The True Purpose of Your Business

There have been significant and impactful changes in the world in just the last few decades: the collapse of communism, the fall of Berlin Wall, the invention of Internet and a continual rise in transparency and the free media.

Raj Sisodia, professor of Global Business at Babson College, defines this time as the “Era of Transcendence”.

In this context, people are looking for a life beyond material consumption and are focusing on ideas such as the purpose of their lives and how these aspects relate to one another.

We now have Generations X and Y who have experienced these significant world changes and are in a process of changing values, and the Millennials, who were born in an age in which meaning and engagement are very important.

Organizations must now pursue and express their own purpose to adapt to the evolving consumer.

Purpose is the reason for the existence of an organization.

A business’s purpose must be more than simply earning money; it must be what the organization wants to change in the society in which it is embedded. These purposeful companies are working to build meaningful connections with their employees in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Providing services such as daycare and elder care;
  • Encouraging employees to form discussion groups on corporate spirit issues;
  • Paying a living wage;
  • Instilling everyone with sense of purpose.

Additionally, consumers are also increasingly engaged with businesses they care about; in a digital society, people are no longer simply consumers but, rather, co-creators. Today’s consumers do not behave just as passive members of the audience. They are active members of the community and feel the need to engage with, and influence others.

A business’s purpose must be shared so customers also feel connected.

Joey Reiman, founder of BrightHouse, defines the purpose of the organization as the original idea of the founders in creating their company, the reason for which it exists. However, these ideals may be lost over time due to changes in the management and the aggressiveness of the market. Therefore it is often necessary to revisit the origin of the organization to determine the company’s initial purpose and bring it back.

Keep in mind that many organizations confuse purpose with mission, specific goals or business strategies. While the purpose must remain unchanged and unattainable, guiding the company, the other aspects must be achievable and change with relative frequency,  seeking to make the company adapt to the moment of the market.

David Packard, co-founder of HP, said in a speech in 1960: “Although the purpose does not change over time, it inspires change. The fact that the purpose can not be fully achieved means that the organization will never stop stimulating change and progress.”

Business mission versus purposeIt’s important to note that some barriers are encountered during the implementation of a  purpose-oriented business strategy. Many companies believe that a sense of shared purpose would be beneficial, but this conflicts with other factors, such as the short-term pressure of shareholder profit, systems and infrastructure that are not aligned with the pursuit of a long-term purpose, and the lack of indicators and incentives aligned with the vision of a strategy focused on purpose.

We are living in a time where old paradigms in society are starting to break, and organizations are following suit. Despite all the pressures of the traditional system, many companies have already been pursuing a larger purpose and have experienced results, such as an increase  in the trust which people have with these companies, in addition to the relationship that companies have with society and the environment as a whole.

The process of purpose may be a step which is difficult to take, but it is necessary for businesses to thrive in the world today.

We’re interested in hearing your thoughts about this evolution. Please leave a comment below or send us an email:

Recommended reading: 

Mackey, J. and Sisodia, R., 2014. Conscious capitalism, with a new preface by the authors: Liberating the heroic spirit of business. Harvard Business Review Press.

Author: Lucas Francato
A great enthusiast of entrepreneurship and small business, Lucas is fascinated by organizational culture, change management and conscious business.

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