Whether barely making payroll or busting at the seams with new demand (lucky you), business leaders are all surviving in a constant state of change and the fog of the unknown.
Through the pandemic fog, all businesses need to motivate employees, attract customers, and communicate how and why they’re making necessary changes.
One way to get more streamlined and impactful, is centering all these efforts on one larger company purpose. For the most part, it’s not creating “new” things to do but applying a powerful lens on the business decisions and actions already underway.
Purpose is the larger, more emotional benefit your business brings the world: customers, employees, and community. Sure, a plumber is there to fix leaks and drips, but a larger purpose might be to help neighbors feel safely in control of their homes, or to become a sunny spot for otherwise “wet” days. Consultancies do great work at crafting purpose statements, but you know your business … you can identify your own.
So, Tweak One is: CONCISELY DEFINE WHY YOU’RE IN BUSINESS. What emotional and functional impact does your company have on the world? What does your company solve that no other business does because it’s rooted in your history, your values, your core strengths, your customer relationships? What greater value do your employees contribute that makes them feel a sense of joy in their work beyond quality execution?
If you want an easy-to-follow guide on this process, I recommend the 2018 Conscious Capitalism Field Guide. (I have no stake in it, I’m just a died-in-the-wool Conscious Capitalism advocate.)
Tweak Two: Use purpose to ALIGN YOUR PEOPLE AND CULTURE. Inspire and motivate your people to feel greater reason and joy for their work. Celebrate company milestones and innovations that advance it. Use it in your company and job descriptions. Onboard and train staff on how to deliver; include purpose-oriented metrics in performance reviews. This will perpetuate positive energy to fuel your people who – research shows – are struggling with the emotional impacts of the pandemic.
Thirdly: FOCUS THE BUSINESS ON DELIVERING. Tweak service approaches, supply chain relationships and business systems to reflect it. If you shift business lines to meet demand, frame new commitments in this purpose. If you must communicate bad news, explain how your hard decisions and pivots will help the company survive to continue serving this purpose to the world. Once focused on this vision, it becomes a prioritizing lens for business decisions.
Fourth: USE IT AS A COMPETITIVE DIFFERENTIATOR. Your marketing and communications should explain it to customers. Tell stories of how your business has lived this purpose and what the benefits are to them. Invite them to share ways you can innovate and deliver it better. Once customers and other external stakeholders are engaged at an emotional level, their loyalty and advocacy will also increase. After all, which plumber would you rather call and recommend, the one making days sunnier, or the one who just gets the job done?
Finally, LIVE IT EXTERNALLY. Your customers and neighbors are hurting. Consider purpose-centered ways to help them (and – ahem – build awareness and loyalty). Choose causes to support or fund that reflect your values and beliefs. Invite customers, neighbors, employees to act with you, bringing mutual joy rooted in your purpose.
If your purpose — using the hypotheticals — is to help neighbors feel safely in control of their homes, perhaps you support the neighborhood crime watch or sponsor a local class in new homeowner education. If your purpose is to be a sunny spot in otherwise wet days, volunteer to build a covered walkway at the elementary school’s uncovered carpool drop-off.
Throughout this process, you will draw stakeholders into your sphere, build trust by demonstrating your intentions, and energize people to be advocates for you.
And who doesn’t need more people advocating for their business now?