By Kate Anderson, Cohesive
Your business’ purpose isn’t framed by what you do, but why you do what you do. That being said, having a heartfelt and conclusive purpose as a company can elude the best of us. For those who are most curious about restoring your ‘why’, caught in between calls, meetings and chasing sales leads, it can easily slip far down the list.
Even for those who know they need something to bind your company together, it can be difficult to pinpoint how to unite all the dots to form anything coherent. You probably think that your business could be a much better place to be – with more focus, clarity, direction and prosperity. You are not alone.
When you find the elusive ‘why’, things just click into place. Your whole proposition has a much more natural, and sincere ring to it. Your team feels valued and finally has an ethos it can get behind. Your marketing hits the spot and brings the right kinds of leads to you. It connects you with people, helps decision making, gives you a sense of direction (as we know all too well). Ultimately, it helps in ways your bog standard ‘marketing’ simply can’t.
So how do you get there? Admittedly, the journey can be more important than the destination, as the process will unearth insights about your organisation that you maybe didn’t realise. Here’s an easy-to-follow recipe to getting to the heart of your purpose:
Find your values
Values can feel like unwritten rules – you all ‘know’ them and are familiar with them, but may have never actually pinpointed what they are. Or maybe your values are something you follow religiously in your personal life, but have never crossed over into your work life.
Our favourite technique is ‘the rant’. Once in a group, each member takes a sheet of paper and writes down any unethical, unkind, coercive, cynical (…you’re getting the drift) behaviour or practices they’ve experienced or observed. The key here is to go to town: you need to really get mad and let it all out!
Discuss as a group – with of course no judging or dismissal of suggestions. Then comes the magic. Turn your paper over, and for each ‘bad’ example write an equal and opposite ‘good’ one. Be creative. Get stuck in. What you’ll then have created is a long list of potential values.
Listen to your customers
It’s important to focus in on your customers’ voices. Why? Perception is everything. Forecasters and festival-goers describe thunderstorms in very different ways. One will talk about convection and wind speed, precipitation and strike rates. The other about the thrill, the fear, the wonder, the taste and smell of it.
Ask your customers to describe working with you, and you’ll discover a near-identical contrast. They won’t repeat your carefully constructed value proposition, or gift wrap your USPs. Instead, they’ll talk about the experience of partnering with you: How it was for them. The good stuff that happened as a consequence. Why that stuff mattered, and how it makes them feel. Listen carefully, because they’re telling you about your purpose.
Write the purpose statement
Basically a template, but it all starts with why. Could you fill this in right now? Try it, with these guidelines:
- It’s from the heart, not the head. The context is ‘we believe’, not ‘we think’.
- It aims to connect with all of your stakeholders, starting with you, your employees and your hoped for clients.
- It allies you with aims and goals that are bigger than you are.
- Will it give you direction, once you’ve sailed off the edge the map?
Here are a few good statements of purpose to guide you on your way:
- Counter Craft: The return of creativity to IT security through deception.
- Tony’s Chocolonely: Crazy about chocolate. Serious about people.
- Hiut Denim: Do one thing well.
- Tesla: To create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to electric vehicles.
- Cohesive: Telling stories on purpose
Challenge it, change it.
All of the above can seem quite scary and overwhelming. Probing around at your values and what lies underneath can be uncomfortable. You may well receive pushback internally – from hard-nosed sales people. However, by actually drilling down into your company’s true purpose, prosperity will follow. It will be worth it.
So go test it out – talk to the people working around you about what they think their purpose is. Convince yourself you’re not a loner.