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How to be a more purpose-driven business: step two


Stick figure holding orange sign with white writing that says "step 2"
Step two: it's all about vision and strategy

As we consistently say, businesses these days have so many reasons to become purpose-driven.


Not just in perception but in reality.


There’s clear evidence that commitment to a meaningful purpose:

  • Provides a guiding principle (and even validation) for all decision-making;

  • Drives effective and lasting client engagement;

  • Energises and engages employees; and,

  • Sets your business apart from the crowd.

Oh…it also seems purpose-driven businesses outperform their peers financially by a pretty handsome margin.


You can read this recent Insight for a deeper look at how purpose can become your business superpower.


In our last post, we talked about taking the first practical steps toward becoming a purpose-driven business - discovering (or rediscovering) purpose, defining it and creating a purpose statement.


As we also said, embedding purpose in your business isn’t a linear process.


Happily, though, there's a logical point to start. And that’s with your business vision and strategy.


So, here's step two in becoming a more purpose-driven business.


Purpose inspires Vision


If purpose is the underlying reason your business exists, then vision is the statement that focuses on where you see the business at some time in future (we somewhat arbitrarily suggest looking five years out) if it is to at that point, be “true to purpose."


It should be reasonably specific – what is it you want your business to look like at that point? What products/services will you be offering? What will be its place in the market? Who will you be serving? Where will you be operating?


Wooden blocks on an orange background spelling the word "vision"
What's your definition of business success?

A good way of thinking about vision is to ask “what does success look like in five years' time?”






You can probably appreciate that with a clear purpose, it’s easier to articulate the vision for your business.


Without purpose, vision becomes tougher to communicate in a truly meaningful (or useful) way.


Consider this…


What’s the current vision (assuming you have one) for your business? Recite it to yourself, then immediately ask a one-word question.


“Why?”

If you’re unsure of your answer, it’s likely purpose and vision in your business don’t line up.


Here’s a great, real-life example.


One of Australia’s largest banks has, at various times in the recent past, stated its purpose as “backing the bold who move Australia forward”. Which we’d have to say is on its own pretty good - aspirational and realistic.


Its vision? “To be the most respected bank in Australia and New Zealand”.


We mean no disrespect to this particular bank whatsoever when, in thinking about the vision, we ask, “Why”? Of course, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be respected or even “the most respected”.


The question in our mind is, even if they could in future objectively show it is, in fact, the most respected bank in Australia and New Zealand, would that necessarily mean it remains true to its purpose?


In other words, did they back the bold who moved Australia forward?


Maybe, maybe not. And the “maybe not” creates issues for clients, potential clients, employees, and other stakeholders.


Oh…and it must confuse the life out of our Kiwi cousins, given they’re not even mentioned in the bank’s purpose.


Sign saying "good vibes only"
Unless your vision is inspired by your purpose, all you have is "the vibe"






To achieve the benefits of being a purpose-driven business, starting with a clear link between purpose and vision is critical.










Next...Vision informs Strategy


Got your purpose and vision in tune?


Great.


The next step is to focus your attention on strategy.


As you work through your strategy, setting the longer-term priorities for your business, the “why” question is, again, a great one to keep in mind. Each strategic priority you establish for the business should clearly link to its vision and purpose.


Here’s a challenge….


Think about your current strategy (again, the assumption is that you have one).


If you were asked to explain to a client, employee or other stakeholders how each strategic initiative in that plan would contribute to achieving your vision in the context of purpose, how might you do it? More to the point, could you do it?


If you can’t rise to that challenge but are satisfied that your purpose and vision are sound, then your strategy needs work.


Cartoon about business strategy
If this is how people see your strategy, it needs work

Getting the strategy right (that is, linked to vision and purpose) is, without question, a challenging process.

For example, it’s easy to get sidetracked by what you see (or think you see) competitors doing strategically. That drives negative thinking like “We don’t want to get left behind, so we better do what they’re doing”.


While an awareness of the competitive environment is one of the prerequisites to sound strategic planning, it can’t be the driving force. If that’s what it becomes, you’ll find your business working toward someone else’s purpose rather than yours.


As Steve Jobs said:


“You can’t look at the competition and say you’ll do it better. You have to look at the competition and say you’re going to do it differently.”

Competitors make up just one link in the strategy chain. There’s so much more to think about when creating a strategy that will help you realise your vision. If not connected to something fundamental that drives your business – that is, purpose – it’s probable that your strategy will ultimately fail.


For best results...


Having clarified your business purpose, what we’re asking you to do now is to objectively review your vision and strategy in the context of that purpose.


How best to go about this? The answer is that it depends on a whole range of factors, including:

  • The size of your business: in a small business, it’s often possible to involve all your employees in the process giving maximum opportunity for early buy-in. In bigger businesses, that may not be the case which means you may need to draw representatives from across functional areas to participate;

  • How in tune your purpose, vision, and strategy already are will dictate how much “remediation” (for want of a better term) and, therefore, how much time and effort will be needed;

  • Preparedness to drive the process internally: often, it’s better to engage someone independent to facilitate, document and follow up the entire process; and

  • Propensity of leaders and employees in the business to embrace change which will have a direct bearing on the “degree of difficulty” of the process.


In addition, the process should be conducted as transparently as possible.

Communicate frequently across the business, repeat messages where necessary and use all appropriate types and channels of communication at your disposal. At any stage, the last thing you need is your employees not being fully informed.


What’s next?


In this post and the last, we’ve covered the initial “big picture” steps to becoming a purpose-driven business.


Next up, we’ll cover something a bit more micro - making sure your business and action plans are focused on purpose.


We’ll also dig into setting and managing expectations of individual employees in terms of both performance on the job and broader behaviours required to support the business purpose.



chalk drawing of man climbing stairs toward the words "what's next?"


How purpose-driven is your business right now?


If you're keen for immediate feedback on how sustainable your business growth might be over the longer term, please follow the link to our "Strength of Business Purpose Health Check".


It'll take only a few minutes to complete, and you'll get your results instantly.


 

Is purpose your "business North Star"?


Does purpose inspire your vision and inform your strategy?


How clear are you, your clients and your employees on your business purpose?


The advisers at GrowthCatalyst can help you create and embed purpose and put you on the road to long-term, sustainable and profitable business growth.


Contact us to arrange a face-to-face or virtual conversation.


Alternatively, you can book a time for an initial discussion here.


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