You Say Your Business Has Purpose? What Does That Mean? – Forbes

Posted: September 28, 2019 at 5:44 pm

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They arent very popular anymore, but I grew up in the golden age of jingles (probably because I watched WAY too much TV as a kid).At any given time, Ive got a million of them floating in my head.

And I love great copy even if it isnt accompanied by a catchy ditty.One that long ago stuck with me was the centerpiece of a radio ad for the Verbal Advantage self-improvement system which admonished listeners, People judge you by the words you use.

Indeed, I believe that words matter.Unfortunately, the intersection of business management and societal impact where Ive spent much of the last 20 years is littered with jargon that has obfuscated rather than clarified (heres just a sampling of the CSR glossaries out there).Often two people slinging around phrases like corporate social responsibility, sustainability, cause marketing and shared value may be using the same words but mean very different things.

The Purpose Advantage by Jeff Fromm

Such is certainly the case for the word purpose. Hoping for some clarity I recently devoured the review copy I was sent of The Purpose Advantage by Jeff Fromm.In this short, handsomely laid out book, Fromm provides a useful definition of purpose, examples of how a purpose-centric orientation can help companies achieve great things and even a step-by-step workshop designed to help firms define their purpose and run with it.

According to Fromm, purpose as it applies to companies has three important aspects.It is:

Foundational. A clearly defined and long-term strategy that affects every part of the businessthat connects with consumers values and passions, attracting and retaining high-quality talent, spurring creativity and driving growth.

Based in Action. More than just a declaration, purpose requires brands to make meaningful change, not just launch a new ad campaign.

Societal. Purpose is concerned with the well-being of others, the planet and our future.Its about missions for preserving the environment or fighting for social justice, the kind of purposes that make the world a better place.

3D illustration of a folder and focus on a tab with the acronym CSR, Corporate Social ... [+] Responsibility. Conceptual image.

I agree with Fromm in setting the bar high for what it means to put purpose at the core of how one manages a company(Ive winced at so many sloppy, uninspiring purpose statements over the years).Unfortunately, the bar is so high that today purpose-run companies are largely an aspirational concept.

Fromm cites Bombas, Patagonia and Seventh Generation as very advanced, but very few new or established companies come close to being permeated with purpose from head to toe.A growing number ranging from B Corp start-ups to corporate behemoths like Unilever are striving to get there.And in another terrific section of the book, Fromm shows how the effort can be highly worthwhile in building successful, long-lasting enterprises.

Adapting an adage Ive long admired, perhaps we should say that, Purpose is a journey, not a destination.I recommend The Purpose Advantage for leaders seeking guidance on setting out on this challenging, but worthwhile odyssey.

You Say Your Business Has Purpose? What Does That Mean? - Forbes

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September 28th, 2019 at 5:44 pm

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