This article was originally published on Thrive Global by Rhett Power on January 17, 2022. Image credit: Brooke Lark.
Here’s how to make sure your company’s purpose remains a shining, unmistakable North Star from day one.
Why do I say that? I’ve seen more evidence of entrepreneurs launching startups with goals beyond money and fame. They want to change something. Maybe it’s the world, a mindset, or a system. Whatever it is, entrepreneurs are leveraging it to drive their businesses forward.
This doesn’t mean that their companies can’t become financially successful, of course. Purpose-driven organizations have an attractive track record from a purely fiscal standpoint. A Zeno study released in mid-2020 showed the profit-making power of purpose. Participants said they were four times more likely to patronize purposeful brands and four and a half times more apt to talk them up to friends and family.
Of course, leading a purpose-driven business requires that you make some thoughtful choices during the planning and early deployment stages. Below are some ways to ensure that your company’s purpose remains a shining, unmistakable north star from day one.
1. Be unabashedly forthright about your purpose.
Your purpose may buck trends or the status quo. Don’t let that stop you from putting your full belief in it. Passion is an attractive quality in a leader. When you’re willing to embrace it, you appeal to like-minded people, including employees, vendors, and customers.
In other words, it’s OK to have a purpose that looks at something from a different angle. Take Pam Kosanke, for instance. She’s the founder of Sport Bigs, an inclusive athletic toy line that she hopes will challenge and disrupt the billion-dollar toy industry. She’s also blunt as to why she created dolls modeled after top female athletes: “I see entire sections in girls’ toy aisles that look like baby centers and promote nothing but domesticity and motherhood as ‘center.’ There is simply no parallel in the boys’ toy aisle. I’m beyond frustrated by how we genderize kids for no reason.”
Kosanke’s toys stem from her desire to promote full-scale inclusivity both in and out of athletics. Her suggestion for budding entrepreneurs fueled by a similar passion? Simple: “You have to believe so much in something that there isn’t an amount of disappointment that could possibly deter you from getting something done.” So be sure to dream as big as you can. Not everyone will be motivated by your purpose, but that shouldn’t stop you from following it.
2. Hire employees who can tell you no.
It’s incredibly tempting to surround yourself with colleagues who will buy into your vision without question. Nevertheless, you want co-workers who aren’t afraid to throw up roadblocks now and again. Otherwise, you’ll end up making decisions in an echo chamber — and that can lead to wrong moves that don’t end up serving your purpose at all.
One way to ensure that you won’t amass a team of “yes people” is to source talent from diverse candidate pools. Seek out individuals who bring a variety of perspectives to their roles. Not everyone needs to have teachable skill sets, either. You can train for many abilities, but you can’t train for wisdom or the confidence to challenge leaders when it’s necessary.
Remember, too, that trust is a vital piece of the feedback puzzle. Your employees need to trust leaders enough to question them openly. A 2021 PwC survey revealed that trust levels rise with employees’ proximity to leaders — that is, employees cited higher levels of trust for direct managers than for CEOs. So make sure employees have a way to share feedback about you and the company to their managers or direct leaders, and ensure managers can share that information with you.
3. Empower your team members to act according to your brand’s purpose.
You can’t be everywhere at all times or available 24/7 to answer your team’s questions. You’ll have to count on them to make choices on their own. That’s where setting up a system of empowerment within clear boundaries comes into play.
For example, you might want to authorize your customer service representatives to resolve buyer problems in unique ways as long as those methods stay within budget boundaries. And, of course, anything they do should be in accordance with your organization’s purpose. Empowering your workers to think like owners gives them more stake in your corporate brand and responsibility for living its purpose.
Will mistakes and missteps occur? You can bet on that happening more than once. When it does, use it as an opportunity to explore why the error occurred. Case in point: If a new employee acts in a way that doesn’t align with your purpose, the issue might be that the employee wasn’t appropriately onboarded. That’s something resolvable that will only help your organization grow stronger in the future.
Feel that entrepreneurial nagging in your gut and mind? It’s your purpose calling — and there’s no reason not to go out and find it.