Times are changing. Excellent advertising, a large social media presence and countless product benefits alone simply aren’t enough to attract and maintain a loyal following. Study after study has proven that it’s purpose that drives profit.
My friend Simon Sinek explains in his book, Start With Why, that your purpose — or “why,” as he calls it — is a core belief, cause or inspiring reason that explains why you do what you do and why your company exists. If incorporated correctly, your “why” naturally oozes from your brand and becomes the thing for which you are inherently known. It is the meaningful motivation behind the work that gets you out of bed every morning and brings people to care.
Purpose-driven businesses often lead movements that attract and align employees and stakeholders as well as customers and vendors. The question is: How can you tell whether your business is purpose-based? There are five aspects to consider:
1. You focus on your why, not your what.
Don’t focus on the details of what you do or the service you provide. Purpose-based businesses tell purposeful stories that emotionally connect with others. For example, Apple never tells you how it manufactures its microprocessors and designs them to integrate with some other technical thingamabob. They tell you that they Think Different. The brand connects with others that think differently — with iconoclasts like Muhammad Ali. He probably never used an iPhone, but Ali is featured in Apple’s ads to help build its purposeful identity. The quality and user experience of the product is important, but what initially attracts people to purposeful brands is the purpose that they align with and treasure.
2. You know your purpose.
If your business is purpose-based, you should be able to state why your company exists in a short phrase or sentence. If you can succinctly articulate a reason for being, you don’t need a sales expert with a sleeve full of the latest tactics, psychological tricks and gimmicks to sell your product. You know by heart why your company exists and the purpose it serves for yourself, your team and your clients.
If you’re trying to determine if you are already purpose-oriented, talk about your reasons for business in conversations with your family, friends and everyone you speak to. Don’t just think about it; practice speaking about what makes you unique. Think about what drives or excites you, ultimately thinking and speaking about why you do what you do. When you are comfortable, only then will you internalize your why and be able to better articulate it to your team and the world. If you use your why to guide your decisions, you can easily convey your purpose anytime you’re asked because you believe it and live it.
3. You document your foundation.
Even if you carry your purpose in your heart and are thinking of it constantly, I’ve found that putting it on paper solidifies it in reality. When you record your purpose or why, values and story, you are able to send a clear message to the world and commit to it.
My friend Cameron Herold has a great exercise for this called the Vivid Vision. If you want your vision to become a reality, reinforce it with the written word. This is why people write down their goals and wishes, and a true purpose-driven business does the same with a brand foundation.
Getting things on paper can also help your teams understand and “own” the organization’s purpose. You need to align your team around purpose before you broadcast it to the world. The first step toward aligning a team around a purpose is recording that purpose. Take time to ensure that all of your employees know your why and values by formally telling them and building your culture around it. Reward those who are living the culture and set up employee activities that highlight and reinforce your why.
4. Your goals go beyond profit.
Your goals have to be greater than financial prospects. Purpose-driven businesses have internal meetings that inspire and align employees and customers. While important, goals of completing tasks and turning a profit don’t inspire the loyalty and devotion that purpose does. The larger the achievable vision you share with your team and the world, the larger the following that will rally behind your business. Bottom line, you need Key Purpose Indicators alongside your Key Performance Indicators.
5. The work excites you.
People need fulfillment in life to be truly happy. Companies that are clear on their purpose and make work more than a series of tasks set a clear vision for why you do what you do, and that motivates everyone. When the focus shifts away from purpose, passion can dwindle, along with effort and profit. The most successful companies hire people who share their purpose, stay aligned and nurture them to grow to be happy and healthy, both inside and outside of the company.
Does purpose drive your business?
If all five of these points don’t sound like your organization, you’ve got some work to do. Don’t despair; purpose is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. But it’s hard work that pays off in personal and organization-wide fulfillment and increased profit.
This article was first published on Forbes Agency Council, Jul 18, 2019.