Definition: As business owner-director, having a purpose is what gets you out of bed in the morning and keeps you, and your team, going. It’s the overriding and enduring reason that the business exists and provides the business with a compass to guide decision making, motivates people to drive things forward and is the core of what creates great organisational health.
In another article in my “5 Min Reads” series, I’ll share how to derive your purpose. In this article, I will give you some core reasons why you should have a purpose but, from a company lens without one.
Why? Well, in my experience, it’s rare to find a business with a good purpose that fits and can stand the test of time. Equally, and very much pulling from my own experience, many owner/directors start their business because they are great at their stuff – not because they know business inside out. You get a few years in and can’t work out why things keep falling down. – It usually tracks back to the beginning.
You might recognise some of these statements below in your organisation. It’s nothing to be ashamed of AT ALL. We are all, always learning and part of running something you love that’s grown is knowing you need to work on it.
A business without purpose…..Has people issues.
Your people are the lifeblood of any business. Without them, you can’t market yourself, sell your services and deliver them at a healthy margin. An organisation that doesn’t have a clearly defined purpose is likely to have the following people issues:
You hire the wrong people:
Hiring the right people is essential. With no clear purpose to guide you that new hire may not want the same things as you and your team. Misalignment can cause friction between people and mismatched deliverables. Unguided decisions between groups can cause expensive problems over time.
You hire to solve a problem, not for the future:
We’ve all been there, a big client is landed, and you NEED more bodies to help deliver the work. You set out to hire but focus on expediency not fit, because you feel you have to. Take it from me; not considering your purpose to guide you when hiring can ultimately cost that big client and create animosity in the team.
The lack of core clarity creates confusion:
The company values, focus and mission all stem from a shared and clear purpose. Without it, the rest isn’t fully aligned and when tested, will likely fall apart. Clarity prevents ambiguity, misunderstanding, miscommunication, and delivery issues (more on this in another article).
A business without purpose…..Has client issues.
If your people are the lifeblood in the delivery sense, your clients share the same analogy but externally. Without them, there is no company and no people to worry about. An organisation that doesn’t have a clearly defined purpose is likely to have the following client issues:
You sign the wrong clients:
Much like your team, without a purpose to guide you, it might mean that you hire clients that don’t meet or share your purpose. This can end up causing an unsatisfied team and client, which could cost you both.
You deliver too many products or services:
A purpose is used to help you create a focus in the team and the services you offer. Without one, you likely end up offering all things to all people, which is expensive and very hard to do at a decent margin over time.
You say yes to everything:
Similarly to signing the wrong clients and offering too much without focus, having no (or a weak) purpose makes it too easy to say yes to every client opportunity. Saying yes to everything can mean bringing in clients that the team can’t help or feel bad working with. You may also find that if they don’t share or meet your purpose the relationship turns sour very quickly.
Naturally, the above are just a few examples. Many agencies get along fine without a purpose for a while. The problem comes when they reach a size where the stakes are higher. This is usually around the five staff plus mark when there is a much deeper need for clarity. Its usually best to have a purpose before that though 😊.