The usual refrain to this question is ‘to be my own boss’; ‘to have financial freedom’; ‘to launch my revolutionary idea’ etc.
When advising corporates or entrepreneurs, I walk them through my 10 ‘purpose‘ steps that help in answering the ‘why are we in business’ question. The only benefit of this process is the resulting transparent & engaging work culture that the corporate units or entrepreneurs come out with.
Articulate a clear sense of purpose:
Revisit the’why’—Often times the honest reason for going into a business line is not addressed with clarity–the “why” are we doing this business OR “why” are we going into this business. This question needs to be identified and answered with clarity as it drives everything else. It’s the starting point for your mission statement and your strategic goals.The articulation of purpose brings forth the business mission.
Evaluate the business mission for the impact it would have on society. This would come about from the product or services one intends to market and how it affects the consumer. At this stage we would be describing the brand experience we’d like our stakeholders to feel.
This brand experience & its impact on the community the business interacts with would be the heart and soul of its brand identity & experience. It’s the raison d’être of the brand.
Influence your team to be committed to your purpose:
Articulating the business purpose does two things:
- Provides the framework for the brand experience to be in place.
- More importantly articulating with clarity the business purpose, creates employee engagement on the business mission i.e. employees working together for a common goal.
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 groups it’s necessary to provide employees a clear value system and a common cause. These usually, are the organisational values that lead to behaviour and become the guiding principles of how business is to be done. There are three critical factors in detailing these values:
- ‘The understanding of the business unit in what’s the social benefit of the business’
- ‘The understanding creates certain believes which need to be genuine and strong enough to withstand stress & tension when tested’
- ‘And they need to be translated into practice’
Managing the intangibles that the business purpose would bring up:
Financial profitability is only one dimension of 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: Consistently and regularly on the brand values through brand experience
Develop a clearly articulated governance policy that would reflect the business purpose:
Ethics that ensures 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 customer intelligence management.
Taking preventive care at the start would automatically create a work habit that would ensure very negligible slip-ups in governance.
Creating a brand personality that’s 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 behaviour traits should be identified and documented as ‘must-have” for potential employees. An organisations’ employees project the brand in order to earn trust from the stakeholders.
Trust comes through managing and delivering 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’.
Listen with 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 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.
Manage risks that are identified from the business purpose:
It’s strange that ‘risk management’ is still in the purview of the finance departments. Ideally every quadrant of the brand’s activities should be evaluated and potential risks identified. Then marketing and finance jointly, should approach evaluating both the financial and brand reputation risk.
A part of risk management is to ensure the brand’s reputation stays positive. Business leaders have this responsibility and need to ensure that the brands activities protect its reputation from foreseeable risks. By identifying and managing risk pre-emptively, you can head off financial risks.
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. It can be done in a way which wins trust and leads to genuine social and business benefit.
10. Invest in communications 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!
So have you identified why you are in business? If not try these 10 steps and share your story here.