Why are you in business?

Any CEO should be able to take their phone and record themselves for max 1 minute, explaining why they are in business. Why they get up in the morning. Why they expect employees to get up in the morning. In what way they contribute to the world. It is for many reasons increasingly important to be clear about why you are in business, and that the reason is something people want to get behind. This will be one of the fundamental building blocks for succeeding with your marketing efforts.

Talent attraction and retention – Research shows that having a clear purpose is important for attracting and retaining talent. Together with mastery and autonomy it’s one of the key drivers of motivation at work. Dan Pink points to research that shows that compensation stops being a motivator when hitting a certain level (TED Talk). A fair question to ask linked to this is how much resources your organization invests in fueling a clear purpose vs how much your organization invests in compensation initiatives? The world is increasingly competitive, so talent attraction and retention will only increase in importance.

Communication efficiency – For any given impression of advertising, the brand who is fastest and strongest recognized will benefit from that, since you need fewer/shorter impressions to reach the same level of recognition. When you have a clear purpose it can more easily be translated into clear communication guidelines, which in turn have a higher chance of translating into more consistent communication, driving faster and stronger recognition. This leads to more efficient use of advertising investments.

Innovation – Google says that “having a mission that matters” is their most important innovation principle (Fast Company). Having a clear purpose gives a clear direction to innovation, so it’s easier to focus resources. Since the only thing we can count on for tomorrow is change, any driver of innovation is worth considering investing in.

So what should companies do? Some things to get started:

  • Start by asking everyone in the management team to review the company history and what strengths you have as a company. Think about in what way your business can contribute to a better world that is not artificial, but deeply linked to your products. Then everyone should record themselves with the phone for max 1 minute, explaining why you are in business.
  • After this, set aside significant amount of time in the next management meeting to review all submitted input, discuss and summarize into ONE story.
  • Ask an amazing creative agency to make the story memorable using sticky language.
  • After this, spend every day growing behaviors that are inline with the purpose and move away from what is not. Work it into the organization via role modelling, one-on-ones, incentives, recognition, product innovation pipeline etc.

One company that has done this well is Patagonia. Their reason to exist was created through their founder Yvon Chouinard, a dedicated adventurer who early on committed to making the company a resource for environmental activism. In the early 1990s, the mission was put to test with an environmental audit of Patagonia surprisingly revealing that cotton was the worst product for the environment. In 1994, Chouinard committed the company to using all pesticide-free cotton, and this demand created the organic cotton industry in California (Wikipedia). One of their latest campaigns even encourage people to buy less Patagonia clothes to reduce impact on the environment (YouTube video).  The clarity and dedication to the company’s mission has enabled Patagonia to enjoy a strong recognition of their brand. In the last 5 years only, sales have doubled and profits tripled (Fast Company).

All industries have ways in which they can improve the world…

A travel company could commit to “remove cultural barriers” and fight for a society where people are not sceptical or afraid of others just because they have a different background.

A bank could commit to “make people financially savvy” so they can make the right informed decision that is beneficial for them and the broader society instead of feeling lost in translation.

A grocery retailer could commit to striving for “always improve” and help people eat healthier, make better choices for their environment and economy, save time etc.

You decide if people in your organization have something meaningful to go to every morning.

So, why are you in business?


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