Purpose beyond profit

There’s more to good business than just making a buck, writes Jane Stevenson. A whole lot more!

Most businesses have a deep and abiding love affair with profit. They measure it, report on it, build strategies to maximise it. But business’ purpose is beyond your product and the profit you make – true purpose is always human.

Companies spend too much time talking internally about profit and externally about products. Consumers, however, aren’t motivated by what a company produces nor by how much money it makes. We expect companies to make good stuff and deliver good service. What also matters is that companies treat their employees well – never discount the value of making someone feel special. People care that your brand works to protect the environment, that they’re ethical and that they’re transparent about what they do and how they do it. 

But even more important than how a company operates is why it exists in the first place. When asked that question, far too many business people answer by reverting to a familiar business blurb, such as “to deliver returns to our shareowners” or “to sell more products.” 

Do you have clarity on why your company exists?

What also matters is that companies treat their employees well – never discount the value of making someone feel special.

These lines no longer work. People expect companies to possess a purpose beyond profits. And it is this purpose that – when articulated and placed at the center of a brand experience that builds trust and establishes connections – keeps a business relevant.

Look at it another way. For decades, marketers have focused on satisfying two critical basic consumer needs with brand propositions: rationality and emotional need. I believe a third is evolving: a societal need.

When a brand or company demonstrates that it is improving lives and impacting society positively, purchase intent increases as does loyalty and advocacy.

One great example is US brand Zappos, it has revolutionised business, changed lives and has a reputation for great service, culture and delivering happiness. In a nutshell, the company has forged a team with diverse strengths, the leadership team has the courage to do what is they think is right, and they possess passion, determination and humility.

Zappos has five key principles as a company:

  • Serve a perfect fit
  • Make it effortlessly swift
  • Get personal
  • Constantly stretch yourself
  • Play well (play to win!)

At the end of the day, all the key factors for their growth points to having a great culture.

Do you have clarity on why your company exists?

There’s another less publicly focused but equally important initiative as well — employee engagement. Take HP’s decision to centre its turnaround on its employees and showcase how its technologies make a difference to people around the world.

This focus on building a purpose-based culture with employees at the center proves to be a powerful tool for recruitment — and a measurable way to improve employee satisfaction, loyalty and productivity.

So, when speaking about profits, take a moment to talk also about purpose. And that purpose is human.

– Jane Stevenson is the Strategic Director at Magnetic Storm