Company purpose differentiates good from great from influential

Tell me, why did you start your business? Does your business serve a higher purpose? Company’s mission, vision, and values are at the core of every brand foundation, and most companies have some kind of an answer as to what the business stands for. Yet, how many businesses exist with their company purpose guiding their day-to-day action? As you’ll see in this post, the difference between good and great companies is simple, and it starts at the core.

Starting with company purpose, starting with why

What made Apple special was not their ability to build such a fas-growth company. It wasn’t their ability to think differently about personal computers. What has made Apple special is that they’ve been able to repeat the pattern over and over and over. Unlike any of their competitors, Apple has successfully challenged conventional thinking within the computer industry, the small electronics industry, the music industry, the mobile phone industry, and the broader entertainment industry. And the reason is simple. Apple inspires. Apple starts with WHY

Simon Sinek, Start with Why

Simon Sinek is the guy with a viral Ted talk titled “How great leaders inspire action.” The talk is 18 minutes long, go ahead a have a look – it’s so good! In the above quote, what Simon is saying is that for any company to achieve great things, they must have a strong WHY aka a purpose, a calling, a vision, a cause, or whatever you want to call it. Without it, no company is going to have a significant impact. The difference between good and great companies is the company purpose.

We can all agree that Apple is one of those amazing companies; there are so few companies comparable to Apple on almost any scale. On August 2nd, 2018, Apple was deemed to be the first trillion dollar company. To put that in perspective note that 1 million seconds is about 11.5 days, a billion seconds is 32 years and a trillion seconds is 32,000 year. That is a shitload of money! The truly amazing fact is that in the first quarter of 2018, the iPhone’s market share was around 15.6%. Whereas Macs made up only 7.1% of market shares in the second quarter of 2018. You don’t need a monopoly to have such a significant impact. In fact, what Simon is saying that all this success is due to Apple’s company purpose.

Seriously think about this: Apple hit a trillion dollars. Imagine the lives they have influenced to get there. They only way they were able to do that is because have a firm company purpose that they do not sway from. Apple stands for empowering the individual, changing the status quo and thinking differently. And that is evident to everyone, whether you’re an Apple fan or not.

A company purpose is greater than your products

Apple is not a technology company. They’re not even a lifestyle company for that matter. Just about everything Apple produces aligns with their bigger vision and overall company purpose, and that’s why they are able to have such a diverse product range from computers to music software to everything in between. As long as a potential new product sticks to their core believes (of empowering the individual, to think differently and to change the status quo) Apple’s followers will buy it, and they will love it. The product can be as different as anything else they’ve done before. Yet, if it sticks to Apple’s purpose, it will become further proof of the company’s beliefs.

Just as with any company and any product, a consumer looks at Apple’s message, and it either resonates with them, or it doesn’t. And when that message resonates, it creates an emotional connection that’s extremely strong. As long as Apple keeps true to their purpose and their message, their loyal following will only grow larger and stronger.

Company purpose post - a Mac and iPhone on a desk

I bring all of this up because Apple is the epitome of a successful and powerful brand. Apple clearly makes a lot of money, but they also influence a lot of people’s lives and disturb many industries. That’s some serious impact. 100% they would not be the company they are without sticking to their company purpose.

The single biggest brand differentiator

A company’s WHY aka a purpose, a calling, a vision, a cause, or whatever you want to call it is basically one of the three brand foundation pieces. Which further proves that your brand’s foundation is such a critical and essential piece in the success of your business – everyone’s is!

The reason your company exists, the company purpose, is the single biggest element that will differentiate a brand. Hear me out.

People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it

Simon Sinek

Most companies are throwing around deals, sales, promotions, rewards programs and the like; they rely on manipulation tactics. Once they start they can’t stop because the expectation has been set. This method leads most companies to try to one-up each other. Additionally, most companies measure success with money such as profits or revenue. Although there is nothing wrong with making money – all businesses need to in order to survive. What tends to happen is that too often companies prioritize money above everything else.

You can just sense when a company only cares about money; their messages feel fake, forces and just irrelevant. Sometimes even made up to do damage control. You know they don’t really stand for anything, and their advertising campaign is precisely that, a campaign to lure in more sales. Another manipulation tactic. Pursuing money, although can be a purpose, is a terrible company purpose; no consumer aligns with such a vision!

Companies can create emotional connections

Think about some of your favourite brands or products. Those are companies that have successfully connected with you on an emotional level. If they can do it, so can you. Those are the companies with a clear purpose and vision. It’s companies like Patagonia with a mission to: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” Patagonia started out as a small operation that made climbing tools. And look where their goals and ambitions got them! Zappos wants to be the best possible online retailer, and they are! They value customer service above else, and they have their own cult following to show for it. Each of these companies has an impeccable company purpose, don’t you think?

Company purpose post - another guys wearing a Patagonia jacket

Here’s another one, Rhianna started Fenty Beauty “so that women everywhere would be included” when it came to makeup and beauty products. Her products come in all shades and colors. Her company has received such an incredible love for being remarkably diverse and in fact inclusive, and it shows in Fenty’s sales and word-of-mouth praises. For those three companies, their visions and purpose are their number one priority. When they focus on that, the money follows.

When companies forget about their original purpose

Most companies start out well-meaning – or so I’d like to hope. I don’t think anyone wants to build a company like Walmart is today – the company might as well be said to be infested with abuse scandals and lawsuits (of both customers and employees). Yet, Walmart started out as a fantastic company with a clear vision. Sam Walton wanted to cheer on the average American by giving them affordable goods. He valued people above all else aka his employees and customers and not his shareholders.

Company purpose post - a picture of some carts

After his death, the company kind of lost track of their why and their values and focused on making money instead. Eventually, that led to many of these current scandals we keep hearing about. They lost their original company purpose, and as consumers, we see that. We’re not loyal to Walmart; we’ll go to any other place that offers a better deal.

At the same time, if Walmart is trying to actually do something good/right, we ignore it because it just feels like it’s all for show. There’re following their company purpose of making money, and we’re not going to be loyal to that. Walmart is an excellent example of a company that we no longer believe. There is no connection. As consumers, we can tell it’s all a bunch of marketing bullshit.

An example of purposeless efforts

In 2007, Walmart launched a global responsibility report. It was a new initiative that the company set up to be more environmentally conscious and limit its polluting impact. Yet, no one cared. Costco got a lot more credit, press, and praise for their environmentally friendly policies even though they did so after Walmart.

If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.

Simon Sinek, Start with Why

There are so many other examples of companies like Walmart, companies that don’t have a clear sense of why. Sure they all have lovely sounding taglines, but their actions never match up.

How can this help my small company?

As a company, big or small, you must clearly know what your company purpose and what it stands for. If you do, it becomes a really positive and impactful spiral. Firstly, when you know what the company’s purpose is you can hire people who believe in it too. The mission will come through the action of the company – it will be evident in your products, and how you sell them. It will shine through every company initiative from marketing and social media. It should drive all of the company’s decisions, be a guiding North Star. If a new product idea doesn’t align with the company’s purpose then don’t pursue it; no brainer. When all of the company’s staff acts accordingly to keep pursuing the company’s vision, everyone outside of the company will feel it too.

How you speak about your company matters

Consider this, Apple’s advertisements start with their why and eventually lead into the features of the product. Those features are proof of their beliefs. An ad from a company with a clear and strong purpose – such as Apple, Fenty, Zappos or Patagonia – can be boiled down to “we believe in a better world, and we made this [device/app/product/service] to improve the world just a bit.”

Most other companies start with some bs that sells the product first and mostly talks about how great it is and how great life could be if just bought it. Those companies are selling their products; Apple is selling their vision, and their products are just proof of that vision.

Let’s imagine you’re a business owner looking to redesign her company’s website. You’ve come across two elevator pitches, or company bio’s on social media. Which one would resonate with you more?

  1. “My mission is to empower other businesswomen to level up their businesses (so that they can live their greater purpose). I build a foundation for your business that creates a relationship between your brand and your target audience to give you a loyal customer following of true fans. I’m a brand strategist and a web designer.”
  2. “From simple informational web designs to complex web applications, device-specific sites, and portals, we create custom-only designs that achieve business objectives. Providing your business with the best possible outcome is always our ultimate goal.”

The first one is mine, the other I found off some random agency. Mine leads with my why. The other one, though has some business buzzwords, is emotionless and general. Mine speaks to a specific person. Theirs not so much.

How about you?

What does your home page say about you or your elevator pitch? Do you lead with what your company is creating or why your company exists in the first place?

Company purpose post - Another display of apple products on a desk

The takeaway

I think the take away of this post is pretty clear. I wanted to seriously drive the point home that a solid purpose should be a big part of a company. With it, you’re significantly more bound for success. Building a company is no easy feat. Trust me, I know 😉 But I also know that keeping the reason you started that business close to heart makes it easier to tackle that feat as well.

Take a minute to think about why you started your business. Write it down. Keep thinking about it over time to make sure it really represents your company well. Share it with your teammate and see what their thoughts are on the way you defined the company purpose.

Once you nailed your purpose use it to double check your company actions. Does that new Facebook ad campaign align with the company’s purpose? Are your social media posts, blog posts, landing pages even customer alls in alignment with the company’s mission? If no, redo it and change the script; if yes let it be.

When your campaigns start with its why and when your actions embody your company purpose, you will instantly gain a connection with your target audience. Because at that point it becomes about that greater purpose for the both of you. Brand foundation is no joke!