The Purpose of Purpose

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By Ricky Harper, C12

What is your purpose? More to the point, what is your business’ purpose?

Almost every business has a Mission and Vision statement. The Mission statement is basically what the business does whereas Vision is an aspirational statement of what the business looks like if it is achieving its Mission.

A third, often overlooked but very important component of these basic business doctrines is Core Values. If your business has never established Core Values, you should consider doing so right away. While you are at it, you might want to re-visit Mission and Vision, as Core Values should be the foundation that Mission and Vision are built on.

Then there is Purpose. Think of Mission and Vision as the “what” and “how” of your business, whereas purpose is your ‘why.’ Your purpose statement explains your company’s reason for existence and, more than ever, purpose is important for businesses.

Why? Studies show that today’s consumers and employees seek out and reward companies that promote a purpose other than profit. This is not a generational trend, but societal.
Many think this trend is driven by millennials. But that is not the case as Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, says, “There is a common misconception that millennials are unique for wanting to do purpose-driven work. In fact, 70 percent of U.S. adults say it is important to them that their actions help make a positive difference in the world.” More people than ever are making buying decisions based on a business’s stated purpose, and that is one big reason why Purpose should be very important to all business owners.

Today, people are looking for purpose in their jobs as well. This is an area where there is a marked difference in the desires of millennials versus other generations. The 2009 Fortune 500 Business Survey found that 62 percent of millennials will not work at a business that does not have a stated purpose other than profit. In fact, a recent employee survey found that millennials rated “purpose” higher than “salary” when choosing their place of employment.

But here is the salient point you cannot miss—you must be authentic to your purpose! The biggest difference in millennials and other generations is that millennials will investigate whether you are actively working on your purpose or not. Recent studies suggest that millennials hold authenticity to a cause in higher esteem than the cause itself. In other words, they look for and respect a business that has a cause that is actively and transparently addressed. Whether your company’s cause is shoes for African children, water for Haiti, supporting a Christian shelter, or any number of other causes, if you and your business are authentic to that cause, Millennials are more likely to shop and work at your business regardless of the cause you promote. That is an important piece of knowledge for business owners. By simply having a stated purpose that you are authentic to, you can attract and keep more customers and create “gravity” for current and prospective employees; and that is a pretty good reason to have purpose. So, what’s your purpose?

Alan Murray, “The 2019 Fortune 500 Survey Results Are In,” Fortune, May 16, 2019.