When people start companies, one of the first things they are told to do is to create a mission statement. In a wayward world, it is a point of focus, something to which a founder can always return.
But these days, a mission statement is not enough. Companies need to be more than a profit apparatus. Companies need to have a purpose. In order to achieve that purpose, leaders must shape a company’s culture. And then that culture will define a company’s brand.
At the same time, buyers want to associate themselves with brands that stand for good. Fifty-five percent of global online consumers across 60 countries say they are willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact, according to a 2014 study by Nielsen.
Maybe that is a reason why so many companies see the benefits of this approach in their bottom lines. Fifty-eight percent of companies with a clearly articulated purpose said they experienced growth of 10% or more over the past three years, according to a study by Harvard Business Review and the EY Beacon Institute. And 75% of executives at organizations that adopt purpose-led practices said that integration of purpose creates value in the short term and over time.
I’ve always believed that leading with purpose is not only a motivator in the buyer’s journey, but also a great motivator for teams. People want to know their efforts are part of a bigger, more meaningful picture.
Even if you’re not a major multinational company like SAP, you have the power to inspire and build purpose into your company’s framework and reap the social and business benefits. Here are five points to keep in mind as you think about creating or enriching your company’s purpose:
- Be the kind of company employees believe in. A purpose-led company takes care of home first. I’m extremely proud of the fact that SAP this year made the Fortune 100 List of “Best Places to Work.” This list is near and dear to my heart. It’s not about revenue and stock price. It’s about people. I think it’s no coincidence that last year we were named #20 on the top 100 Most Purposeful Brands in the World list. The two go hand-in-hand. You don’t want to be known for your great value or products while having a negative reputation as an employer. Believe it or not, this can impact your bottom line. Even as an SMB, there’s no limit to the incentives you can offer that provide meaningful benefits to employees. Consider flexible work arrangements or education reimbursement, for example.
- Commit to consistency. Becoming a purpose-led company is not a campaign. It’s not one of your quarterly initiatives. It’s about rethinking how and – more importantly – why you do business. Make sure you’re ready for this commitment before you head down this road; you will need to embrace this as a business practice. Discuss the new direction with your team to garner engagement and support. Listen to their ideas.
- Put your dollars to work through sponsorship. Whether it’s the environment, education, local organizations, or even disease research, there are a number of causes you can get involved with in your community that will fit any-sized budget. Sponsor a softball team. Sign your company up for an annual cancer awareness walk. Rally around a cause that has personally impacted someone in your firm. Connect with a local organization working with high school students and offer mentorship or a scholarship. The possibilities are endless to do the right thing and make a difference and an impact.
- Find the human element in your customer stories. What’s your line of business? Food supplier? Maker of organic clothing? Government services provider? No matter what you do, you are creating a positive impact in the world. So share your stories. For example, if you are an SAP partner, you’re helping companies run better and smarter every day. You’re facilitating your customers’ ability to create a positive impact in the world. You too, can share those stories. This is actually how a new innovation awareness initiative, SAP Innovations4Good, was born. Partner Marketing director Ashley Tully had the opportunity to witness technology we’ve been working on that will help shape and improve the world. Her visit to our labs was so inspirational that she decided to create a platform to share stories of SAP and partners’ innovations with others.
- Create a corporate culture of service. Along with your own company-led efforts, you can put initiatives in place to support your employees as they serve. Many companies, like Deloitte, for example, offer paid time off for employees to participate in projects of their own choosing. You can also start a matching gift program, where you match your employees’ individual charitable donations. Think about integrating service activities into company events and celebrations.
Becoming a purpose-led company takes some “soul searching.” But it’s essential to the process. Your customers will be able to tell if you’re just jumping on the bandwagon. And before your purposeful initiatives get rolling, don’t forget to create a solid communications plan. Spread the word on social media. Document your volunteerism. Gather employee testimonials. Create a new tab on your website. After all, the world needs to know about all the good you’re doing.
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