THE IMPORTANCE OF CORE PURPOSE IN BUSINESS
Core Purpose, not to be confused with company Vision (which could be considered the “where”), a company’s Core Purpose is more about the “why”. In fact, it could be considered the philosophical component that is often missing in business, let alone our personal lives. Let’s face it, most of us have asked ourselves at some point, usually on a Monday morning, why am I doing this? Or what difference am I making in life? Not having the answers to these questions can leave us feeling empty and un-motivated, and for most of us, having no clear Purpose in life could be downright depressing. So, why would this be any different in our working lives? After all, we all spend far too much of our lives at work. What would it do to staff engagement and business results if the majority of employees understood and believed in a common company Purpose? In numerous articles including a recent one in The Harvard Business Review, having a strong Core Purpose led to improved performance in staff motivation, Innovation, successful deployment of new initiatives and bottom line results.
A common mistake with Core Purpose that businesses make is confusing it with what they make or the service they provide. For example, “Our Core Purpose is to make the best widgets in the world”. This doesn’t really cover “why”. One could ask why do we even make widgets in the first place, or how are our widgets any different from all the other widgets? The problem with this scenario is that there is no ideology involved, and therefore little emotion or passion. The workforce will continue to turn up each day and make this, or provide that, go home, return the next day and do it all over again. Even typing these words sends a shiver down my spine.
In this world of change, it’s sometimes difficult to establish just how much change we should make. After all, we keep hearing “change is good”. This is true, but only to a point. For example, I know of a business that made a total change in its direction of what it provided, seemingly based upon a perceived market opportunity with higher profit margins. The move was almost disastrous, and a U turn with a lot of painful learnings was made just in time. The fact is that they attempted to move too far away from what they were about, and what they’d always been the best in the world at. With frequent changes of board members and CEO’s in todays business world, it’s increasingly important to nail down just what the Core Purpose of the business is.
A better example is a medium size enterprise I know that makes mid to high range food products. Their Core Purpose is very clear, “to provide life with a little enjoyment”. To fully understand the impact and importance of this Purpose, you would need to see and feel it from the shop floor to the board room – it is tangible. They don’t make mass produced cheap products. They don’t use cheap imported ingredients, and they certainly don’t make health foods. Not that there’s anything wrong with health foods and cheap mass produced foods, it’s just not “their thing”. They make products that can be enjoyed every now and then as a treat, something that satisfies a basic need in most human beings. It has helped them to keep focused upon why they exist, and what they do best and thus achieve good profitability, sustainability and growth.
Relating this to my life was interesting for me. My son has recently completed a degree in music, and when I asked what the hardest part was, he answered “being constantly asked what job it’s going to get me as if money is everything in life”. He went on to explain that his Purpose in life wasn’t to be a well-paid accountant, or a captain of industry, rather it was to entertain people. That’s what he’s passionate about, that is what he’s good at, and this is what will make him successful.