Numbers on a spreadsheet. For a lot of people, that’s all that business boils down to. Numbers. Looking at it from a distance, it’s hard to say that this is far off. Growth is closely linked to profit which is directly related to revenue which is largely related to investment—all of these are numbers. Like most things, however, the picture changes slightly when we take a closer look.
The truth is that, while numbers are incredibly important in a business, those numbers aren’t just spontaneous phenomena. They come from somewhere. More specifically, they come from people. You can’t run a successful and healthy business by looking at the numbers alone, you have to make sure the people, and the brand, are working for more than just profit. What else is there to work towards? Let’s talk about purpose.
What is your purpose? It’s a question as old as philosophy itself, and one that often doesn’t get along too well with the workplace. If you’re sitting in the office, staring at the screen, and doing mindless tasks until the day is over, your “purpose” might just be to do a good enough job to not get fired until your next paycheck. Let’s be honest, we’ve all been there.
This, of course, can’t be the extent of our interests and passions. Getting through the day and through the work week can be grueling and unsexy, for sure, but we ultimately do it in order to chase something else: our true passions and interests, the reason we put up with work we don’t like. Whatever that might be, that light that burns inside of us no matter what, that’s our authentic purpose. In Zach Mercurio’s The Invisible Leader Individual Workbook, he describes authentic purpose as: “The genuine and original reason for the existence of a person or organization that is useful to others and society.”
So, what does this have to do with business?
As a Leader
Leadership is something that every organization needs in some capacity. Every team needs organization, and even the hardest workers need direction. Not just any leadership will do, however. In his book I Love It Here, Pulver describes several different types of “managers” that have different relationships to their team. From an entirely removed leadership to a fully devoted mentor, Pulver runs through the gamut of leadership philosophies and describes what each of these gets right and what each gets wrong. Ultimately, Pulver describes, the mentor manager is the ideal leadership model, as a brand thrives when its team is thriving, and individuals on the team thrive when they are mentored into being the best that they can be.
There is, of course, more to this. It’s more or less easy to recognize and claim the “ideal” leadership model, but fulfilling that role is not a trivial matter. Being a meaningful and dedicated mentor to anybody isn’t exactly the easiest task, and being a mentor to an entire team of individuals is taking that task up plenty of steps. Making that task manageable is easier said than done unless, of course, it is aligned with your authentic purpose.
This isn’t to say that your authentic purpose as a leader of a brand needs to be brand leadership (although that would be convenient), but finding ways to align your purpose with the tasks of leadership is a great way of making sure your leadership efforts are sincere and passionate, and not just boxes you need to check off to keep the business running.
As a Brand
Purpose doesn’t end at an individual level. Brands need purpose too, and in today’s world of commerce, that purpose needs to be more than just profit. Especially as brands continue to be pushed into a virtual space, customers are interacting more directly and more sincerely than ever before. It used to be that a brand’s personality started and ended at the entrance of the store—not anymore. Now, customers follow brands on Instagram, Twitter, even Facebook, and they expect interactions to be relatable and, above all, transparent.
Consumers react to transparency. In the age of viral tweets about shady business practices, the more open a brand is about their processes and intentions, the better. More so, consumers want brands to stand for something. Customers are aware that supply chains aren’t exactly great for the planet, and they feel better about buying from a brand that is actively trying to minimize their impact on the environment—don’t we all?
So, in a similar sense, your brand benefits from an authentic purpose. What problem is in your brand’s crosshairs? Who is your brand trying to help? And most importantly, how authentically is your brand pursuing this? It’s easy enough to slap the newest trending movement on your home page, but if this branding is inauthentic and clearly just there for the clicks, you could be facing expensive consequences.
Besides, it all comes full circle. A business that is genuinely and authentically dedicated to an important message or stance is not only easier for customers to trust, it’s easier for employees to trust as well. Just as aligning your authentic purpose with your leadership makes for a more motivated team and better business, so does aligning your business’ authentic purpose with the business model.
At the end of the day, if there’s no authentic purpose aligned with your [leadership in the] business, why should it exist at all?
Living Pono is dedicated to communicating business management concepts with Hawaiian values. Founded by Kevin May, an established and successful leader and mentor, Living Pono is your destination to learn about how to live your life righteously and how that can have positive effects in your career. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or contact us here. Also, join our mailing list below, so you can be alerted when a new article is released.