Archive for September, 2012

What is the purpose of your business?

Posted in Community, innovation on September 7, 2012 by Geir Stene

I posted this question on twitter the other day. And I got answers! Great answers, quite a few answers too.

People were curious. The reason for asking was to better understand what motivates people for running and/ or being in the business they are. Is it the cash, or is there something more to it ?

My followers asked me if I would give them some feedback on what I learned. I’ll summarize in this article.

First: I would like to thank every one of you. I’m humble and very grateful for the honesty and engagement you showed me! Thanks!

Your feedback
The ones that first answered came from small businesses and entrepreneurs.  “The purpose of my business is to get people out”, (with a hashtag #health included) one said. I didn’t quite get it, until I understood that he’s working with outdoor life professionally. Then it all became very clear.

“Your idea is value for us – and helps us provide better health care for you” another said, working with innovation in the public health care.

Also people from large companies and organization answered. One said: “We will create enduring value and leave clear footprints” this statement became a short discussion between twitters, where the CEO clarified by explaining:  “footprints is not meant as monuments, but businesses, systems, environments, management teams who are self-motivated and value-added”.

“Our business is to make people richer on knowledge”, “The purpose of our organization is to provide equal opportunities to unequal (unique) individuals”. I got many other great answers. I have to include this one from one of Norways Police chiefs: “The purpose of my business is to ensure that you and your family feel secure. This way you can spend your energy on making the most out of your business.”

Yes. I also got the obvious answers from several, one said: “If you run a commercial business, it is a lie if one states a different purpose than to create profits for the owners, in my eyes.”

As a consultant I would love to have you all as my customers! This is great answers, and not as vague as most “Vision, mission, vishy- washy statements” I have had to read, not getting anything out of it, over the years!

Lately I’ve noticed that a lot of companies have purposes that go beyond themselves and the “race for profit”. Some companies have purposes that leads to, in some or the other manner; improve something beside their own revenue stream. For some the focus is on a large scale, like improving society. For others it’s about improving or ease individuals life. I’ve also noticed that many of these companies are very successful.

This makes sense to me.
I watched the TED talk  by Simon Sinek where he states:

“People doesn’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it!”

He continues and says something that (you who answered my little questionnaire on twitter) should make you proud of yourselves:

 “If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.” 

We can say the same thing about organizations. A company that is focused only on providing their owners with a profit, I believe is more likely not to take their customers unsolved problems as serious. The “reward” will be unfaithful customers, and declining market shares. “People doesn’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it!”

How to do this?
Well, companies need to clarify why they are in business, then they need to know how to do this in a manner that make a difference to people. Some companies are obsessed with growth, and have forgotten to see the real purpose they have in society and that the only thing worthwhile is to help improving life. We can listen to Umair Haque. In one word he points out how to make a difference:


He says: “Scale is a solved problem. We know how to do stuff at very, very large scale, if by stuff you mean “churning out the same widget, a billion times over”. What we don’t know how to do is the opposite of scaling up: scaling down an institution, to make a difference to a human life. Lives are singular; and for institutions to truly matter in human terms, they must go beyond the homogeneous, to the singular.”  (read the article in  Harvard Business  Review,  Umair Haque is Director of Havas Media Labs)

I believe that from most of the answers I got from twitter, there is a lot of people out there, that are doing just this every day; some of you have gone beyond homogeneous, to the singular in the way you act and how you do your work!

What is your opinion? I would be happy for any comments, just hit “comment”below.