Purpose is a term that confuses many leaders.
We often see a company's "purpose" as friendly-sounding platitudes about customer-centricity or people, but purpose is a leg of the culture stool (along with mission and vision) that should motivate and provide clarity to employees. Purpose demonstrates why employees should show up to work excited.
Seventy-one percent of professionals say they would be willing to take a pay cut to work for a company that has a mission they believe in, according to a recent LinkedIn survey.
As the U.S. economy braces for a bounce back and companies begin thinking about hiring, ensuring your business is grounded in purpose and supported by a strong mission is more important than ever.
I connected with five executives to uncover how they've successfully built purpose-driven businesses. Here are their top tips:
1. Explicitly define your culture with purpose in mind
"Vagueness is the enemy. Few purpose statements are explicit enough to drive behavior," says Jason Korman, CEO and founder of innovative culture design group Gapingvoid.
The goal is to inform the behavior of employees. Korman suggests asking yourself: "If people show up each day believing this purpose statement, will it guide the execution of their roles?"
He adds, "Culture is the most powerful management system leaders have at their disposal. Purpose is an essential part of building culture as it has the potential to inform behavior at scale."
2. Let your "why" be a KPI
While companies often look at things like revenue and sales as metrics of success, purpose-driven businesses also measure themselves against their mission. "Having a clear vision of the 'why' behind a business is critical to creating long-lasting success," says Bansi Lakhani, founder and chairman of family-owned fashion house and scrub retailer Healing Hands.
Lakhani believes that you can't have purpose without passion and that everything you do should be measured against your mission. "Purpose-driven businesses are founded out of the desire to make a change -- for the consumer, an industry, or even the world," he says.
Lakhani suggests looking at each project from the perspective of "How can this product help my consumers?" not "How much of this can we sell?" Be thoughtful and prioritize quality over quantity. This allows your team to feel more connected to the work they're doing and provides a clear understanding of the motivation behind each business decision.
3. Tackle problems at the community level
When businesses come together to achieve a collective impact, it forces the rethinking of how communities can work together. This is where purpose is born.
"Take some time to understand the social challenges facing your communities," suggests Manik Bhat, founder and CEO of Healthify, a company that works with payers and providers to create social determinants of health infrastructures. "By doing so, corporations can develop strategies and interventions that improve the health of the community and drive positive change."
With a pulse on communities, businesses can do their part to identify where critical help is needed and deploy their local workforce to aid in the solution.
4. Inspire your team to invest in the mission
When building a purpose-driven business, it's crucial to put the right team in place, one that's equally invested in your company's mission. This starts with ensuring you're giving your employees a reason to be inspired and providing them with the right tools for success.
According to Vetri Vellore, CEO and founder of business operations and goal setting software company Ally.io, "As a leader, it's your job to ensure everyone is equipped with what they need to do their jobs successfully and meet their goals." This means taking a look at your company holistically. Are the right people supporting the right roles?
"Your business's success is predicated on the team's being motivated, mentally and emotionally safe, and bought into your mission," adds Vellore.
If you genuinely believe in what you're doing, you'll inspire your team to feel the same way. It's critical to never lose sight of the "why" behind your business.
5. Ask yourself tough questions
"To lead with purpose, you need to ask tough questions," says Robert E.G. Beens, co-founder and CEO of Startpage, creator of the world's first private search engine. "Ask yourself 'Is my business model ethical?' and 'Am I withstanding the pressure of financial gains in order to stay true to my business's purpose?'"
Beens recommends approaching each decision with the same exercise of asking if it aligns with your purpose. "We have regular team discussions on the essentials of privacy, and its technical ramifications within our product," says Beens. "Do what you believe is right, not what everyone else is doing."
Leading a company today undoubtedly looks different from ever before. By reflecting, investing, and inspiring, companies can ensure they're building a business with purpose.