What’s the Purpose?

By David Favor

When people feel like they have no purpose in their life, it’s often because they don’t know what’s important to them, or they don’t know what their values are. Well, what about businesses? I have found the same to be true. Based on my research, I found businesses with a defined purpose (other than making money) were more successful than most.

The businesses I worked with that primarily focused on making money usually had only financial metrics and KPIs to measure performance. That seemed natural to me, so why were businesses focused on a more inclusive purpose more successful?

Over time I discovered some clues. If you are focused on money, you work harder to make more. The world around you is against that focus, so you have to work even harder. Eventually, you are working too hard for too little. Often you get such tunnel vision that you do not see what is happening around you. It is a never ending cycle.

Then I looked at businesses focused on a purpose instead of profits. These businesses did not see their efforts as work. They enjoyed being focused on their purpose. Here is what they did:

  1. They developed a vision – what is the desired future?
  2. Now the mission – what are we going to do?
  3. Strategic plan – how are we going to do this?
  4. Goals and metrics – how well are we doing?

Make no mistake: making money is a requirement if you want to stay in business, but for these companies profits were de-prioritized in the mission and the strategic plan. Their focus was on the vision and the purpose; this gave the business much more wiggle room to adapt to the environment in which they participated. Their measure of success included several metrics outside of financials, much like the balanced scorecard idea developed back in the 70’s.

This idea of a vision and a purpose is often foreign to many of the people I talk with. The idea that we were each born with a mission and it is our purpose to find out what it is, is kind of daunting. This, and many other childhood lessons have fallen by the wayside for me. We are on this earth for an undetermined period. During that time we do things, experience opportunities, have failures, and generally keep busy. Some of that busyness is wasted on dumb ideas, and some are very fruitful. A lot of that wasted time for me was sitting on a couch munching on snacks and wondering what the meaning of life was. I would have better spent that time getting up and discovering what feels right.

Instead of waiting for the answer to appear, experiment. What did I enjoy doing or eating? What caused people to say good things about me. My problem is, I feel safe on the couch. Right now, there is something that I am thinking about doing, but I never do it. I have great reasons why I should not do it, but in the end, I stay on the couch eating snacks. Most of the time, my reason is what I think other people will think. If that is how you feel, that is how you will run your company.

Did you find some neat ideas in this blog? What are the exciting ideas you came up with, and how are you implementing them? Let me know by contacting me at dwfavor@catalystgroupinc.com.

For more information on creating a strategic plan that works, contact cheryl@catalystgroupinc.com.