It's Time to Move Forward Through Purpose

Look No Further Than Your Roots

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Companies today are in a constant state of flux -- reinventing themselves to stay in touch with a fickle public, trying to keep up with ever-changing technologies and expanding their scale to reach new audiences across the globe. With these changes comes the challenge of defining business, establishing brand identity and finding your brand voice, each of which are especially difficult if you're looking to expand your business to new markets.

In today's disruptive business environment, business leaders are forced to shape their visions and execute according to predictions of the future to stay competitive -- allowing estimates and hunches to dictate their outcomes. Essentially, they often look outside the brand for guidance. However, this path is riddled with uncertainty so instead, companies looking to grow and expand into new markets should start by looking within and establishing a clear brand purpose. Long-term success is contingent on this defined purpose - one that an organization can rally around and keep at the heart of their every day business.

But in a world where leaders are constantly pulled in different directions, striving to satisfy shareholders and consumers alike, how do you build and define your purpose? Here are three ways to start:

Get to the Root of Your Purpose
Take the time to understand your past, the people, industry innovations and social norms that have gotten you to your current state. Understand why the company started, what motivated the founders, who they were, what they liked, what they hated.

Many great brands that understand their founding purpose find, in their own way, a means of solving problems greater than their own business objectives. In fact, revered marketer Jim Stengel's study in partnership with Millward Brown revealed that brands centering their business around ideals -- or purpose -- to improve people's lives resonate more with consumers and outperform their category competitors.

I can't help but think that Volkswagen's current woes are a result of their purpose being lost somewhere along the chain of command with their bid for sales results overtaking the company. As the embattled brand dusts itself off, it must commit itself to living their purpose, otherwise public trust will never be regained. Their recent "We're Working to Make Things Right" campaign is a step in the right direction, but to really make a full comeback and regain their position, the company must transparently commit to the standards their brand was originally built upon.

Make it relevant in the modern world
Of course we can't live in the past. As norms change, so too must you refresh how you live and express your purpose as the parameters of the modern day business world evolve.

This isn't a new idea. In fact, some of the most beloved and recognized brands have stood the tests of time due to an unwavering commitment to their purpose. Nike and Apple are two examples that come to mind. Both companies have weathered drastic changes to their business environment, including the rise of an online, connected society and the impact of globalization. Nike is deeply involved in totally different sports now than when it started and Apple now makes a range of products that were not conceivable in the company's early days. Yet both iconic brands are thriving as a result of their commitment to purpose even while their businesses and the world changed around them.

Be brave enough to live it
And finally, you must live and breathe your purpose every day; from the people you hire to the benefits you offer, to the way the company behaves. This also means being choiceful in all aspects of your business. Companies who live their truth must be comfortable saying no to business opportunities that are misaligned to purpose, even when revenue is on the line.

The good news is that if you're committed to living out your company purpose through your own actions as a leader and through a demonstrable sense of integrity, chances are you will acquire and develop a talent base that will follow suit, creating a self-reinforcing high-performance and trusting culture. Mr. Stengel's top businesses in his ten-year-growth study generated a 400% ROI over those on the Standard & Poor's 500 due to their intrinsic focus on operating purpose. In this transparent, brand-savvy world, companies must remember that two of the most powerful ingredients to business success are purpose and integrity.

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