Why Your Business Should Put Values Before Greed


Shawn Parr

November 3, 2014

For businesses today, the most valuable asset they manage are their people–and employee engagement and satisfaction are strategic imperatives that every leadership team should understand and proactively explore.

People who simply show up to work each day unengaged are not actively using their talents to pursue or connect to their true purpose and as a result are unable to operate at their full potential.

People who discover their reason for being, uncover their purpose, and connect with it passionately become more engaged and significantly more effective at work–and in life–because of a clear sense of fulfillment. Helping your employees discover and define individual purpose represents a significant opportunity to improve their level of engagement and impact overall corporate performance.

Purpose Is Different From Vision

Oftentimes executive teams try to lay out a vision statement reflecting a view of the future. A vision statement, for many organizations, is aspirational–it’s a description of what the company wants to achieve and is not intended to be literal. The result oftentimes is not believable or is unachievable.

A purpose statement clearly articulates the reason a company exists in the world, the role it plays and the difference it makes their customer’s lives, offering a clear and accurate description of the core business.

Companies With A Greater Purpose

At its core, a company must be profitable and add value to the community it exists to serve. But this means merely operating as a viable entity. Existing to make money does not unlock the potential contained in the power of a clear purpose.

Until recently, purpose-committed companies like Patagonia and Newman’s Own were few and far between. But today successful new companies like Warby Parker, FEED, The Honest Kitchen, Raven + Lily, The Paradigm Project, and more are among the many social enterprises that were founded with a clear purpose in mind. These purpose-committed brands challenge the current way of doing business and offer consumers the ability to make a broader decision when purchasing their products.

Can Profits And Purpose Mix?

Purpose is not the exclusive territory of socially conscious startups. Southwest Airlines, for one, was built on making travel accessible to more Americans. And 40 years later, their reason for being is still expressed and executed strategically across every facet of their business. Their customers experience “Freedom to Fly” in three simple areas: low fares, lots of flights, and the friendliest service in the sky. Southwest gives their employees the freedom to keep fares low in every city they serve, and they are low by philosophy, not expediency. They provide what they call “Positively Outrageous Service.” Their reason for being–their purpose–is expressed in every functional area of the business, and the difference shows in the customer experience as well as in their financial performance. They have enjoyed 40 consecutive years of profits, which is a difficult feat in the airlines business.

When Your People Do Their Work On Purpose

When a company has a clear purpose, everything it does connects back to it. When objectives have a purpose, everyone on the team is on the same page and understands what to do and why.

Measure employee actions and performance against your company’s purpose often–it will increase engagement and inspire performance.

Your company’s reflection of its purpose offers an opportunity to impact its positive growth and its people’s engagement.

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