Someone I really rate, Andy Lothian, founder and Group CEO of The Insights Group, wrote a really interesting article on LinkedIn about the importance of your purpose.

It struck a chord with me because I have long argued that when it comes to communications, your purpose is absolutely everything. It is your guiding star. A little like your conscience in your personal life, when it comes to a business, your purpose helps tell you whether something you are going to say or do is right or not.

During the current COVID-19 crisis, many of us may be forgiven for feeling we’ve lost our purpose; after all, many can’t sell products/services in the normal way.

While it’s true that many of us may have been tremendously inhibited at this terrible time, is selling our sole purpose?

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Lord Bird (one of my icons) didn’t set up the Big Issue to make money selling magazines. He had a purpose beyond this.

I’m not saying that every businessperson needs to be a social entrepreneur or business have a charitable purpose. What I’m saying is that, for instance, a company that manufactures quality ready meals - makes money selling food, but its purpose is more than this.

  • It perhaps first set up as a business which helps busy people save time.
  • Its purpose may be to provide a quality at-home dining experience with the minimum fuss.
  • If the meals are vegetarian, its purpose could be to make it easier than ever for more people to become vegetarian.
  • If it’s a business which wants to support young people by providing work experience for them, that will be an important part of its purpose.

Does all of this ‘purpose’ need to stop at this current time? Not at all.

Thinking about each of these potential purposes for a moment, even if it can’t sell its products, our ready meal manufacturer can continue to:

  • Advise people on ways to get the most out of their leisure time.
  • Its chefs/food experts can suggest easy recipe ideas for making amazing quick evening meals with fridge leftovers.
  • It can devise and share vegetarian meal plans – perhaps with ideas from celeb vegetarians - for people who are using lockdown to transform their diets long-term.
  • Thinking about its purpose as an employer, it can perhaps share online work experience tasks, interview tips and CV advice for young people who can’t currently work in its plants at the moment can draw on. Or it could ask its senior managers to mentor them.

Understanding what your purpose is, and clearly committing to it, isn’t just important because it gives you things to say and do when you can’t sell stuff. Your purpose will often define the way in which you do the things you do. It will help set the standards that you operate to and the tone you adopt. It will be much easier to galvanise your workforce, identify the businesses you partner with, the charities or causes you support and the type of marketing you deploy.

A business with purpose, passion and people who believe in it – will always outgun one that simply ‘sells stuff.’

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