How having a clear purpose can help your startup thrive
Gone are the days where profit reigned supreme in a business’ strategy. Now, investors, customers and talented employees are all looking for businesses with a purpose they can buy into.
This doesn’t necessarily have to mean a charity or non-profit, but rather a company that knows why they do what they do - and who they’re doing it for. Most of today’s most successful businesses have a clearly defined purpose that adds genuine value to customers and shakes up their industry in some way. So why is having a purpose so important and how can you identify yours?
You need all the strength you can get
Every person has dark days. Every company has dark days. On those days when you're pushed to your limit, you’ll ask yourself the question, is this really worth doing anymore?
When I was small I had a big fear of spiders. Even being in the same room of one would put me into shock. This was an inherited fear I’d got from my mum who was just as scared as I was. But even though she was petrified, her desire to make me feel safe gave her the strength to remove the spider and, in my eyes, save the day.
Entrepreneurs who don’t have a purpose won't find the strength you need to get through those pivotal breaking point moments. One’s that do will persevere even when all you want to do is quit. Having a purpose gives you the superpower strength and tenacity to face the dark days that every entrepreneur faces. Without a purpose, you won’t find that strength.
Great people will flock to you
Everything about a company comes down to the team. The measurement for Blueheart’s success right now isn’t what is happening with the product so much as it is, can we bring on brilliant minds into the team. The product, brand positioning and other fundamentals can all change overnight.
The right people will be able to make those critical decisions, that’s what makes them smart. Smart people want difficult problems that fulfil them intellectually and spiritually. A clear purpose gives them that spiritual fulfilment that so many jobs can’t. It’s been the most important competitive advantage Blueheart has in attracting talent over those we compete within the jobs marketplace.
Customers are loyal to businesses they can connect with on a deep moral level
Think about Uber. What do we feel about Uber when we think of the brand? Transportation, yes. But also poorly paid workers with questionable rights and a tyrannical & rude (former) CEO. How loyal are we to Uber? Not very. As alternatives come into the market, we don’t have any attachment to the company whatsoever. I personally have 6 similar apps on my phone and I’m happy to use any of them. Conversely, think about Patagonia. They’ve consistently done extraordinary things that seem counter-intuitive for profit, because it conflicted with their purpose. They’re almost an Environmental Activism brand.
People don’t buy and continue to buy their products because they’re the most fashionable (sorry Patagonia) or the cheapest. They buy their products because they’re voting with their money to support companies that share their values. Integrity is a competitive advantage and communicating your purpose clearly lets people know what values you stand for. If you stand for nothing, don’t be surprised when something else comes along and wipes you out.
How you can find yours
The irony of finding a purpose is that it can be extremely hard. We're battling with decades of social messaging about who we are, what we should be doing and the type of life we ought to lead.
If childhood is the process of being told who you should be, adulthood is the process of disconnecting your mind from these messages and starting from scratch, on your terms. This can make finding a purpose if you're starting from scratch really quite difficult. But there's a simple exercise in particular that I recommend to people to help them see a path to find their purpose.
Try to come up with five people who, if you lived their life, you would have lived the most remarkable life in your own eyes. These can be people you know, people you don't know - there's no limitation. Think about what it is in their lives that is so amazing? Is it their happiness? Their family life? Their impact on the world? As you put your list together, you may see commonalities between these lives - and that's a good starting point to tune your compass.