Define your purpose – in business terms. It’s harder than you think. Once upon a time, it might have related to generating profits and the survival of the organisation whilst protecting the investments and returns of shareholders. Things have changed.
As consumers and workers, we now have more choice than ever before. This choice is fuelled by our own belief and value systems and we now have more and more opportunities to choose products and services that are made or delivered by companies that mirror those beliefs and values.
Central to these beliefs and values is a sense of trust. The public lost a lot of trust with the financial services industry over 10 years ago after the banking crisis. More recently we have seen the world of politics become hugely divisive and the public have become more aware of how tech giants are using and misusing their data.
So, how can we align beliefs and values into our organisations so that our customers and potential customers can see us as brands that they want to engage with? There is no easy answer as the key to developing a purpose with meaning is personal and you must begin to strip back the layers in your organisation and to look at the heart of what you do and the reasons why:
- Why does our company exist and what do we do?
- Who are our stakeholders?
- Our customers
- Our potential customers
- Our employees
- The families of our employees
- Our suppliers
- Our future workforce
- Our regulators
- How are we different from our competitors?
- How will we measure progress so that results are meaningful?
- How do we want to make decisions and steer the company forward?
- What are we against and which values and direction will we never adopt?
- How are we going to make sure our customers understand and advocate our purpose?
If your purpose as an organisation was to purely focus on making as much profit as possible and as quickly as possible then you won’t spend much time thinking about this. Employees might be underpaid, poorly trained and overworked and your products may be low quality and mis-sold to achieve high sales volumes. However, it’s not a very sustainable model for long term growth and sustainable development. You are likely to have low employee motivation, high levels of complaints and could leave yourself open to breaking the law.
To grow a business sustainably and for long term growth then it’s important that you develop a purpose that thinks about the future. RWA has been established for over 25 years, and we want to be around for another 25 years. I say to our employees that we should aim to create a company that our own children want to come and work for and that means thinking about developing a culture where our existing clients will want to continue trading with us long into the future and where the upcoming workforce sees value in what we do.
Thinking decades ahead allows us to consider a broad spectrum of questions that we don’t always know the answers to:
- Will we still be driving petrol and diesel vehicles after 2030 – how will we travel to see our customers and what will be the impact on our people who may need to invest in more modern forms of transport?
- What will our impact be on the environment and the local communities within which we work – can we utilise local suppliers more to support local business and reduce our carbon footprint?
- How will automation and artificial intelligence affect the job market and the industries within which we work? If more and more jobs are becoming automated, then how will this affect an already widening skills gap and how can businesses do more to embed a learning and development culture from within?
- How will we continue to build trust and authenticity with all of our stakeholders and continue to build our reputation as a business that makes a difference?
- How can we develop a more comfortable, inclusive and safe environment for our people to work from?
- How can we continue to meet the changing needs of our clients and continue to deliver high levels of service at competitive costs?
- What products and services will the customers of the future want to see?
Whilst your future is defined by your purpose, you also need to invest in keeping that future forward thinking. Investments in innovation, research & development, people and skills are key. Your purpose drives this. As your own transformation continues to take place, it’s important that this purpose is collective and that it is shared. Before any new project or change takes place, make sure that the team all understand the purpose and the why. Think both short term and long term.
It’s not an easy thing to do.
Your purpose won’t just be a mission statement written on your website. For it to truly have impact then it needs to be ingrained throughout your organisation. Driven top down from a leadership level, you need to bring your purpose to life and consider it in decision making so that your people and your customers all see the benefits and understand the why. This purposeful thinking and evolution of your culture will then have a positive effect on your products and services, your operations, your marketing and sales and the way in which you interact with and attract new customers.
If you are truly building a long-term future for your organisation, then now is the time to start to think about the type of business that you want to become and how you are going to invest to make sure that future happens.