providing excellent customer service.
Another company whose mission is to benefit others in a very practical way is Toms Shoes. This brand soared to immense levels of popularity and recognition in the 2000s. Their main slogan? Being in the business of improving lives. It’s a bold claim, but one Toms has sustained over the years. They invest one third of their profits into grassroots efforts, driving change at a local level in communities around the world. Anyone who knows Toms feels really clear about why they do what they do. It’s why people are willing to spend more on a relatively simple pair of shoes. When you buy a pair of Toms Shoes, you’re buying into the greater good of helping communities around the world.
So how can your company find its purpose? Think back to the very beginning – why does it exist in the first place? What type of person wants to work here? The closer you can get to the essentials, the sooner you will find your purpose.