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«It’s Not What You sell, It’s What You staNd For Why Every Extraordinary Business Is Driven By Purpose Roy M. Spence, Jr. with Haley Rushing WHAT ...»

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In Texas, when people talk a good game but have nothing to back it up, we say, “That cowboy is all hat and no cattle.” In business, you want to have the cattle.

Historically, branding was pretty simple. Company X launched a product that offered a new and improved version of something, and the brand simply embodied what that product promised to do. Simple. But as the marketplace grew increasingly crowded— overpopulated with similar brands doing similar things for similar audiences—companies turned to advertising agencies to manufacture a meaningful difference on their behalf.

When companies don’t have anything substantive to say and their product or service is relatively ordinary, they often rely on advertising to create an image they hope will add value to their brand. (Create the big ol’ hat to create the illusion of being a cowboy.) And it may for a while. But Paul Higham, the retired marketing director at Wal-Mart who we worked with for almost a decade, always reminded us that the best advertising in the world will not save a mediocre company.

The company has to have something of genuine value to offer to consumers.

This is not rocket science. It’s common sense. If you tell consumers one thing in your marketing, and they experience something entirely different (or something entirely ordinary) when they go to use you, the relationship won’t last long. Your behavior will catch up with you and people will notice.

When you have a purpose at the heart of the company, it will drive the business and ensure that something remarkable is happening with the product or service. The thing about purpose is that it starts with the leaders, works its way through the organization, and finds its way into the products, services, experiences, and, ultimately, into the marketing. If the company is not truly delivering it, the marketing shouldn’t be talking about it.



Let me give you an example of a company trying to fake a purpose.

It happens. But fortunately it doesn’t last. It was the late nineties and energy deregulation was just getting off the ground in Texas— spawning the infamous Enron and a slew of smaller players, one of whom came knocking on the door of our ad agency. At first we were excited about the prospect of helping a company that professed a desire to make a difference not only for the environment but also for the pocketbook of Texans. The harsh reality was that they only wanted us to profess it in the advertising. They didn’t actually want to do business in any meaningful way to support it. They hoped that Texans—being largely uneducated about the intricacies of energy pricing and the challenges of offering truly green energy—wouldn’t notice if the company didn’t actually deliver on their promise. We knew the relationship was over when we were conducting research with people who were interested in switching, and one of the company’s senior leaders said to the focus-group facilitator, “Hey, see if they’ll buy it if we say it like this. It’s actually going to cost them 20 percent more, but I don’t think they’ll figure that out.” It was not hard to make the decision to part ways. For one thing, our agency’s purpose is delivering visionary ideas for clients with a real and genuine purpose. In short, our purpose is to help our clients fulfill their purpose. This company didn’t have one. And second, imagine the futility of trying to build a great brand for a client that’s not making any real difference except to add to the customer’s cost.

The point is, if you profess a desire to have a purpose, what are you going to do to back it up? What are you going to do to make it real? Purpose is rooted in reality. The great purpose-driven organizations that have built great brands in the marketplace did so because they were actually creating products, services, and experiences that made a real difference in the lives of their customers.

What Is a Purpose and Why Should You Want One? 25


“Don’t ever take a job—join a crusade! Find a cause that you can believe in and give yourself to it completely.” —Colleen Barrett, retired president of Southwest Airlines Human beings enjoy spending their time engaged in meaningful work. Unfortunately, work is often the last place they turn to engage in meaningful work. Jim Stengel wanted to change that.

There is a woman that I work with at P&G in Paris who once said to me, “Why is it that P&G people go home at night and on the weekends and do extraordinary things for their communities and other service organizations—but somehow when they come to work, they leave that at home. And what would happen if we invited them to bring that passion to life at work through our brands? What if we could fulfill their need to make an impact and change the world through our brands? What a powerful impact we could make!” And it’s true. Unleashing the people behind the brand in an inspired way—focused on a purpose they can believe in—has just been an unstoppable and positive force.

—Jim Stengel Human beings are a passionate species. We want to engage in meaningful work. So why does the world of work seem so devoid of meaning? Companies that are actively cultivating and communicating the purpose-driven nature of their work are quickly becoming some of the hottest employers in the country.

Healthways is one of the fastest-growing companies in the country today. The company works with health-plan sponsors to create proactive, custom health-care plans to slow disease progression, promote wellness, and, ultimately, cut healthcare costs.

Before you can enter its Nashville headquarters you have to literally walk across its core purpose etched in the floor in front of the main entrance: Creating a healthier world one person at a time.

Healthways President and CEO Ben Leedle, Jr., told us that their purpose has helped them to attract “a certain kind of energetic person.” 26 IT’S NOT WHAT YOU SELL, IT’S WHAT YOU STAND FOR In fact, their purpose is one of the primary reasons why the company debuted on Fortune’s 2008 list of “100 Best Companies to Work For.” At Healthways we focus every day on making a difference for more than 26 million individuals around the world by helping them be as healthy as they can be. We are able to impact the lives of the people we touch by attracting and retaining the best and brightest talent from around the world and then creating an environment where they can thrive. Healthways colleagues join our company because of our purpose and are collectively committed to what we believe is our obligation to succeed. Our colleagues’ passion to achieve this higher purpose makes Healthways a great place to work.

Working in the service of a higher purpose attracts highly energetic and highly motivated people to your organization.

Sometimes, you don’t even have to pay them.

The game of golf stands for passion, integrity, charity, and sportsmanship. Those values attract more than seventy-five thousand volunteers to donate their time, talent and money to the PGA Tour. Tim

Finchem, the commissioner of the PGA Tour explains it this way:

I am sure there are people who love other sports as much as some people love golf, but in my experience, the people who love golf are the most passionate, not just about the game or its players, but about the qualities the game represents. Integrity, charity, sportsmanship—these traits are important to golf—not just as a “lip service” checklist, but as a prescription for the proper way to play....

Volunteers are the backbone of our tournaments, and are a critical reason why PGA Tour tournaments are able to donate over $100 million to charity each year.

—Tim Finchem (Commissioner blog—PGATour.com) Phyllis Wade is one of those passionate volunteers. She’s almost eighty years old and she’s spent sixty years volunteering for PGA Tour tournaments. At times she’s worked three solid months, taken a brief break, and then worked another month straight. Passionate What Is a Purpose and Why Should You Want One? 27 and committed volunteers like Phyllis save the PGA Tour $26 million a year (assuming minimum wage compensation for fifty-hour weeks).3 Are people drawn to your organization because of what you stand for?

Being clear about your values and purpose will attract people who share your values and feel passionate about the purpose of the organization. It will also create a common bond among employees.

Imagine what the culture of your organization would look like and feel like if everyone had knowingly and intentionally signed up for the purpose at hand. Realize that not everyone may choose to join your team. And ultimately, you wouldn’t want those people in your organization anyway. Better to draw a line in the dirt and see who steps across up front than to find out later in the heat of battle. This “discriminating” factor was noted in a book written almost twenty years

ago on purpose-driven organizations:

When a company defines its purpose, it is with the understanding that anyone from a vice president to an hourly worker might choose to say, “I can’t accept these values. It’s not the game I want to play.” The purpose tells people what they can be a part of. It declares, “Here’s what we’re all about, so you can decide if it’s something you can commit yourself to. We’re not saying you have to be this way. You decide whether or not you want to.” When the organization’s management defines what it will be, it also defines what the organization is not—what opportunities it will pass up. It establishes a screening process in which people either find something meaningful or elect to leave.... The power of a purpose-driven organization comes from everyone in the organization understanding what the organization is all about.4 Once the purpose is established, it’s important to use it as a screening tool in your organization’s recruiting process. Bringing someone on board who is not interested in your purpose or doesn’t believe in it can, at best, demoralize the people around them and, at worst, can begin to derail the purpose altogether (if they’re high enough in the organization).

28 IT’S NOT WHAT YOU SELL, IT’S WHAT YOU STAND FOR On the flip side, when applicants have been drawn to your organization because of your purpose, you’ve just added a level of energy and passion necessary to create a high-performing company.

–  –  –

We all know individuals who speak about their work with great joy and intensity—it’s a major source of their fulfillment in life. These are the people who look forward to Monday mornings as much as most people look forward to Friday afternoons. For others, work is a necessary evil—something to be endured, a source of fatigue and complaints.

What makes the difference? Is the joyful experience a by-product of some happy gene that most of us were born without? Or do these people—the happy ones—lead or work for a company with a purpose that ignites their passion, their dedication, and their joy?

The Gallup Organization invested in a massive research study to determine the conditions that create loyal and productive employees which, in turn, create higher-performing companies. The study identified twelve core elements that need to be present to create, what Gallup calls, a highly engaged employee. About half the elements deal with the management style of supervisors. The rest have to do with the employee’s sense of belonging. And one of the key criteria to determine belonging is captured by the statement, “The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.” As the study describes it: “A uniquely human twist occurs after the basic needs are fulfilled. The employee searches for meaning in her vocation. For reasons that transcend the physical needs fulfilled by earning a living, she looks for her contribution to a higher purpose.

Something within her looks for something in which to believe.”5 What Is a Purpose and Why Should You Want One? 29 If a company can provide its employees with meaningful work and something in which to believe, that company can benefit from highly engaged, passionate employees who are in it for more than just a paycheck. The employees who work in the service of something they feel true devotion to bring the most energy and vitality to what they do.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of positive psychology, has researched what it takes for an individual to feel completely engaged, focused, and performing in a maximum state—a condition he calls “flow” in his book by the same title.6 Having a purpose that provides context for all of one’s effort is one of the chief criteria for flow. It allows a person’s mind, body, and soul to commit to the task at hand. It turns work from a necessary evil into a completely absorbing experience, where talents are being pushed to their outer limits and energy is eagerly channeled to the purpose at hand.

Where you find this flow operating in the workplace, you’ll also find happier and healthier employees—like the ones you might find at Whole Foods Market. The employees at Whole Foods Market are

deeply passionate about what they do, and CEO John Mackey attributes that passion to purpose motivation (not profit motivation):

It is difficult to impossible to truly inspire the creators of customer happiness—the employees—with the ethic of profit maximization.

Maximizing profits may excite investors, but I assure you most employees don’t get very excited about it even if they accept its validity as one of the legitimate goals of business. It is my experience that employees can get very excited and inspired by a business that has an important business purpose...

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