It’s not “trendy, fluffy, marketing stuff” – a series on the strengths and challenges of “Purpose” in business.
My Journey So Far…
My professional journey with corporate purpose began over 10 years ago, but my personal journey began as a child when my parents encouraged me to “follow my bliss” (Joseph Campbell). Throughout all my experiences with the concept, I have grown to both LOVE and HATE the word “PURPOSE.” I even struggled with putting this post together and decided this should be the start of a series on the importance of Purpose. My hope is that it sparks conversation and, ultimately, action.
“Purpose” for me, is a word that has taken on so much meaning that it taps into feelings. My conversations with people about Purpose inevitably and quickly stir emotions both positive and negative. Emotions lead to vulnerability and that’s when things get real, personal, and hard. To raise the stakes, I talk to people about Purpose in business and how that can change their life, their organization, their relationships, and the world.
I know that’s a big hairy audacious statement but I do believe it’s true.
Sooooo… What in the Heck does the Word Purpose Even Mean?
My goal in business and in life is to communicate in a way that others can understand the meaning intended by my words. So, I’d like to start this series off with what the word “Purpose” means to me.
I also see the challenges that arise when there is the absence of a defined, intentional, and understood “Purpose.”
What it Means and Why I Love “Purpose”
I LOOOVE the intent behind the word Purpose. A Purpose is why you exist. To me, it means that you do something intentionally, with a reason for what you do, and with determination. I believe that people can have Purpose, businesses can have Purpose, objects can have a Purpose, anything can be done with “Purpose” or have “A Purpose.”
To have a Purpose is to understand how and where you want to make connections in your life and in your work, and can provide deep meaning for a life that is satisfying and fulfilling. I believe it and I see it in action every day. I also see the challenges that arise when there is the absence of a defined, intentional, and understood “Purpose.”
Now… Let’s Get to the Hate Part
Just for starters… the different perceptions of what “Purpose” means can cause confusion or even disillusionment. Purpose has almost become a buzzword, with everyone from universities to business coaches to Oprah discussing, defining, and researching it. With so much discussion, it’s easy for the word to lose its importance and meaning.
In addition, the emotions that arise when you discuss Purpose are real, raw, confusing and usually incite conflict in some way. Just a few things I have heard when I start the conversation:
- Isn’t that just marketing stuff?
- Why would my business have a Purpose?
- We’re in business to make money.
- I know it but I don’t know how to describe it.
- Why would anyone care?
- We don’t have money for that kind of thing.
- OMG that would be way too much work and we just don’t have the time.
My all-time favorite though, from a client that I had been doing business with for a few years said ..”Chris, we’re not Whole Foods or Toms Shoes – we’re just here to make money. We’re not crunchy granola like that.”
Let’s get something straight. Any kind of business can – and we hope, DOES – have a Purpose. Love them or hate them, Amazon is a purposeful company and few would define them as “crunchy.” This is about clarifying intent and action – how you do business by defining how you treat people, treat the planet, and make a profit.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about why the “just to make money model” isn’t what we believe in. I will say that if you want a sustainable business model that returns a 14:1 ROI over your competitors then we hope to win you over from the dark side.
The force is strong with us on Purpose. Yeah, we’re Jedi.
Research Backs This Up! I’ll provide helpful references to this in the upcoming series to back up the discussion points about how profitable it is to do business this way.
It’s About YOUR “Purpose”
Setting an intention or a “Purpose” simply means that you are defining YOUR reason to exist. If your reason to exist is to solely make money at all costs then by all means go for it. We just see a more sustainable way for the future.
People, Planet and Profit All Matter
Research has confirmed time and again that more modern generations of consumers are no longer going to do business with people who are only interested in making a profit at all costs. This is where modern companies are looking at the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit and how that model is more sustainable for business, now and for the future.
To get to the real discussion about defining a personal purpose, a company purpose, an organizational purpose, you have to get through all of the messy misconceptions first.
The Struggle is Real
To get to the real discussion about defining a personal purpose, a company purpose, an organizational purpose, you have to get through all of the messy misconceptions first. As much as this is a struggle, I have realized that it’s a necessity.
These hard conversations about what it is, what it isn’t, what it really means, and what to do with it help people get to the place where they can begin to define THEIR Purpose. The outcome won’t be the same for everyone or every business.
I have seen this exploration of defining a “Personal Purpose” and a “Company Purpose” result in really amazing transformations. I have also seen it fail when it is treated like “Marketing Stuff.” These are the conversations that I want to explore with this series and I hope you’ll join me for the real, transparent, difficult, amazing, and transformative journey as I continue to live it out in the wild with you.
Igniting passion with action,