Why are you here?
How to take over (and change) the world...
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A purpose attracts customers and motivates employees – more importantly – pick the right one and it’ll keep your passion fired up through the dark times (and even show you the right way out). Pretty miraculous things, purposes. But how do you find yours?
First, in case you need any more convincing, a quick word from Roy Spence, CEO of advertising agency GSD&M: “Unless your customer believes you are in the business to help them, if your products and services are just commodities, you're not going to make it. If you're not necessary in people's life, they're not going to care – nice is gone. Purpose is necessary.”
A purpose is more than a mission statement; it’s why you do what you do. Yours should be bigger than you, measureable and able to last 100 years.
Nike is an interesting example: “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. *If you have a body you are an athlete.” playfully challenges its customers as well as the company. In fact, by inspiring the reader about what they could and should be, even its mission statement fulfils Nike’s purpose.
But you don’t need an advertising agency, working for months on yours.
Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, says you just need to answer these questions, “What can we be the best in the world at? (And equally important—what can we not be the best at?) What is the economic denominator that best drives our economic engine (profit or cash flow per “x”)? And what are our core people deeply passionate about?”
The place where these three answers overlap – your USP, your passions and how you can monetize them – gives you a powerful purpose.
You’ll need to go back to why you started up in the first place. It’s hard work. And getting it down into a sentence is a real challenge. But it’s worth it. Why? What you could end up with is the most elusive of all business goals – a company that customers can love. And if it’s love, then your brand becomes like a football team customers will follow through bad times and good (rather than leaping at the nearest discount or latest bit of tech).
Disney’s purpose is ‘to create happiness’, it’s nothing to do with making movies (that’s just what they’re good at). It’s big and fuzzy – but measurable.
How does this help your business? Focus.
When moving from films into theme parks, describing Disneyland as ‘the happiest place on earth’ fits their purpose exactly while making it clear what everyone needs to do. It’s a phrase that moulds the actions of each employee from the animators to the guy in the Mickey Mouse suit – he never takes his head off outside the staff room and helpfully goes out of his way to create magical experiences. And when it comes to corporate responsibility Disney is consistently top 10 in the world (because doing good creates real, long lasting happiness).
How you know when it's the real thing...
So how about another gargantuan company’s purpose? Coca Cola’s is ‘to refresh the world’. Ok, cynics at the back, we hear you, ‘a company that makes kids fat?’ It’s a fair point, until someone glanced up at that purpose and had an idea. Coke isn’t just a drinks company; it has the most amazing distribution network in the world. In many places it’s easier to get a Coke than clean water.
Independent charity, Coke Life helped Coca Cola forget about making drinks and focus on refreshing the world – by agreeing to distribute medicines along its network.
So your purpose has to be backed up with actions. Find ways to bring it to life and it won’t just improve your profits; it could give you a legacy to be proud of. Which is surely why you’re here, isn’t it?