I was wrapping up a conversation with the CMO of a major transportation company when I asked if there was anything else I needed to know.

"Yes," she said, "We won't do business with anyone whose values and purpose aren't perfectly aligned with ours." Ouch. Sounds like something White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer might say to reporters.

So, how does one become a Purpose Driven Organization ASAP?

First, a purpose is not a slogan (i.e. 'Make American Great Again') or a mission statement (i.e. "We're building a wall and Mexico's paying for it.") A purpose speaks to an organization's reason for existing.

Some companies have already nailed very cool purposes. Others have created ones that are laugh out loud absurd. To wit:

- Zappos: "Delivering Happiness." (Spot on!)

- Seventh Generation Household Goods, which manufactures soap, fabric softener and toilet paper: "To inspire a consumer revolution that nurtures the health of the next seven generations." (Gimme a break. There's a very real chance we may not live to see 2024, but Seventh Generation is already focused on people's sanitary needs in the year 2158!).

- Starbucks: "To inspire and nurture the human spirit - one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time." (Hate their coffee, but love that purpose).

So, assuming that, like me, you haven't yet crafted your purpose, how do you put the pedal to the metal?

I turned to Peppercomm's Culture Czar, Sara Whitman. She's studied best practices from around the solar system and suggests the following steps:

1.) Determine your competitor's purpose first. Imagine investing time and money only to find out someone else wants to maintain our planet's hygienic standards in 2158?

2.) Define success. Dollars aside, how do you measure success? Is it a low turnover, countless product quality awards or opening a satellite office in Reykjavik?

3.) Pull your leadership team together. DO NOT let them out of the room until they agree on your higher purpose. You may end up using Gitmo-like tactics to force managers to agree to your organization's higher purpose. But, that would enable you to say, "Our purpose is to have you spend far less blood, sweat and tears in developing your purpose."

Also, have your leadership agree on:

  • why you were founded.
  • why do you exist.
  • how your founding purpose has changed since Day One and what will it be in, say, five years.
  • what makes you most proud about your work.
  • what would you like to see happen as a result of your work (i.e. President Trump, for example, would like to see crude oil flow through sacred Native American lands.)
  • how are you uniquely qualified to deliver on your promise and consistently delight EVERY target audience.
  • when you retire how would you like your grandchildren to describe your company.

I also turned to Gene Longobardi of Online Trading Academy a successful Peppercomm client who has already nailed their purpose, ("To help people define, believe and achieve their why.") I asked for three other tips.

4.) Test your purpose with stakeholders. I laugh out loud when I read the purpose statements of United Airlines ("United is focused on being the airline customers want to fly, the airline employees want to work for and the airline shareholders want to invest in.)" and McDonalds ("Our purpose goes beyond what we sell. We're using our reach to be a positive force. For our customers. Our people. Our communities. Our world.") Make sure yours ring true.

5.) Live and die by your purpose. The core team should take on the role of ambassadors, and if this group doesn't really embrace and live the purpose, the effort will fail. This group should look at ways to merchandise it throughout the organization - from culture and brand values to things as simple as email signatures and everything in between. Most importantly, build it into training programs, new hire orientations and company traditions, stories and rituals.

6.) Stay true to who you are. In most cases, brands with a true purpose and passion about will be able to clearly identify and articulate it. True purpose comes from the heart of the organization and is authentic. If it feels forced or disingenuous, don't use it.

Whatever you do, don't drink the Kool-Aid. I just read a five-part purpose statement posted on the website of a West Coast marketing firm. Purpose number two read: "We do not believe in making profits. If we surprise and delight our customers every day, the profits will take care of themselves."

Yeah sure. Allow the profits to take care of themselves and you'll find yourself supplying gas station restrooms with Seventh Generation Households Goods.

Published on: Jan 27, 2017