Why does your company exist? How will it improve the world? And what is your role in making those improvements happen? Each of these questions relate to company purpose.

There’s a good chance that the answers are clues to why you took your job. Or started your company.

Whatever your business, purpose has value at every level including who will want to work for you and who will want to buy from you. Determining and articulating it will inform many important decisions and help in determining priorities. If something furthers the purpose, it’s a priority. If it doesn’t, it moves down the list.

According to Deloitte’s recent Global Purpose Index, Millennials, people born between the 1980s and early 2000s, make up 33 percent of today’s workforce. It is predicted that by 2025, three quarters of workers globally will be Millennials. 

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They are bringing purpose to the forefront. Eighty percent want to work at a company with a well-defined mission. And 70 percent want to work for a company that reflects their personal values. A high priority to this group is to be part of providing goods or services that make a positive difference in the world.

Daniel Pink, who writes about work, management and behavior, suggests that today’s worker is motivated by:

  • autonomy: desire to direct their own lives 
  • mastery: urge to get better or develop a skill 
  • purpose: need to do what they do for reasons bigger than themselves

British motivational speaker, Simon Sinek, has long focused on the importance of “why." His 2014 TED talk “Start With Why, asks people to imagine a world (or company) where they are inspired to go to work. In other words, a company that is clear about its purpose.

Purpose-driven refers both to considering the purpose of the staff and what matters in their lives, and to existing for a purpose that serves the world in some way. This post examines the latter.

What Is Possible?

Possible is a unique healthcare company that explains its purpose as: "believing in proving it's possible to deliver high-quality, low-cost healthcare to the world's poor."

They aren’t a charity nor are they a non-profit. When it comes to profit, Possible has this to say: “Not for profit is a legal structure, not a way of doing things. And we don’t believe we should define ourselves in the negative. We exist to create impact.”

It’s a good example of purpose not meaning ignoring profitability. Actually, having a defined well-communicated. Mobilizing people is more inspirational than managing.

Caption: Purpose and profit are not mutually exclusive. 

How Purpose Applies to a Company Like Yours

TOMS shoes is proof that any business can be purpose-driven. It’s totally focused on purpose. TOMS stands for Tomorrow’s Shoes. The mission is “to use business to improve lives” and the impetus to realize that mission via shoes was when founder, Blake Mycoskie, met two brothers in Argentina who shared a single pair of shoes. For every pair sold, the company donates a pair to someone in need: a buy one give one model.

This business model generated enormous interest and word-of-mouth to the point of making traditional advertising unnecessary. To date TOMS has provided shoes for more than 10 million people. And it became a $300 million company based on its purpose. Mycoskie considers the company’s purpose its greatest competitive advantage not only with customers, but with employees. In his eyes, the product isn’t shoes -- it’s the promise to benefit people in need.

TOMS has shown how motivational purpose can be and has been an inspiration to other companies. LIUID, a new shoe brand headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada takes purpose seriously too. CEO Stanley Hu, a 15-year shoe industry veteran, says he learned how to make business meaningful during his tenure at TOMS shoes.  

How Purpose Informs Strategy 

Google is well-known for its enviable culture and perks. But do you know their purpose? Google’s purpose is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” It directs what the company pursues in terms of product development and how it thinks about strategy. Until 2015, in addition to its search, it also was working in life science, research, technology and investment capital, areas that didn’t really fit its “organize information” purpose.

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In 2015, Google restructured and formed Alphabet, Inc., a collection of the Google companies. Google retained its purpose statement. The other companies created statements more in line with their business. Verily, the life sciences company, changed their purpose definition to “to make the world’s health data useful so that people enjoy healthier lives.” Similar to Google’s, but different. This structural change helped each of the companies to describe its mission more accurately and effectively.

Make Your Purpose Known

Even if you don’t have a purpose statement, you likely have something that motivates you to show up every day beyond profit. That would be your purpose. So, make it known and use it to enhance your strategy and culture.

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