In the face of these uncertainties, and with the daily demands of running a business, it’s easy to see how your purpose can get lost.
The urgent day-to-day pressures of meeting deadlines, finding clients and managing a busy team can often become more important than what seem like idealistic notions of ‘purpose’. This may lead you to feel a dichotomy between being true to your values and running a successful business that earns you a decent living.
The desire to do some good, rather than chase purely short-term financial goals, is something you may end up putting aside.
And if you’re an entrepreneur or a startup, you need to achieve credibility, clients and an income quickly in order to grow your business. It’s all too easy to grasp at partnerships, projects or areas of work that don’t meet your wider objectives just to get your business off the ground.
As Andrea Collings, Director of Brighton based startup Terrier Marketing, says:
“When we first started out, we were chasing clients who weren’t the right fit for us, just to get up and running. Eventually we realised we needed to take a step back and reconnect with our purpose. We said to ourselves: 'Hold on a minute, why are we doing what we do? We didn’t start out to work this way, we have certain values to uphold, and these have become lost.' We’re now attracting and working with clients who are the right fit for us, and we are right for them.”
As business guru Jonathan MacDonald explains, having a strong, clear purpose means that you will be well equipped to tackle disruptive changes in your market and grasp the opportunities they present. You will be well placed to adapt and innovate in order to face change, fend off competitors and move with the times.
There are countless examples of businesses who have failed to do this; some of the more famous ones being Kodak, Blockbuster, and WH Smith. Kodak failed to realise that a ‘Kodak moment’ - their ‘purpose’ - had become online photo sharing, not physical photo printing. As Harvard Business Review points out, they failed to ask themselves the question, “what business are we in today?”
So clearly define the problem you are solving for customers and ensure you have a well thought out value proposition.
As well as equipping you for innovation, a strong purpose also means you’ll have a brand that inspires your customers to connect with you. Through its Dove Self-Esteem project, the soap brand created a programme of evidence-based resources to help young people raise their self esteem and overcome body image issues. This makes their brand relatable and is a very effective way for Dove to have a positive impact whilst making money.
Without a clear purpose, your marketing strategy will inevitably suffer. Your messaging will not be clear, succinct and persuasive. You will struggle to understand or reach your target audience. If you as the CEO or team leader aren’t able to articulate your purpose clearly, how can you expect your customers to understand what you’re offering or why they should buy from you?
Perhaps much more importantly, on a personal level, if you lose sight of your purpose, you'll lose your passion for your business - it could become something you never set out to do. Mental fatigue, burnout, depression and anxiety can soon follow.
Addressing this and taking action to pinpoint your purpose is not something that you can achieve sitting at your desk, working. It comes slowly, from experiences. The good news is that you can begin to find the answers virtually on your doorstep.
Reconnecting with nature is a good place to start. The proven benefits to both mind and business of getting outside and accessing green spaces are hard to ignore.
Being in nature allows an overstressed and fatigued brain to rest. It lowers stress, physically calms us down, increases creative thinking, and sharpens our performance.
According to National Geographic, “Just a fifteen-minute walk in the woods causes a 16% drop in the stress hormone cortisol, a 2% drop in blood pressure and a 4% drop in heart rate.” By slowing down and taking in beautiful surroundings, you’ll feel restored.
Better mental health and improved concentration are just two of the proven outcomes, say Business Insider.
The bigger picture
Crucially, time out of the office in natural surroundings can also help to remind you that your business doesn’t operate in isolation, but is part of a wider ecosystem.
The way you run your business has an impact on all around and within it - including your staff, the environment, and your community.
If you are more aware of the bigger picture, you can work towards being a more socially responsible company, connected to your community and able to nurture the wider ecosystem, rather than taking from or destroying it.
Sharper mental performance and an appreciation of the bigger picture will enable you to understand what motivates you and remind you why you’re doing what you do, helping to reignite your passion and fall back in love with your business.
Some of the tangible outcomes for your business might include:
- Developing a new CSR strategy and taking steps to reduce your environmental impact.
- Improved employee happiness and wellbeing through access to green space, team building and away days in nature, or incorporating biophilic design into your office.
- Ensuring your business is moving in a direction that will satisfy your professional and personal goals.
The rewards to be gained from ensuring you have a clear purpose are compelling - your business strategy, your health and wellbeing, and your staff's happiness all depend on getting this right.
Join us around the campfire and be inspired to reconnect with your purpose and be a greater force for good. Our new leadership development programme of immersive activities and reflection for business founders, owners, and leaders starts in March 2019.
Find out more about Leading with Purpose.