The alignment of purpose affects the way in which we do everything, it's the very fuel that runs through the flywheel of our business and without this, the business just 'chugs' along.
I remember so vividly how much I wanted the next era of growth to get going. Everything seemed in place. After the initial launch and rapid growth period, it gained the coverage we needed. We had taken onboard learnings where necessary and everything felt in order. Every part of the brand seemed ready to go; the right communication messages to the customer, the right channels, supported by the right people and processes. The company should have leapt forward and taken off into its next phase.
It didn’t, it was just chugging.
Every part of the brand seemed ready to go; the right communication messages to the customer, the right channels, supported by the right people and processes.
When gaining ground is a matter of survival, it’s natural that there are constant conversations about sales and the importance of cash. It’s the oxygen of the business, especially in the early days. Investors, external parties, even our allies join in on this default conversation. So how can we be surprised when we get caught up (and maybe trapped) in this singular dimensional world of short-term goals? This viewpoint creates an unhealthy tunnel vision of how to change the outcome, ending up with you doing more of what you are currently doing.
Or, even worse, spending more to continue to do more of what you are currently doing.
The thing you need to do is actually pretty impossible through the peephole you’ve created, and that’s to look clearly from above, to observe the total business objectively. Once I could do this, it was so much easier for me to see where one of our biggest pitfalls was. And ironically, it was something that mattered the most to me; our company’s purpose and the difference we could make to people.
In a growing business, you, as the leader, are so deeply focused on what needs to be done, it’s much easier to assume that it’s going to be ok and that everybody is united with you. My team was my security blanket and something I never wanted to question. Yet it wasn’t a question of ability or loyalty, it was the fundamental question of whether we were all on the same page when it came to purpose.
“Success” (whatever this might look like to you) should be driven by this meaningful vision. Before you switch off and say “that’s obvious,” what I mean by this is a purpose that is driven, it’s not just there. The alignment of purpose affects the way in which we do everything, it’s the very fuel that runs through the flywheel of our business and without this the business just “chugs.” In order to ensure that doesn’t happen, your purpose needs to be measured and its performance reviewed and celebrated above anything else every week and every moment.
So, does everybody know what the purpose is?
In my case, the simple answer was no. There were very different interpretations of our purpose and how we translated it as individuals into our business, ranging from “gain market leadership” and annual planning goals to service levels and many seeing it as the mission statement. It wasn’t that the purpose hadn’t been shared or communicated; the company had grown, new people had joined, new opinions and old opinions had come and gone and everyone’s passion for having, understanding and driving a purpose had been diluted.
The stories and adventures we had at the beginning were no longer enough to keep people connected to the purpose today - and in the future. By making myself think about it again as if it was day 1, along with all the knowledge we now had on our side, the journey began.
What did we do?
Reignited the company purpose back to where it belonged; our value to the customer and the difference our 1,300 people could all make to better their lives. Purpose sits beyond the why of individuals, it’s the collective purpose of changing the value to a whole society.
A 3-month programme of retraining directly on the purpose of the business, including;
- Showing more about the hearts of the founders and why they had started the company
- Focusing everyone on the delivery of customer value, whatever role you were in – there is no hierarchy to purpose delivery and the power of how this could change the viewpoint of a whole community
- Demonstrating the importance of a united purpose and what we would gain from having it, step by step, customer by customer
United our believers (all 1,300 of them) by allowing each person to see the value of their contribution to the purpose.
Celebrated only the delivery of the purpose, with 2 key indicators based on customer feedback after a visit; customer value in the form of likelihood to return weighted by customer volume. Sales were tracked, however these were never celebrated at a group level.
Purpose sits beyond the why of individuals, it's the collective purpose of changing the value to a whole society.
From my story, and from those of other entrepreneurs, we’ve learned how easy it is to assume that everybody is on the same journey as ourselves; the purpose we have for the customer and the community we set out to change is clearly understood by all.
To re-establish a unified purpose is a challenge. You need to undo old interpretations (that often feel similar!) and ensure people see the importance of it.
Set the brief
Choose a flower delivery company (or any product with a diverse product/service supply) and your measurement of their purpose - for example, ‘likely to use again.’ Ask every team member to order flowers to be delivered to their home or office, including; the specific time, the date, the message you would like, and the exact type of bouquet.
Compare the products
Arrange for the flowers to be brought in on day 1 of the training and review them against the flower company’s vision statement by comparing the flowers against the purpose of the business. For example, how did they deliver, were they on time, number of flowers, what happiness did they bring, branded?
See the difference
All of the flowers will be beautiful, however it will demonstrate that the “individual touch” that you personally can bring to a product to make it WOW, stood too open to interpretation. They bring happiness, yet it’s a minority (10%) that ensured they would be a customer’s first choice again - and you’ll find that was different depending on the location of the house.
By placing your feet in the shoes of another company’s customer, it’s easier to discuss the 10% difference that can be created by different interpretations of a purpose; it’s that 10% that can create inconsistencies in a brand and weaken it over time. A united picture means it being united for both the customer and for future changes and growth strategies.
When the purpose became clear, what did it feel like?
Seamless. A new era had kicked in! We had created a culture of celebration where we all owned a job role that contributed to the feedback we were getting from our customers; the 2 measures we all knew, understood and could directly influence.
It was fun again and everybody owned the “record weeks,” because they had not been created by the marketing campaign alone, they came from the value 1,300 had given to every single one of the customers. We were all aimed at changing a society for the better and everybody knew what we had to do to demonstrate this. Which is exactly how it should be when the efforts of everyone created a market leadership position for the very first time. We were a people business after all and with a clear purpose it gave every individual a chance to be the best they could be for the customer and not just do what they thought was needed.
Research shows that purpose driven companies increase their growth performance by 20-40% because of the success of innovation, changing strategies, keeping a clear direction and believing that everything they did was making a difference to society.
Over time, in the rush of everything else, we begin to talk about other things and assume that our passion for what we do, especially the spirit and energy of the leader, is enough to ensure people get the picture exactly the same as you do. Set a measure of your purpose; this measure is your greatest taskmaster and your greatest unifying power that everybody can belong to equally. Even to this day, if things feel like hard work or that they’re “chugging” I 100% believe that somewhere down the line there is misalignment in some way. Perhaps the decisions we are making are for someone or something else other than the customer. It is this that will launch that flywheel forward, faster than you’ve ever seen it move before.
The power of purpose
Our founder, Julie, sat down with Henk Jansen, one of our Wyse thinkers, to talk about her own personal growth story and the power of purpose within every business looking to grow. Throughout the video you’ll be encouraged to take a moment to apply this thinking to your company and your product or service.
Our Wyseway questionnaire is a great starting point; it identifies your growth stage and the level of alignment within your company, letting you see the areas that need your focus to enable growth to happen. Or alternatively, get in touch with us for initial guidance, completely free of charge with no obligation for full support. We’d love to hear from you.