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Once considered a noble sacrifice disconnected from profit, organizational purpose is quickly becoming the driving force in sustained profitable growth for businesses across sectors. Today, a true purpose-driven strategy is more than a short-lived sentiment or public relations campaign.
It is a comprehensive restructuring of your organization around one, unifying idea that will impact a segment of the world.
As the younger generations are taking their place as customers and employees, there is a growing expectation that brands stand for something higher than themselves or profits. Your task is to find a way to be competitively agile in this new market, while still generating strong profits. A purpose-driven strategy does just that by:
Every organization will require a slightly different approach to discover its unique organizational purpose. To get you started, consider these guidelines.
PURPOSE, PURPOSE EVERYWHERE!
Purpose is becoming ubiquitous in business, as evidenced by its rapid emergence in various affiliated sectors:
Purpose Summits: Several times a year, hundreds of community and business thought leaders gather at the Purpose Summit to share ideas on how to positively impact the world while running a profitable business.
Purpose Consulting:Business consulting firms like Indiana-based Plenty offer workshops and training to help companies find their purpose and fine-tune their conscious leadership skills.
Purpose Applications: High school seniors choosing a career path can use free online toolkits, like the one sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation, to prepare purpose-inspired college essays.
Purpose Connections: Initiatives like AARP’s Encore and Amava’s online networking community are connecting Baby Boomers with their purpose-focused second careers.
FIND YOUR “WHY”
Consider your business plan, company culture, and customer base to evaluate why your organization exists and for whom. Recall the reason you opened your doors and what you set out to accomplish.
What do you stand for? How can you make a difference? Involve a large network of stakeholders to identify their shared values and ideas, as well.
APPLY A WIDE LENS
Pull back from the traditional customer focus for a wider view that allows you to explore ways your business could solve a larger problem or answer a social need—while still providing expected value. Listen to what’s trending, not just in your industry or market, but globally in business and culture. Pay particular attention to shifting core values in society and the resulting disruptors to your operations.
USE CLEAR LANGUAGE
Stating your purpose in concise, unambiguous words is critical to strategy success. Describe who your customers are and how they will be impacted by your product or service. Use language that is specific enough to actively influence behaviors and organizational decision-making. For example, “We make the world a better place” is not a strong purpose statement; however, “We make home-ownership a reality for underserved populations” is an effective and thoughtful one.
REFOCUS YOUR RESOURCES
Your new strategy will require substantial investment of time, money, and resources. Identify the additional core competencies, technologies, and infrastructures that will need to be developed to support your purpose. Consider how you will inspire active commitment from all facets of leadership and what it will take to thread your purpose throughout operations.
LET YOUR PURPOSE BE YOUR GUIDE
An effective purpose-driven strategy will guide every strategic decision you make. Instead of quotas, for example, your sales team may be guided by customer-impact measures. Your purpose-driven strategy should shape and direct profits, processes, corporate culture, value proposition, labor decisions, stakeholder engagement, and product development.
CASE STUDY – BLACKROCK: THE EMERGING CONSCIENCE OF WALL STREET
A powerhouse investment management firm like New York-based BlackRock knows something about profits. After all, it manages more than $7 trillion in assets for companies in 100 countries. But for this global powerhouse, it is purpose, not profit, that is of top concern.
BlackRock’s growth is well-respected, so when Chairman and CEO Larry Fink began a letter campaign to the CEOs and business leaders of the companies included in its portfolios, Wall Street sat up and listened.
Underscoring the firm’s long-time commitment to investment stewardship, Fink emphasized an “inextricable link between purpose and profits” and called on leaders to embrace social responsibility as an organizational directive. In fact, he used his considerable influence to compel companies to serve a greater purpose or risk losing BlackRock’s support.
In keeping with BlackRock’s own purpose of helping people “experience financial well-being,” the investment firm hoped the upswell of social responsibility among some of the largest publicly traded companies in the world could bolster that mission and generate profits. Fink wrote, “Profits are in no way inconsistent with your purpose,” but that purpose must embody your business strategy and become your “fundamental reason for being.”
For BlackRock, the ripple effect of their promise to enrich the lives of investors has influenced major companies in oil and gas, firearms manufacturing, and pharmaceuticals to change policies for the good of the world. Fink wrote, “[We] are creating better futures for our clients and positioning the firm for the future of asset management.”