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Re-ignite your purpose and start loving business again

Updated: 3 days ago


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Follow some simple steps and you can love business again

At the heart of every business should sit a sense of purpose and, however vaguely defined, a vision for the future.


Founders and owners in newer businesses are typically best at this. They're emotionally invested in making a difference in their market – the sense that they can serve clients in a way nobody has done before. We see that very much in evidence when we speak to owners of early-stage businesses.


However, that initial sense of purpose and vision often dissipates as businesses grow and evolve. At the same time, business performance becomes harder to sustain (and, in fact, often falls away), employees become disengaged, and it becomes more difficult to attract and retain the right clients. This is also, unfortunately, evident in many businesses that are referred to us.


When you’re a business owner and this happens, you lose the love for what was once your passion. You second-guess every decision you make and wonder how you found yourself where you now are. It’s as if the business you have now bears no resemblance to the one you started and the one you hoped to build.


One response is to sell the business and walk away.


The other rests in the answer to this question:


How can we reignite that “fire in the belly” that comes from a clear purpose to ensure that business growth is sustainable over the long term?

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If you feel like this, don't worry...there's a solution

In the beginning…


Every business starts (or should start) with a purpose beyond the relentless pursuit of profits.


As we pointed out above, founders are usually driven by the belief they can create something unique and potentially transformative. They're focused on addressing a problem, satisfying a client need and creating a legacy are their underlying drivers.


This creates an emotional investment in the business, energising owners and inspiring them to pursue their objectives.

Start-up and early-stage businesses involve constant problem-solving, innovation and a focus on customer-centric strategies. Both owners and employees are highly engaged, and business purpose is their North Star, guiding decision-making and activity. It’s this close connection to purpose that is so often the key to early success.


Then, something happens


As a business gains momentum and expands, there’s a risk that the single-minded pursuit of profit takes over as the main objective.


When this happens, the very purpose that fuelled initial growth and success becomes overshadowed. Priorities shift, often creating a void that impacts both internal culture and client engagement. The feeling of “we can achieve anything” and the energy in the business that once set it apart all but disappear.


What do we hear from both owners and employees in businesses where this happens? We hear them say:


“this place is different now. It used to be exciting, but now it feels like it’s just a job.”

If that doesn’t sound like disengagement, we’re not sure what does.


Also, if it sounds like your business, try our Pulse Check [LINK} to get a quick strength of purpose measure.


The impact of missing or diminished purpose


If you’ve been part of a business that loses focus on its purpose, you’ll agree that things change. Lots of things.


Here’s a few…

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Disengaged employees? They're easy to spot

1. Employee engagement


When employees believe purpose has taken a back seat to other things (particularly single-mindedness around revenue and profit), their commitment and engagement will fall away.




Remember, it’s not your desire as an owner to make a lot of money that will attract quality employees to your business. It’s clarity around why the business exists for the benefit of all stakeholders that leads to employee connection and engagement. It’s not the only thing, of course, but arguably the most important.


It seems trite to say that employees want more than just a job, but it’s as true as saying night follows day.

2. Client satisfaction and engagement


Think about how you feel about businesses you prefer to deal with. You’re naturally drawn to those that you feel genuinely care about your needs and offer value beyond the “transaction”.


A truly purpose-driven business positively oozes client care. When purpose is missing, clients see it and, more importantly, feel it.


If it happens in your business, it’s no different – when clients sense you don’t care about them beyond their ability to contribute to your bottom line, they’ll look for alternatives.


3. Innovation


A business that maintains a strong connection and commitment to its purpose is ahead of the game when it comes to innovation. Decisions about how to meet changing market conditions and expectations and make the most of new opportunities become even more challenging than they naturally are when purpose is missing. And with a reduced capacity to be agile around this kind of decision-making, the risk is you’ll not achieve your growth aspirations.

photo of a pencil with a drawing of a light bulb
A strong connection to purpose fosters innovation

4. The bottom line impact


Purpose-driven businesses are now proven to achieve stronger financial outcomes than others. But that doesn’t happen just because you say you’re purpose-driven. It happens because of the three points above. With employees engaged and servicing the right clients, and a culture of innovation all underpinned by purpose, you’ll create a pattern of sustainable growth. Without purpose, you may as well rely on luck.


The power of purpose is clear.


If you allow yourself to reflect on the early stages of your business, you’ll no doubt bring to mind feelings of excitement, enthusiasm, positivity and a clear sense that what you were doing meant something.


Do you honestly feel the same now as you did in the early stages of your business? If not, wouldn’t it be great to get those feelings back?

Here’s some ideas…


Re-igniting your business purpose


We’ve written about some of these strategies in past Insights, and we encourage you to explore our posts for more detail about how to bring purpose to life in your business. In the meantime, here’s a few suggestions.


1. Go back to start-up phase


Not literally, of course, but figuratively. Think deeply about how that was. Sure, there was stress and worry, but positivity and a clear understanding of your “why” were present in at least equal measure. Revisit what motivated you to step into the world of owning a business…the client challenges you knew you could address differently and for better outcomes. Consider how you might restore your own belief in your purpose before you do anything else.


2. Reflect also on core values


Related to, and sitting behind purpose, are the values that drive the business. They power purpose-driven decision-making and influence culture. Think about how your current strategies and actions still align with those values and what you can do about it if that alignment is missing.


3. Reconnect with clients


How often do we hear business owners and leaders say what they “think” their clients value in their relationship with the business? Often. And it’s not good enough. You can’t possibly know how your clients really feel about their ongoing dealings with your business and employees without asking them.


drawing of several people studying a client with magnifying glasses and notepads
Make the effort to really get to know your clients. It'll really pay off if you do

So, engaging with your clients to really understand their needs and expectations and how they might change over time is critical. This Insight goes into more detail on why it's important to get close to your clients and how you might do this.


4. Employee engagement


The same goes for employees.


You may think you know how they’re feeling and why they choose to stay with you, but you won’t really know unless you ask them. While nearly every owner and leader we speak to tells us it’s not all about the money, they're a bit lost when we ask them what it is all about. Not only do you need to foster open communication, but regular employee surveys and pulse checks will help you keep on top of how you can improve and maintain employee engagement. This Insight will help.


5. Embed purpose throughout the business


Purpose isn’t simply a slogan you put up on the walls in the hope that it inspires all who see it. Nor is it something that should be confined to the leaders in the business. It should be embedded right through the organisation. Communication is key, but more important are actions – you and your leaders must be champions of business purpose and lead by example. Employees look to you for leadership; what they see you doing and how they see you behaving is what they’ll reflect in their actions and behaviours. This is more powerful than you probably realise – we’ve seen many examples of this, both good and bad.


If you think this all sounds pretty challenging to do in practice, you’d be right.

It is.


You need to be truly objective in assessing the strength of your purpose and its alignment with your growth strategies. It’s where independent help can save you a lot of angst, time and energy.


“But of course you’d say that”, we hear you saying.


And, of course we would, because it’s proven to be true.


It can be done


It’s easy to lose sight of your original purpose as you navigate all the complexities of business growth. The good news is plenty of businesses experience exactly that. The even better news is you can restore the focus on purpose in your business.


Doing so will require some introspection, perhaps some strategy adjustments and plenty of work involving employees and clients.


It also needs you to reflect on what drove you in the early days. How you felt as you embarked on creating and building your business. And what you might do to recapture some of that magic.


The payoff for that effort is clear – higher engagement among employees and clients, improved financial outcomes and a decision-making framework that helps you build sustainable long-term growth.



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 Pulse Check".


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


 

Do you remember the excitement of the early days in business?


Is purpose still your "business North Star"?


Does it drive everything you and your employees do and every decision you make?


If it doesn't, what does?


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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