Business with purpose: Improving staff engagement, productivity & profitability

In the 75 years since Maslow published his Hierarchy of Needs in 1943, there has been generally acceptance that people have an innate desire for a purposeful life. Despite that, there is still a disconnect between how we want to live our lives with purpose and how our work also contributes to our sense of purpose. That could be changing, with 87% of the millennial generation believing that success should be measured by more than just financial performance and it’s those organisations that understand a values-based approach will pay dividends in the long run who will thrive and flourish.

At the heart of a values-based organisation is having a core purpose for the business – an exciting focused, realistic and inspiring picture of what you are trying to accomplish together.

What an awesome and inspiring core purpose will deliver

Improved staff retention, motivation, innovation and accountability. In every single business survey I see one of the big problems is always finding and retaining good people. And that’s a problem that is not going away any day soon. Having a reason for coming to work each day and being able to see the impact of your work on customers, clients and the community provides an addictive dopamine hit. That dopamine is a huge motivator to how we all engage with the organisation and encourages the development of new ideas.

Improved customer/client engagement. Of the three competitive business strategies (cost leadership, product differentiation leadership, focused markets/services), the only one a small business has a chance of excelling in is through focus on a specific niche. This strategy enables the building of strong relationships between you and your customers/clients. The level of customer engagement increases when they know and understand the core purpose of the company.
Take Apple, for example – their core purpose of thinking differently has led to such innovations that their customers would not buy from anyone else and are prepared to pay a premium for the products they love.

A framework for business decisions. A core purpose has a long life- it should be capable of lasting for 100 years as the company mission, vision and strategic goals change around it. Because it is authentic to the business, it also becomes a touchstone to evaluate what you could be doing as well as what you should not be doing. Having a reference point against which possible options can be evaluated makes the decision process not only much easier, but it also enables decision-making to be pushed out to the wider team.

Creating a Core Purpose for your Business

A core purpose answers one key question – WHY do we do what we do? It does not consider the WHAT or HOW of a business, but it will consider the impact of what it does on the lives of its customers.

It has five main characteristics
1. It’s inspiring to those inside the company
2. It’s something that is enduring, even if what the company does changes.
3. It should help you think expansively about what you could be doing but aren’t
4. It should help you decide what not to do.
5. It’s truly authentic to your company.

We live in a time of more, not less; there are demands coming at us from all directions and it can be very easy to get side-tracked down rabbit holes. The core purpose should help filter out the noise so we can concentrate on the important messages.
A core purpose does not exist in a vacuum – it must be consistent with the culture of the organisation to have any value. It also needs to be widely communicated and understood within the organisation. For that reason, being able to refine it to a memorable and repeatable mantra will mean that it features in daily life and comes to mind easily. A core purpose is successful only when it is used by everyone in the organisation to frame their actions and decisions.
Typically, a core purpose will have two parts – a contribution and an impact. For example, Disney’s core purpose could be:
To provide a magical experience                            Contribution
That will make people happy                                  Impact

Making your Core Purpose Real

Communication. There is no point whatsoever in having a core purpose for your business if each and every person within that organisation does not understand it and live it. So authentic and consistent communication of it is the very first step. How much communication, you might ask. And the answer is until you are sick and tired of it.
One of the big issues for many small business owners is the bottleneck that is created when they choose to make each and every decision within the company – no matter how big or small. The only way to remove that bottleneck is to shift decision-making responsibility over to the wider team, but create some guidelines around how the decisions are made. A core purpose provides those guidelines.

Consistency in Approach. A great business is one where there is a great culture and a common purpose. What distinguishes one business from another is the WHY. It’s not about the plan, it’s about the belief within the organisation about what can be achieved. When everyone in the organisation is making decisions from the same framework, then there will be consistency in the decisions being made. Consistency is the one key element that all customers/clients want from an organisation, ranking well ahead of quality and price. MacDonalds, for example, does not make the best burgers in the world but, no matter where in the world they are, you know they will be consistent in both the quality of the hamburgers and their premises.

Shared Stories and Experiences. To keep the core purpose front of mind, people at every level need to feel and see the outcomes up close and personal. One way to do this is to routinely bring stories to your team meetings. One way this could be done is to bring people whose lives have been positively changed by what you do to meetings to tell their story and what it has meant to them. Often in our Fridays evening drinks sessions we will go around the room and every person has to talk about a situation where they have lived the company values over the last week. These shared stories and experiences not only boost morale and provide positive feedback to the team member, but they are an opportunity for new ideas to come to the forefront.

Eliminating Non-Compliance and Mediocrity. Almost every organisation ends up hiring mediocre people – it’s not done on purpose but sometimes desperation wins out over ideals and you live to regret the hasty recruitment decision. I’ve also come across many situations of top performers (in terms of financial outcomes) who ride roughshod over the business values in their quest to achieve their own personal goals. Neither of these behaviours is acceptable and if the owners want the wider team to buy into a shared core purpose and culture then mediocre and solo stars need to be either brought into the fold or moved on. Failure to do so will undermine the authenticity of your message and make it meaningless to everyone, and also start the race to the lowest acceptable level of behaviour by the rest of the team. In order for trust to develop within a team it is critical that every team member is also held accountable for their own actions. Ultimately, it is the trust that develops within an organisation flowing through into trusted customer / client relationships that delivers outstanding results for the business.

These factors in one way shape or form will have an effect on your bottom line and understanding this will give you more confidence as a business owner. These sort of effects can be present in the numbers and our job is to dissect the numbers and make sure YOU understand your business.

Set up a free-introductory meeting with us to understand how we can help you make sense of the numbers.

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