Get an Advantage, Get a Purpose

John Miller draws on his personal experience as a runner to explain why having a defined purpose is so important to succeeding in business...

I’m a runner, a late starter. Ten years ago, I laced up a pair of trainers and went for my first run. All very spur of the moment. No plan and no idea, other than that you put one foot in front of the other.

I gradually improved, going from dread to enjoyment and coming to terms with why I put myself through it all. As a 40 something it was apparent that if I didn’t look after my health the years would catch up on me – so I needed a lifestyle change.

I’ve always been fairly competitive and running plays into that with a significantly positive impact on my health. I’m a very average runner, but what I lack in ability, I make up for with bags of enthusiasm and determination. I’m a local running club member through which I’ve met some truly inspirational people who’ve taught me many life lessons and some are now good friends. I’ve raced varying distances, including umpteen half marathons and a few 26.2 milers. I’m hooked; I run 5 days a week.

Getting out the door when it’s cold or wet, especially in the dark winter mornings or evenings, is hard but I do it and I’ve never regretted a run yet – after it’s done that is! It’s my hobby and my passion.

What’s this got to do with business?

I found the reason I run – it’s my purpose. I know why I do it and what I expect in return for the effort. If you’re a business owner, go back to when you started. It was hard, you had to work like crazy and sustain the effort over a long time period. Poor pay, terrible hours, and tons of stress. Any normal rational person would quit. When things get tough, sane people quit. But purpose-driven entrepreneurs are different and the businesses they build are different. They love what they’re doing, it’s their passion so they have to make it work. Their passion stops them quitting. It makes them persevere.

Being passionate about your business is clearly a good thing but knowing and being able to effectively communicate its purpose is better. Purpose, also referred to as ‘the why’, is what a business stands for. A purpose is something that resonates with employees intellectually and emotionally. It’s powerful. Studies have proved that businesses with a defined purpose outperform their peers.

How do you define your purpose? Start by asking your people these questions:

  • Why do we exist as a business?
  • In 100 years, what do we want to be remembered for?
  • How are we different from our competitors?
  • What is the one thing we do as a business that everyone admires?
  • What inspires you about working here?        

Form a small team and use the responses to generate a couple of alternative statements. Put these back to your people and ask which they prefer. Buy-in from your people is key. Involve them in the process and you’ll reap the benefit.

Embed the purpose at all levels of the business. A purpose driven business is like a stick of rock: cut it at any point and you’ll see the purpose written there. Over time, purpose will be communicated from the bottom up, not simply top down. Your people will have their own stories of what that means to them.  

RWA helps insurance brokers run successful businesses in an increasingly complex regulatory environment. The FCA, now more than ever, look for insurance brokers to exhibit the behaviours that produce good customer outcomes. Unsurprisingly, one such behaviour is having a clear purpose.

About the author

John has more than 30 years' experience in the world of general insurance, working for some of the largest UK brands including General Accident, CGU, Norwich Union and Aviva. He has a held a variety of senior roles in both trading and head office functions spanning underwriting, sales management, business development, propositions, marketing, electronic trading and acquisitions.  

At RWA John has responsibility for developing the business in London in addition to managing the relationship with several key clients. 

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