Finding purpose in your business

Your business may have values. It may have a vision and a mission statement. But does it have purpose? Perhaps unsurprisingly, these are not necessarily the same thing, and the trend among small and medium-sized businesses across all geographies has shifted significantly in the last decade to allow for a school of thought that, in order for your business to do well, it must also do good.

What’s known as ‘brand purpose’ is something that sits outside the main profit-driven structures of a business’s operations. Put simply, a brand purpose demonstrates to a business’s supply chain, customers and wider society that it also exists to make a non-commercial impact for the benefit of one or more causes. And while companies have been involved in philanthropic or social causes for centuries, brand purpose consolidates the idea further into the DNA of the business.

Indeed, actively embedding your strongly held principles and beliefs into your business activity can transform how you approach social consciousness and make it part of the fabric of your brand. This means brand purpose is now much more than a ‘nice-to-have’ – it can be a driving force behind how and why you operate. So, how can you find purpose in your business?

What do you really care about?

A good place to start is to understand what cause or causes get you out of bed in the morning. Aside from your business commitments, which put food on the table for you and your staff, there will be something that you can align with your activity that shows a level of holistic responsibility beyond your products or services.

Social equality, animal welfare, diversity & inclusion or the environment feature heavily in the brand purpose activity for a diverse range of businesses – but you may decide to agree collectively on what cause best reflects the mindset of you and the team. It’s vital that everyone is on board to ensure that those values are accepted by all employees as an accurate reflection of your purpose.

Understanding the relationship between your business goals and the wider objectives defined by your cause can be beneficial to understanding how to implement your brand purpose. Though they are separate, a strong cause such as veganism, can help you define new commercial goals that might be based around limiting or discontinuing the use of animal-based products in your manufacturing process or influencing the way you deal with suppliers of food to your events or conferences.

Whatever you choose, you have the opportunity to build a culture of purpose that enhances your authenticity rather than distracts from your commercial activity.

Bringing your wider network on board

As the last year has only served to reinforce, supply chains play a critical role in business operations and they can also play a major part in your purpose-led strategy. Your supply chain controls important facets around what and how products are made – affecting your business’s resilience and reputation. In recent years, consumers have started examining supply chains with increasing scrutiny. A strong brand purpose can help ensure your principals are aligned across all areas of the business.

If you’re not already doing so, engaging suppliers and purchasers by discussing the values behind your activity is a starting place for getting them on board. In time, you might build advocacy from them by using incentives such as improved payment terms or joint marketing activity to amplify the core message about your values.

It’s a collective mindset, too. By asking your service provider or vendor to demonstrate certain brand values in terms of their sourcing or manufacturing process, you’re holding them to account – and giving them something to think about in the kind of customer relationships they want to have in future.

How purpose can inform the way you work

Purpose transcends industry sectors. If your business’s daily operations involve time-sensitive or high-intensity production lines, the lofty ideals of working towards a greater good may not be at the forefront of your mind. But after allowing for any impact on your margin or pricing structure, it’s an opportunity to make a real virtue out of the accompanying social, ethical or charitable pay-off that comes with it.

Your marketing strategy, customer engagement strategy and wider reputation can all benefit from aligning to a cause close to you, with longer-term benefits that keep you and your team motivated to do the best. Consumers also increasingly expect the businesses they buy from to uphold some ethical values.

Remember that you can’t be true to all causes; so, pick one that fits with your business philosophy and work on that with all your passion. As well as being a great differentiator, it’s a sure-fire way to motivate you and your team to do your very best for the business too.

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