Outsourcing

A well-defined purpose is fundamental to success

John M McKee discusses a critical tool for success that's not used as often as it should be in most organizations.

 "This is surprising. I have an MBA from one of the top schools and was previously in a business development role with one of the largest consulting firms in the world. I think I'm a fairly smart guy. I have a lot of real world experience. So why am I calling a coach for help?"

The speaker was a client who has decided to start his own business. He is indeed a very smart guy. As the head of his department in a very large multinational banking organization, he has a lot of background. He has worked successfully with many organizations nationwide. And consequently, he surprised himself when he decided it was time to reach out to me.

He was stuck and needed some outside perspective. While creating his business plan, he'd started losing momentum. Seemingly "simple" questions he was asking himself about his new business were stumping him. When he asked himself about his "target market," he stalled. While attempting to determine his strategic plan, pricing strategy, and marketing concepts, he found he couldn't move forward. Although he'd helped other companies and other departments internally with this type of work, for some reason he was not able to clearly define his business plan. He asked, "What's holding me back?"

So we spent a fair amount of time discussing the details of his plan, the "whys" behind his decision to set up his own business, and the timing of his decision. But the answer came when I asked him to tell me about his new company's purpose -- What was the reason for this company to even exist? Why should it succeed? Those questions helped us move forward. Since then he's created what he believes to be a very solid business plan for his new company.

I believe that having a well-defined purpose is fundamental to optimal success, for both individuals and organizations of any size. And, while I accept that many individuals can be successful without defining their purpose, they won't become as successful as they would otherwise. In the case of organizations, the lack of a well-defined and widely embraced purpose will shorten their life spans and limit their ultimate success.

Companies often misunderstand the differences between a mission and a purpose. Anyone who has ever read a mission statement at the local fast food place knows how hollow these statements can be, but a statement of purpose can be directional. It will help ensure the organization has the best talent. It will drive decisions surrounding budgets, marketing, and other key factors surrounding success.

One of the better books on this subject was written by the guy who helped create Purpose Statements for some very successful organizations, including Wal-Mart, Southwest Airlines, and BMW. The book, by Roy M, Spence Jr., is an easy read -- it's also available as an audio book for those who prefer to put their commuting time to good use.

The rationale for defining a purpose is just as valid for individuals: If you haven't defined your purpose, it's very likely you are not as successful as you may otherwise become. I always tell my clients that a good personal Purpose Statement will guide them during times of duress. It will help them make the best decisions affecting their career, their personal life, and their financial issues. According to our research, only about 15 percent of the population takes the time to create this and tie it to those other factors common to all successful plans.

My questions for those who don't take the time to define their purpose and plan are: "Are you fully satisfied with your life so far? Is it likely to change at this stage? Is leaving your future in the hands of a corporation or other people a smart decision today?

Here's to your future.

john

Leadership Coach

About

John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

15 comments
ericolson
ericolson

John McKee: We could have used an example of a purpose statement! Exactly how is it different from a mission statement?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Yes. It helps explain the profound limp after blowing a foot off , again....

CareerCoach
CareerCoach

The most successful people and organizations are clear about it.

gerhardh
gerhardh

Most companies I've come across in nearly 30 years of work life were/are there to be profitable, to earn their owners good money. About 10 years ago, suddenly a vision and mission statement appeared to be a key requirement for any organisation with a wish to survive. I always considered this either a nice try of camouflage or an expensive pastime for management consultants, but of no real use at all. Sorry to say that, but so far, I've read nothing in your blog that makes me think any different about this purpose thing.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Have a [i]personal[/i] statement? One of them is prerequisite to one of those.

PMPsicle
PMPsicle

There is only one company who's purpose is to make money ... a mint (yeah, the guys who manufacturer money). Although you could argue (if you were an economist) that banks are in that business too. Making money is a way to keep score. It comes as a result of the purpose your company is about. Yes, all companies need to make money. That's why profit fits into vision and mission statements. But the purpose is much more fundamental and at a much more basic level. It defines what the company is attempting to do to make a profit. When used well it isn't subject to the politics and game playing of a mission statement, and it helps focus the organization on it's core business. Glen Ford, PMP http://www.TrainingNOW.ca http://www.LearningCreators.com/blog

Edward D
Edward D

In my opinion, part of the failure of capitalism to promote a good society (that is, a society in which humans are nutured) is that money is too often the primary or even sole purpose of enterprise. If a company goal is to make good shirts, then striving to improve the product tends to lead to better sales. One expects a business to earn income by intention, but not necessarily to rape, pillage, and burn along the way. (Credit must be given to Alan Watts for the original statement of this philosophy, at least for my source.) The current corporate excuse is that stock holders must profit from all corporate actions. When this is the primary goal, then being a good corporate citizen, or even being as asset to the planet, may not even be on the company RADAR. The lack of ethical action in corporations and government are, again in my opinion, a major failure of businesss and politics. People share the planet, not only with other people, but with all life. Destructive practices are too easily justified by policies of corporate greed. ...my 2 cents...

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

Seems to me that having a purpose which focuses you on your core business MAKES you more money. Lots of business has failed because "Make Mo' Money" as your purpose is too broad to realize efficent leverage of resources and capital.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

there's more to life than money. Corporate purpose may be to make money, but what is your purpose? Or do you limit yourself to corporate purpose?

aholthouse
aholthouse

Well not all organisations are out there to make money. Government, not-for-profit, other community organisations all benefit from a vision and mission statement.

alistair.k
alistair.k

To extend a little - there are a hundred places which are trying to sell me shirts. I don't need a hundred shirts, or if I do I don't need a hundres suppliers... How do I chose which to buy my shirt from? This is where their product development, marketting, branding, quality control, retail model, etc. all comes into play and this is the sort of thing which is derived from "mission" "values" and "purpose". All the shirt businesses want to make money, sure, but some are doing well, some are going bust.

santeewelding
santeewelding

For instance, moving and doing without respect to money.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I've only been exposed to a few. As a customer, I understand companies are trying to make money. Don't hand me a line of fertilizer about your mission being anything but. As an employee, I've never seen one that aided me in doing my job. As a shareholder, I've never seen one that acknowledges the company goal is to make money for me. Maybe I don't understand the value of them, or how to get value from them. I don't have "the vision thing".

santeewelding
santeewelding

They are left by the wayside of human dynamics.

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