5 Things You Need to Know to Create a Great Purpose Statement

 In Creating Shared Value, Designing Solutions, Innovation, Leadership, Purpose-led Business

Your employees, customers and investors increasingly want to know the purpose of your business and be inspired by it – but how do you ensure your purpose statement is great?

Well, it’s a mix of art and science. Based on my analysis of hundreds of company purpose statements I’ve found there’s 5 things you really need to know before reviewing or creating yours.

1. Purpose and vision

Why no mention of the mission statement? I find they vary so much in their intent and form from company to company that, to be honest, we can live without them. Purpose and vision will suffice.

Your business purpose explains why you exist, the underlying reason for doing what you do. A vision statement, on the other hand, is the world you’d like to create by delivering your purpose. Some companies combine the two – which is okay.

The Australian telco, Telstra, is “building a connected future so everyone can thrive“. Building a connected future is the purpose, and everyone thriving is the vision.

Make sense?

2. Purpose is a societal benefit, not an activity

Purpose describes your benefit to society. Companies have historically talked in terms of financial goals (“we seek to maximise shareholder returns”) or activities (“we make cars”) instead of conveying a meaningful purpose (“we create sustainable transport solutions”).

Without purpose, profits are prone to be at the expense of people and the planet. That type of business model has a very short use-by date.

3. Purpose is your North Star

Take purpose seriously because it is the North Star for your people and it’s what your customers expect. It drives productivity, performance and innovation.

If people see inconsistencies between your stated purpose and what you actually do or how you behave, then don’t expect to be an employer of choice. The best young talent will be excited by companies with genuine, lived purpose. Ignore them at your peril.

4. A purpose statement alone is not success

Facebook is a controversial company, drawing the wrath of regulators, users and even its own employees for the way it goes about its business.

And yet it has a great purpose statement: “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together“.

The lesson here is, great statement ≠ success! You’ll need to integrate your purpose into everything you do and ensure your people understand how they are contributing to it.

5. Purpose is not a positioning statement

Because it conveys a benefit to society, it’s fine for your company to have a purpose statement similar to another. Competition arises in your bid to deliver it more efficiently and effectively than others.

Another reason for avoiding mission statements is, at their worst, they get hijacked by the marketing department and become a mash up of purpose, positioning and vision all in one.

Sigh.

Primed for purpose

Your executives, directors and leaders need to be on the same page and understand the benefits of purpose and getting their buy-in is critical before assessing where you are at, reviewing your statement and then integrating it into your business.

Reach out if you want to know more or set up a debriefing on the topic.

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Phil Preston is the founder of The Business Purpose Project and author of Connecting Profit With Purpose. You can make contact via phil@businesspurposeproject.com

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