Following up from CHOICE, here’s my top 10 “P.U.R.P.O.S.E.” steps that help in understanding the ‘why’ in business and having a transparent, engaging and involving work culture. (Purpose is a result, end, mean, aim, or goal of an action intentionally undertaken).
1. Articulate a clear sense of purpose:
Revisit the purpose of the business. The “why” are we doing this business OR “why” are we going into this business? This is the question which needs to be identified and answered with clarity. You see how the ‘choice’ you make starts affecting the outcome?
The articulation of purpose brings forth the business mission. The business mission should then be evaluated for the impact it would have on society. This would come about from the product or services it intends to market and how it affects the consumer. This social aspect of the business’s mission would be the heart and soul of its brand identity (and be reflected through the overall brand experience). It’s the “Raison d’être” of the brand (Raison d’être is a French phrase meaning “reason for existence”).
2. Create a workforce committed to your purpose:
Articulating the business purpose does two things:
(A) In external communications the brand communicates a relevant consumer benefit and thus, earns trust.
(B) More importantly, articulating with clarity the business purpose creates employee engagement on the business mission i.e. employees working together for a common goal.
3. Define how the purpose is delivered i.e. “how we do things around here”:
People, by nature, like to belong to groups. In order to form such a group it’s necessary to provide employees a clear value system and a common cause. These, usually, are called brand values and become the guiding principles of how business is to be done.There are three critical factors in detailing these values:
- ” The believe of the business unit in what’s the social benefit of the business will be”
- “These believes need to be genuine and strong enough to remain in place when tested”
- “And they need to be translated into practice”
4. Manage the intangibles that the business purpose would bring up:
Financial profitability is only one dimension of the value provided by the business unit. Other factors which add to the value of a business include:
- Strategic Clarity: A clear strategic direction based on practicing the values articulated i.e. ‘walking the talk’
- Leadership: A strong leadership at the top in order to champion the brand values and represent the brand identity to the stakeholders (in this case any and every one that interacts with the brand in any function)
- Employee engagement: In order to have the brand represented and projected correctly
- Competitive Advantage: Identify and develop a strong competitive advantage based on the brand value and
- Delivery: Deliver, consistently, on brand value through brand experience
5. Develop a clearly articulated governance policy that would reflect the business purpose:
Ethics, adherence to specific regulations and standards should be clearly articulated and proper process flow and directions provided for employees. Special focus should be kept in the functions of investment management, compliance, competitive differentiation, reputation management and or customer intelligence management. Taking preventative care at the start would automatically create a work habit that would ensure very negligible slip-ups in governance.
6. Create your brand’s personality based on its purpose:
In the end, a brand is represented by its employee. Thus, it’s critical that the personality that’s projected be reflective of the business purpose. To this end, critical personality behaviour traits should be identified (jointly between marketing and human resource functions) and documented as ‘must-have” for potential employees.
It’s an organisation’s employees that project the brand in order to earn trust from the stakeholders (the brand interacts with). Trust comes through managing and delivering, time and again, consistently. Having trust leads to a ‘preferred relationship’ which in turn leads to transactions over and over. In order to generate this trust, the personality projection has to be one that is liked by the stakeholder. It may be the way the employee speaks, looks, mannerisms. Small things, but things that immediately create a “like or dislike” choice in the stakeholders’ mind. “Perception, after all, is belief” as the phrase goes.
7. Listen (with a purpose) and involve people:
In gaining trust one has to learn to listen not just hear! If a brand does not have its finger on the pulse of stakeholders’ opinion (about the brand), it doesn’t have a feel for its brand health. Listening, using the variety of mediums that are available, to hear what the stakeholders are saying and thereby get into a dialogue with them and involving them in the brand’s purpose is very important in order to have continuous growth. The more engaged the people are the more involved they would be.
8. Manage risks that are identified stemming from the business purpose:
It’s strange that “risk management’ is still in the purview of the finance departments. But financial risk (though the most common is, actually, step two in mapping overall brand risks). Ideally every quadrant of the brand’s activities should be evaluated and potential risk identified. Then marketing and finance, jointly, should approach both the financial risk and brand reputation risk that needs to be evaluated.
A part of risk management is to ensure the brand’s reputation. The business leaders have this responsibility and need to ensure that the brand’s activities protect its reputation from foreseeable risks. By identifying and managing risk, pre-emptively, you can head off financial risks (that can come about from additional legislation, taxes or consumer boycotts).
9. Leverage social change that fits your business purpose:
Businesses tend to think good corporate responsibility is about managing the footprint of their brand on society. But real progress is achieved when they use their business purpose to achieve genuine social benefit (ref: http://www.grameenfoundation.org/). It can be done in a way which wins trust and leads to genuine social and business benefit.
10. Invest in communications (to highlight the business purpose) but make it a dialogue:
There are many stories in almost every business. Bring these stories out. Communicate them to your stakeholders. After all the stories involve people and people are interested in people per se. Stories allow for a dialogue to take place by eliciting reactions. This leads to engagement and an engaged stakeholder is better than a nonchalant one!
“CHOICE” & “PURPOSE“ used together would aid in having a clear mission and vision and enable a business to have a transparent and engaging work culture.