The Story of the Missing Why
When we found our missing Why, it was a beautiful moment. We celebrated with lemon meringue. We had known our How and What for some time, but our core belief, our reason we exist, our North Star, our purpose had taken a backseat as we busied ourselves with the work of reinventing our company. Lesson quickly learnt is that your Why will only afford you the grace to go so far before it becomes a “Have to Have” as opposed to a “Nice to Have” that lives on page 3 of your brand bible. So why does it matter, what does it look like and how did we find ours?
Why prioritise your company’s purpose?
A purpose-driven company, as Deloitte defines it, is one that has “an important objective that creates meaningful impact for stakeholders.” These stakeholders can be customers, employees, communities and investors.
Meaningful impact. It has to be relevant, it has to resonate and people should respond. Simon Sinek explains it this way: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” He uses the oft-cited Apple brand:
What they do: make computers
How do they do it: Beautifully designed, intuitive, easy to use
Why do they do it: Because they exist to challenge the status quo.
It’s the last reason that their customers are fans. That they are loyal beyond reason. They wear that Apple logo like a badge or even tattoo. Because they align themselves with why Apple does what they do. They share the same sentiment of thinking differently, of challenging the norm, of casting the rules aside. This translates to sustained market share. Tick.
Awareness of your company’s purpose also has a direct impact on employee engagement and leadership confidence, which in turn has a positive effect on productivity and profit. A new survey from Deloitte shows that 73 percent of employees who say they work at a “purpose-driven” company are engaged, compared to just 23 percent of those who don’t. And 91 percent of leaders at purpose-driven companies felt their companies would strengthen or maintain their brand in the next 5-10 years.
What are the traits of a good company purpose?
Be true to yourself. Your purpose doesn’t have to be unique. IKEA and JetBlue share very similar purposes but this does not have a negative impact on their company culture or bottom line. Because their purpose is true to who they are. One provides low cost furniture, the other low-cost flights but they both believe in bettering people’s lives every day. Your loyal customers will weather the storm with you but break their trust and they will leave you. Don’t market your belief as one thing but act in a contrary manner. Case in point, brand Tiger Woods. He should have just owned “the bad boy of golf”, his endorsements wouldn’t have suffered because he was the best at what he did. But he lied and the fans fled.
Your purpose cannot be left on the flipchart. It has to infiltrate everything you do, internally and externally. From who you employ to who you attract to your brand to your services and products. If you employ people who believe what you believe, they will never work for a paycheck a day in their lives.
Our company’s purpose
At WWC, we exist to realise potential. How did we get to our Why?
First, we looked at our history – we have always been a company of humble but ambitious people that believe in our ability to empower people and use technology to grow, to become better, to unlock opportunities. Then the next truth we articulated was grounded in a present insight, that we come to work because we want the same for brands and their people. We want to partner with them to be the best version of themselves. This is what makes us tick. We know that people are happier and live more fulfilled lives when they are realising their potential and purpose. At work, people are more engaged and more productive. And the same for companies – stakeholders benefit from increased profit and customers benefit from brands delivering an optimal product or service.
So then we combined our Why of “realising potential” with our How and What and our purpose read like this:
We are a people and tech company that realises potential. This is why we come to work every day, to help unlock growth in a connected world.* At WWC, we do this through change management and product innovation.
*MIT Research shows digitally mature companies are 51% more profitable and employees are 15% more engaged.
And as I ate my slice of lemon meringue, I thanked lemons for realising their potential in this amazing pie, but I also thought of the words of my high school English teacher. He once told us that his greatest fear was that when he died, his epitaph would read: He died with potential.