Building a company with purpose
Why having a mission matters!
“What’s your purpose? What impact do you want to make?” These are some of the first questions I will ask any founder.
If you’re a cynic, you probably have a skeptical smile on your face right now - and I don’t blame you. For a lot of companies, mission statements are just part of an arbitrary checklist devoid of any real meaning.
There might be something about sustainability in there and perhaps ethics, transparency, good governance… Big empty concepts that feel far removed from the actual business and its people.
On the other hand, there will be the other extreme: the believers, those who really want to make an impact. Without a mission, they would never have started a company.
Whilst you can’t run a company just on a mission – after all, you will have to make money to keep the lights on to even be able to realise your mission – having a true purpose will act as a guiding light to keep everyone motivated and on track to drive business growth.
Before we get into that, it might be worth taking a minute to talk about what we define as a mission and why we know it can be a powerful tool.
A company’s mission is often encapsulated by a mission statement found in the ABOUT US section of a company’s website. It’s usually accompanied by a vision and some values. All this is fine – the problem is that for many companies this is all a mission is – something that goes on a website; something that sounds good and makes us look good.
When we talk about a company’s mission at The EMMS, we’re actually talking about a strategic and operational tool – something that is lived and breathed by your business and everyone that is part of it. Essentially, it’s what drives the business forward; it’s a purpose beyond profit the company seeks to deliver on by pursuing its business activities.
To be a business tool, a mission needs to be real. It needs to be true; something that is truly seen as important and worthwhile by the business. In such cases, a mission underpins everything from product development to sales, marketing and more, benefiting the company in 3 main ways:
1. The Right Path Becomes Obvious
If you use your mission as your north star, it becomes easier to make the right decisions when faced with tough choices. Keeping your company’s needs in mind, ask yourself which decision would best advance your mission, and usually you’ll find the answer is clear.
2. Your Mission Helps You Connect With Your Customers
It’s hard to win over customers in a competitive market and just as hard to keep them. A genuine, purposeful mission can help you stand out against competitors and build loyalty over time.
In fact, a study by Cone and Porter Novelli found that 79% of respondents are more loyal to brands that have a purpose and that 78% would tell others about purpose-driven companies.
3. Your Team Has Built-In Motivation
There are many ways to motivate your employees, but believe it or not, a meaningful mission might actually be more impactful than pay.
For example, a LinkedIn study surveying 20,000 people found that pursuing a purpose which aligned with their own was more important to employees than status or pay. This was true across generations – not just millennials who have been labelled as the purpose generation.
Further, a Harvard Business Review study found that employees that derive meaning from their work are more likely to stay in their job, report higher job satisfaction and are more engaged at work. These are all things that can have a tremendous impact on your bottom line.
Creating Your Mission
If you’re reading this thinking all this sounds great, but you just don’t really have a purpose, don’t give up just yet. Go back to the beginning. Think about why you started the business. What was your motivation or inspiration? What problem are you trying to solve? Why is this important? What value are you delivering to your customers? Why do they choose you versus competitors? If you have a team, involve them in this process.
Answering these questions, you should start seeing the outlines of a purpose that was always there - you just never articulated it. For some companies, this will come easier than for others, but it can be done and often the results can be surprising.
A Case In Point:
For example, we worked with a recruitment software company on their rebrand and we discovered that while they had no explicit mission, when we peeled back the layers, there really was a purpose there, the team was already championing it and it clearly underpinned everything they do: making a high-quality, flexible software with all the necessary functions accessible to start-ups and SMEs to enable them to grow and scale to their full potential.
See, it doesn’t need to be random or arbitrary!
Once we defined their mission, the company began using it to make decisions, from how the product is built to how its marketed. Ultimately, this has helped them steer their company in a direction that customers love and that is truly differentiated from competitors.
The key is to deliver on your promise. Sadly, some companies are rolling out purpose-oriented messaging purely in an attempt to attract millennials - and often one can see right through it.
If you spend some time developing your mission, make sure it is meaningful and true to you, your employees and your customers. If your mission only holds value to you, it will not fulfill its purpose and become a running joke with negative connotations.
In my next post, I’ll be sharing more tips for how to develop a strong mission for your company. If you would like to find out more in the meantime, I’d love to chat! Contact us or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.