Be purpose-driven from the start to create a valuable brand!
The majority of entrepreneurs have written a “Vision and Mission Statement”. Perhaps even hung it up in the reception or somewhere else in the office to remind customers and ourselves why we are spending most of our lives working to make our startup a success.
Do you ever stop and reflect over the real reason that you started your company? What is the ultimate purpose of the business? Is it to make ‘loadsamoney’, get on the front-page of Forbes, have ‘bragging-rights’ in the Valley, fixing a problem that’s been bugging you, or just prove to yourself (or someone else) that you can actually do it?
In any event, when the motivation is strong and the vision is clear, we will do whatever it takes to achieve our goals. These two factors combined are not just important for your own personal energy levels but also for your team and co-workers. This energy and clear organisational vision will attract commitment and encourage your team to follow you as their leader, together facing all the challenges of your startup succeeding.
You must truly believe and love what you are doing. So much so that you will dedicate your life to reaching your company´s goals. If you don´t feel this way then you probably won´t succeed.
Bill Gates once proclaimed his vision in the 80’s: “a PC in every home” which laid ground to today’s reality of a computer in every pocket (i.e. the Smartphone). Marc Zuckerberg had a vision already back in 2005 of “connecting the world”. Today Facebook has over 1.7bn active monthly users! So was that the end of the road for them or the start of their real purpose in life?
After Bill Gates stepped down as Chairman of Microsoft, he and his wife Melinda started the world’s largest private foundation. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation sees equal value in all lives and are dedicated to improving the quality of life for individuals around the world. Their initiatives focus on poverty, healthcare and economic empowerment. To date, the foundation has committed more than US $3 Billion in HIV grants to organizations around the world and more than US $1.6 Billion to the Global Fund to fight AIDs, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Marc Zuckerberg recently announced that he wants to donate $3bn to rid the world of all disease within the next 80 years. Many more successful entrepreneurs are showing the same willingness to “give-back” to society once they have become hugely wealthy.
But do we have to wait to become insanely rich to have a purpose to positively impact the world that we live in?
How about having a social impact right from the start! Why not think about how your technology can help people live a better life and make it part of your business plan from the get-go instead of just an “after-thought”?
Can you go beyond the traditional vision & mission to state a purpose that goes beyond making money?
I believe that ‘change makers’ that improve people’s lives typically build a strong brand and fan base that are happy to pay a premium to buy their products and be part of a bigger purpose. They paint a picture of the future and challenge the status quo. Customers of these companies tend to act as a tribe or ambassadors, endorsing their products whenever they can. A good example of this is Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of electrical car manufacturer Tesla Motors, space rocket company SpaceX and solarpanel company SolarCity (now merging with Tesla). There seems to be no limit to Elon Musk’s vision for how humans will live and move in the future, including building a human colony on Mars or the Hyperloop high speed terrestial transport project, all with zero carbon footprint!
So maybe we can’t all have the grand vision and purpose of Elon Musk, but we can certainly think bigger than just turning a profit.
The co-founder of Swedish unicorn fintech company Klarna, Niklas Adalberth, recently left his operational role at Klarna to set up the Norrsken Foundation. This foundation has the sole focus of investing in for-profit tech startups with a clear purpose of social impact. The Norrsken foundation is also setting up what will become the biggest incubator in Europe for social impact startups, right in the centre of the tech-buzzing Stockholm. I find this initiative both impressive and inspirational, demonstrating that these startup purposes are driving their vision and mission statements from the word “go”!
Another great example of social impact investing is Accion, where their vision is to build a financially inclusive world – one in which every individual has access to high-quality, affordable financial services.
It is not always obvious for all startups that their technology or service can be used to bring about a positive social impact. But this should not stop ventures having a bigger purpose beyond just making money selling their products and services.
In some cases, it could be as simple as donating 1% of the top-line revenue to a favourite charity, and even invite your customers to match your donation. It could be that you allow your staff to carve out a few paid hours per month to mentor and coach other unemployed people in the community that are in need of support. As a software company, you might want to teach new skills like coding web, develop mobile apps and how to use social media to both youngsters and unemployed.
Maybe you will also make it your purpose to hire disadvantaged or disabled individuals as part of your HR strategy, to create an inclusive community culture and create powerful diversity of skills with passion for doing good.
At Elevera Advisers we are passionate about social impact. We have mentored and supported African entrepreneurs for many years through the Afriversity Trust and it has not only brought tremendous satisfaction to everyone involved, but also helped many small business owners to get online and grow their businesses in extremely challenged environments. It has also generated a lot of great business connections that we otherwise would never have gained.
So if you agree with all of this but wonder how to articulate your own purpose, here’s a practical step-by-step exercise that was taught to me by my good friend and authentic leadership coach Neil Crofts:
- Draw three circles that overlap
- In the first one you write what you love doing
- In the second circle you write what problem in the world you would love to solve
- In the third circle you write what you are really good at (don’t be shy or modest!)
The intersection of these three circles is your natural Purpose space!
This is where you are most likely to find motivation, passion and energy to work those long hours to reach your purpose. And people will follow you as they see the glow in your eyes when you talk about what you want to change in the world. They want to be part of that energy, that force and movement towards a new and better world!
Of course you can end up with many ‘candidates’ in each circle but you can start ranking them and you’ll start getting an idea of what you were naturally born to do! Don’t be afraid to also ask friends and colleagues that know you intimately and you have a long trusted relationship with what they think. Often people from the outside know you better than yourself!
I truly believe that having a purpose beyond the obvious goals of providing a great product or service, as well as generating profit, actually improves your chances of success.
But it has to come from the inside. From your heart! And then it will become part of the company’s culture that will beat any strategy that your brain will come up with.
Remember, a true purpose is not a PR trick or just adding a CSR page on the company website. As a founder and CEO you have an opportunity to generate an authentic feel-good culture in your company by articulating your purpose first, and then the vision & mission statement will follow naturally, as will your employees and customers!
With Purpose-inspired Love