Our Story of Purpose
Part II in "Turning Purpose to Profit" series
I didn't realize that the pioneering work I was doing more than twenty years ago on the idea of Purpose as a force in business and life would become mainstream thinking two decades later. At that time, I didn't know anyone else who was using the term "purpose" in business. People also found it hard to distinguish between the idea of mission and what I meant by Purpose.
I came to the idea of Purpose through intersecting my Rabbinic and business interests. I was raised on the tenet that each of us was put in this world to make a difference. Every individual can and should make the world a better place, a place of greater morality, sanctity and compassion. It doesn't matter whether you make your difference by leading a nation, innovating a technology or a groundbreaking discovery, or by serving customers, raising a child or planting a garden. As much as our DNA makes us biologically distinct, similarly, each of us is designed to make a specific and unique difference in the world -- and given the tools to do so. We are given the assets and capabilities, the life experience and talent, the intelligence and passion that enable us to be the best at what we are meant to be doing. None of us have the tools to be good at what others are meant to be doing. We are fully equipped to accomplish our own life's Purpose.
Uniqueness of Teams and Corporations
Groups of individuals are even more unique in their shared qualities, passions and capabilities. Every group or team has a specific Purpose, something they are uniquely positioned and equipped to positively change the world. I happen to believe that groups of people don't bond into a team by mere coincidence. I believe they serendipitously coalesce around an intangible force that attracts them. By discovering their Team's Purpose, they accomplish something that as individuals they cannot (nor could other groups) achieve in quite the same way.
It's a shame, I thought, how teams and corporations so often focus more on what their competitors are doing by imitating their best practices and trying to beat them at their own game. Rather, what would happen if the team examined the qualities that distinguish them as a group, and used that insight to create products and services that cannot be replicated? Wouldn't the outcomes be astonishing!
Finding Purpose in Intangibles
Now if we think of a product only in terms of its tangible features, then every product is just a commodity that anyone, anywhere could produce. Even innovative goods don't retain their uniqueness for long. Furthermore, experiences like customer service and quality are no longer differentiating dimensions of a product. They are entry-level requirements, without which no product can sustain a demand. But what about intangibles?
Intangible dimensions are the means in which you satisfy some of your customers' deepest needs and insecurities while delivering your offering. In that sense, all companies and professionals are in the business of helping people. Anyone can deliver a superior car, computer, item of clothing, or appliance to a customer. Through marketing, branding and packaging you can even give your customer an illusion of importance, prominence, attractiveness or success. These are not the intangible dimensions of which I speak. I mean serving customers in ways that authentically touch their heart, connect with their soul and inspires them. Authenticity, connection, and inspiration are far more rare than any brand, and are in much greater demand!
Turning Purpose to Profit
So I began tracking the performance of organizations that I believed were doing this. At the same time, I started developing methodology that enabled any organization or individual to discover their Purpose - the higher reason for which they exist. I set about to determine how best any individual or group could discover what difference they were designed to make in this world. I tested the methodology on a number of progressive-thinking, large clients and the results were astounding. Once I had a tested the methodology, I was ready to launch my consulting firm, now known as Lapin International, Inc.
However, discovering Purpose alone was not sufficient. We had to develop a process for organizations to turn their Purpose into measurable value for shareholders. I wanted companies to use their Purpose to inspire their employees and captivate their customers. But more importantly, I wanted to see companies use their Purpose for greater strategic clarity and executive team-alignment to yield clear, measurable, bottom-line results. We were able to apply our minds and partner with our clients to achieve this end.
As executive teams coalesced behind a common Purpose, they unlocked new fountains of human energy and innovation. They decided on the executive behaviors needed to give life to their newfound Purpose. Executives then cascaded Purpose to other levels of management, where each team could determine how they would advance the organization's newly articulated Purpose.
Application of Purpose
Consider Truworths International, a large and very successful international fashion retailer. When we began to work with them over a decade ago, they were in a spiral of declining revenue and market share. They tried everything their competitors were doing and followed every best practice. This just made things worse. We began by carefully identifying Truworths' primary customers -- the group of people who would benefit most from Truworths' delivery on its Purpose. We then probed the deepest insecurities of this set of customers. We married this insight with the unique qualities and capabilities of the Truworth's team. By understanding the team deeply, we identified the things the company could do for its primary customers (and many others outside of this targeted group) that no other retailer in their market could offer. With this new offering, they were able to achieve growth in the mid-20% range and see return on equity well over 50% in the years following.
This is the power of turning Purpose to Profit. We subsequently have helped many other clients in the US and overseas to witness similar success.
I'm gratified, humbled and exhilarated that this early philosophy has now taken root in the business community and among other thought leaders in business. I hope you might also find the same satisfaction in discovering yours.
Click on the link if you missed Part 1 of our Turning Purpose Into Profit series, Compete, If You Can! New Rules for Winning.