pur·pose [pur-puhs] noun (from Dictionary.com)
- the reason for which something exists or is done, made,used, etc.
- an intended or desired result; end; aim; goal.
- determination; resoluteness.
- the subject in hand; the point at issue.
- practical result, effect, or advantage: to act to good purpose.
If Purpose is simply “the reason for which something exists,” then all businesses have a clear and easy purpose. Restaurants exists to sell prepared food, while grocery stores exist to sell packaged food (and various other things). Automotive manufactures exist to make vehicles, and mechanics exist to fix them when they break. Lawyers exist to make business more complicated, and consultants exist to simplify it… Okay, that last one was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but you get the idea.
But if purpose is merely what a business does, then why, when there are already so many restaurants, do new ones open? Why are there multiple hardware stores and advertising agencies and construction companies? Is it just to meet a growing demand, to capitalize on a need? Perhaps. But if so, then that makes these businesses extremely vulnerable. Market conditions fluctuate, demand rises and falls, and perceived “needs” shift with our ever-changing world.
So for a business to be Successful, Sustainable, and Significant, its purpose must go beyond what it does and speak to the deeper issue of why it does it. There must be an answer to the questions, “What is the desired result or goal?” “What advantage does it offer to the world?” “What is the point of it’s existence?”
Because knowing that answer allows a business to adapt in changing times and still stay true to what it stands for. A business that understands its true purpose and remains focused on it is not lured off track by “promising” ventures that don’t fit, and yet recognizes the right opportunities when they present themselves and has the confidence to pursue them. When its purpose is clear throughout the organization, a business has employees that are motivated by more than a paycheck, who believe they are doing something more meaningful than simply selling or servicing widgets. And its customers are more excited about what the business is doing than what it’s selling.
A business with a clear sense of Purpose is one with meaning, with the potential to make a profound impact, and on its way to being A Business That Matters.