This week I have been working on a couple of proposal for a client, one was around customer service training for a specific division of their business, the other to support the development of the “Rising Stars”, leaders who show promise for the future. The interesting thing was although the scopes are completely different, the company’s purpose and values were the absolute fundamentals to unlocking both. Whether you are at the sharp end of the business serving customers, or a rising star, the CEO, the FD or anyone else. representing why the company exists and what it stands for is essential. Your teams and customers are increasingly looking for authenticity. For me this starts with asking the question why are we here? What difference are we making to society, and why should they care? Simon Sinek explains it so well in his now famous Ted Talk, Start With Why:
One of my clients, Carole Osborne of OsborneNash, captured this well in a blog following a “Purpose Session” I facilitated for her team. You can read this here. I have hosted these sessions for marketers, tech businesses, call centre owners, charities, trade associations, civil engineers, leisure companies, sustainable heating engineers and big data consultants. I always have that moment of anticipation when we have put in a few hours work and I ‘m waiting for the purpose to jump out of the page, and they always deliver. Without exception, every business I’ve worked with have had a eureka moment, where they have all looked at each other and said that’s it, that’s our purpose, that’s why we are here. They have all made that first important step from being a business to a business with purpose, something their team and customer and other stakeholders care about.
The businesses I’ve been directly involved in have purpose at their core, Blue Sky Leisure, the company I was CEO of for 9 years, purpose was all about being passionate about their people, service, and environment, Yellow Brick Road’s is the Create Future History for ourselves and our clients, and the latest venture I am a co-founder of, Bite the Cherry Venture Coaching, is all about encouraging businesses to make a lasting difference not just a profit and in doing so, making a serious dent in the number of small businesses that fail to scale. All using the latest lean start-up methodology.
Harvard Business Review featured an article about how KPMG has put purpose at its heart, which had a very large, measurable, direct impact on employee engagement, with some measures more than doubling. Here’s how they articulate it:
Not the video you’d expect from a firm of accountants right?
Globally organisations like Unilever, are making a real stand, with CEO Paul Pulman stating on his LinkedIn profile “As CEO of Unilever, my personal mission is to galvanize our company to be an effective force for good.” Similarly, Whole Foods Market, although lesser known in the UK, they say “At Whole Foods Market®, “healthy” means a whole lot more. It goes beyond good for you, to also encompass the greater good. Whether you’re hungry for better, or simply food-curious, we offer a place for you to shop where value is inseparable from values.” The founder of Whole Foods, John Mackey, went on to found a movement, Conscious Capitalism, which is all about organisations putting purpose at their core. Raj Sisodia his co-founder at Conscious Capitalism, proved in his book Firms of Endearment, also dispelled the myth that firms that do good don’t make money, in fact, they actually consistently outperform the market by quite a staggering amount, they outperformed US fortune 500 companies over a 15 year period by 14 times. Yes, that’s 14 times! Patagonia is another great example, who put workers’ welfare and the environment front and centre of its business. In an industry marred by accusations around poor factory condition in third world countries, they are making a stand. Their clothes are also pretty cool too.
Bringing it back to a more local level, to where we are based in the East of England, I’d like to give special mention to two companies, who exemplify purpose:
- Adnams, who as well as making great beers and spirits have set on a purpose of” To provide enriching experiences for all who come into contact with Adnams”. Now a national brand, with global reach, Adnams is steeped in its local community and sustainable practices. Their distribution centre is extremely green, requiring no heating or cooling, and the brewery itself has been rebuilt to make it as energy and resource efficient as possible. For instance, it uses around 3 pints of water to make a pint of beer, others use about 6.
- Liftshare, the online platform that encourages businesses and consumers to, well, lift share, obviously. In his recent email, celebrating 18 years of liftshare (a very long time in the tech industry), I asked founder Ali Clabburn what purpose meant to him and he said ‘We are people powered, tech-enabled and socially driven. Our purpose is core to everything we do – how we recruit, how we sell, how we decide strategy and, if we feel we are not moving fast enough, how we know when to pivot.’ Liftshare’s purpose is “To ensure everyone has someone to share a car with”.
I hope this article has inspired you to think about how your organisation can make a difference and be more purposeful, and if you need any help in doing so, please do get in touch.
Founder, Yellow Brick Road, Creating Future History
Co-Founder, Bite the Cherry, Making a lasting difference, not just a profit