The almighty dollar is always important and what keeps the doors of a business open and operating, but it takes more than that these days to define success in the eyes of employees and customers alike.
Purpose vs. profit has become less of just a tense battle and more of an expectation and deliberate dance with a willing partner.
In fact, new and existing employees and the customer base are the main drivers behind the movement in companies to specify a purpose through a thoughtful, well-researched, collaborative approach that will lead to increased profits.
Think of companies that could provide and buy supplies from any number of vendors, but choose companies with a demonstrated philanthropic heart and then reap the residual goodwill benefits as an affiliated partner. For example, there are multiple restaurants offering “chicken fingers” as a menu item. Raising Cane’s named its company after the founder’s actual dog and offers commemorative plush puppies for sale, donating the net proceeds from plush puppy sales to no-kill shelters and other local pet welfare organizations. They’ve contributed more than $850,000 to worthy causes so far. Does every fast-food restaurant provide you with that opportunity?
And Claire Coder founded Aunt Flow as a teenager after unexpectedly being in need of menstrual products and finding them unavailable where she was at the time. Her company provides 100% organic cotton products to more than 900 brands that in turn offer the products free of charge to their employees and patrons. For every 10 pads and tampons sold, Aunt Flow donates one product to a recipient in need. Companies affiliating with Aunt Flow support women by offering menstrual products for free — just like toilet paper is provided no charge — instead of their having to fiddle for change to feed to a vending machine to dispense the products they need. Supplying free access to these products enables better school attendance, fewer lost work hours and funding for products to maintain their regular routines. Companies offering these products as a vendor partner support a young entrepreneur, are appreciated by female employees and customers, and are benefiting less fortunate women through Aunt Flow’s product donations.
Companies can develop their own template for success by doing some introspective groundwork before pivoting from sheer profit as a goal to one of profit through purpose.
First, think about the impact you want to have, how you’ll direct revenue toward it and how you’ll engage with people to do that. What is it that you really want to do? How will your employees, customers, supporters and distributors stand with you and what is it that they care about?
Also, what has worked for others? Rather than reinventing the wheel, put your own spin on it. Look at what others have done in similar industries or circumstances and make it your own in a way that is authentic for your company.
Next, how will the core business you are operating benefit from a purpose-driven approach? You don’t want to elevate one aspect while sabotaging another. You’ll need to be able to sustain sales to sustain the business while you’re aligning your company’s values with your purpose-driven efforts. Where is there a need you can address that will provide fulfillment to the associates assisting your endeavor, making them excited and proud to be affiliated with a company that gets it?
Make sure the purpose campaign can be ongoing, versus a one-and-done aspect. Perhaps it is an annual event that people look forward to all year. Or maybe your company encourages personal philanthropy by providing paid time off for one afternoon each month so individual associates can pursue their community passions, providing a log of their hours to contribute to a company annual report of civic involvement pride.
Finally, bring everything into focus. Prepare a societal purpose strategy that makes sense for your company. Refresh and develop your brand to reflect this in a logical, heartfelt sense. Welcome your workforce into a purpose-driven culture that helps retain them, using tools to elevate societal impact, along with aligned partners and advisers.
The vast majority of customers – 87 percent – said before the pandemic arrived that they would patronize companies and purchase products with a shared purpose, which could lead to a better business result, contribute to future success and enhance competition. Those sentiments have only become stronger now.
Utilize the strengths of the generations you have access to in your workplace to understand consumer behavior, too. Older workers may be more established and secure, while younger generations may lead the way in providing inspiration with an amplified need for empowerment, meaning and the expectation that these values become ingrained in the workplace.
Companies that respond, refine and demonstrate a willingness to grow have a greater likelihood to succeed when allowing a stated purpose to enhance and drive profit instead of considering profit a standalone goal. They’ll be seen as having a greater commitment to social issues, which can lead to a greater competitive advantage and an empowered workforce more likely to be fulfilled and remain.