Take a peek at my bookshelf, audible and kindle accounts and you might see a theme emerging—human behaviour and psychology books are my jam.
And the more I read, the clearer it is to me that this idea of having ‘purpose’ crops up again and again as a central theme in defining success— both personally and professionally.
Your purpose is a reason for being that extends beyond yourself, that you find both interesting and meaningful. Humans have always been social creatures, so it makes sense that we have a biological urge to have an impact in the lives of other people.
Yes, it’s a ‘softer’ subject matter and naturally, some business owners are dismissive of it, but in doing so they are ignoring a growing body of research linking purpose with business success and profitability.
How can purpose impact your bottom line?
The most notable brands all have a reason for being, and it has been documented that organisations who have a purpose and vision beyond money making, tend to outperform those who do not (Harvard Business Review).
“Business is good for companies where corporate social responsibility is present, employee engagement is high, and personal values are connected to work, i.e. expressing one’s whole self through one’s work.” (The Power of Purpose)
While money can be motivating, it does not have the same positive impact on people as enjoyment, purpose and achievement. So, for staff or even business owners, knowing why we are working determines how well we work.
“The sense of being part of something greater than yourself can lead to high levels of engagement [and] high levels of creativity...” (Harvard Business Review)
But, the benefits don’t end there. As consumers, we want to know that the businesses we support aren’t just lining their pockets, but are being socially responsible, and will show loyalty and preference to those who are making a positive impact in people’s lives locally or globally.
How to define your purpose
As Peter Drucker said, “profit is not the purpose of a business, but rather a test of its validity.” So how do we define our purpose?
As a small business, you might not have the budget or resources just yet to give back in the ways you might like, but that doesn’t mean your work doesn’t have impact.
Every business exists to exchange value for money, so what is the value you are providing people with? This is not what you do or how you do it, but why it’s important for others.
For example, our reason for being is “to help build and grow profitable, impactful businesses.”
At the moment, we do this through our paid products and services and through our free blog and resources. What we do and how we do it might look different in 2 years or 5 years time, but our purpose, or why we do it will remain the same.
If you need some more inspiration, the internet is filled with purpose statements—here are some of my favourites.
“We’re in the business to help improve lives. With every product you purchase, TOMS will help a person in need. One for one.” (TOMS Shoes)
“To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” (Starbucks)
“Helping customers to create happy, healthy homes.” (Method Soaps)
Your purpose sits at the core of your brand, because it’s the directional glue that holds your business together.
Embedding your purpose in your business
A purpose statement is useless unless it actually informs your day to day and can be linked back to job roles. It must be a part of the culture of your business. Here’s some ideas about how you can do this—
- Communicate your purpose often, don’t just write it and forget about it.
- Visibly and consistently embody your purpose in your actions and decisions.
- Connect your purpose to every job role within your organisation so you can show staff how their actions contribute to your broader purpose.
- Connect job rewards or performance metrics to your purpose, so that adding value to your customers lives becomes a yardstick for success as much as daily goals or targets.
- Review operations and processes to ensure that they align with your purpose and adjust accordingly.
It’s probably not a high priority for new businesses, but knowing and communicating your purpose from the get-go can give you guidance as you navigate tough decisions early on. If you’d like to read more about purpose, here are some books that cover this topic as a focus or part of the book (either in business or personally).
Simon Sinek — “Start With Why”
Angela Duckworth —”Grit”
Steven Pressfield — “The War of Art”
Todd Henry — “Louder Than Words”
Did you like this article? We’d love you to share it! And, tell me your purpose or books I should read on the subject in the comments below!