We love meeting like-minded people.

And if you’re like us, you’ll agree that there are few things better than sitting down with someone that shares your passion, and exchanging stories.

When I was last in London I had the pleasure to sit down with none other than Soulla Kyriacou, the COO of A Blueprint for Better Business.  

A Blueprint for Better Business is an independent charity: challenging and supporting business to have a purpose which serves society.

Through our TIE experiences, we hope to inspire the future leaders of the business world to find their purpose, to think differently, to approach their work differently and more sustainably, and in turn, change the way the sector works, behaves and thinks, from the inside, out.

A Blueprint for Better Business works with companies on a higher level to challenge them to do good.

This month, we asked Soulla and her team what their thoughts are on some of the challenges and opportunities companies have on their journey for purpose.


 

Purpose is the buzzword of the season, but A Blueprint for Better Business started talking about it back in 2012, before it was cool!  

There is a real business opportunity available for companies which choose to embrace a purpose which serves society. Ever-increasing evidence shows that purposeful companies can benefit from: increased employee engagement and motivation, enhanced reputations, improved customer and brand loyalties, and better long-term financial performance.

The word ‘purpose’ however, like many movements, fashions and popular business lexicons before it, has been co-opted to mean all manner of things, and it is now in danger of losing its original meaning.

Purpose is the ‘why’ of an organisation. It is not intended to be an inspiring tagline to add onto business cards and presentations – it is the entire premise behind why a company exists in the first place. Start-ups and infancy organisations often find it easy to define their purpose: primarily because they remember the reason that the company began. They remember that thing in the world that they were annoyed about, or the unmet need in society that they thought they could fix.

For large multinational companies which span the globe, have existed for decades (if not centuries) and employ hundreds of thousands of people, determining the ‘why’ of the business isn’t quite so easy. Their original reason for being has probably evolved several times, and different corners or regions of the company may have moved in completely opposing directions. This makes it hard to bring every department and person together under a common goal – especially if that goal is one which genuinely serves society, as opposed to just maximising short-term profit for shareholders.

There is a lot of discussion currently taking place around how these companies can ‘do’ purpose, but truthfully, purpose is not something that you can ‘do’. It is not a rebranding exercise. It is not just another interesting topic of conversation for conferences. It is something which is lived and breathed throughout an organisation. It is something which can guide and shape the decisions-made and behaviours-chosen on a daily basis, for people throughout all levels of a business.

One of the key challenges in creating a purposeful business, is not in fact, about having a purpose.

Being purposeful is less about an intention or an eloquent statement, and more about developing genuine relationships where trust and reciprocity is bountiful. It’s about inspiring a mind-set that it is people, not just resources, which create value. Being purposeful is about encouraging behaviours which respect the dignity of others, and about creating products and services which actually benefit the common good.

If all of this depth can be accurately articulated within one phrase or paragraph, then a company ‘purpose statement’ should perhaps be written. If however, the business is multifaceted to the extent that a single sentence could not sum up the reason for being in its entirety, then, rather than brainstorming how to ‘rebrand’ the business, or in trying to craft this ‘perfect’ slogan, time would be wiser spent on redesigning the structures, processes and tools within the organisation, which will encourage the behaviours and thinking that are needed in order to actually be purposeful: in order to actually serve society.

Actions speak louder than words, as they say. And in the case of purpose, the behaviours exhibited within a company, mean much more than the letters emblazoned across the wall.


 

For more information on how to become more purposeful, visit http://www.blueprintforbusiness.org/

A Blueprint for Better Business is an independent charity: challenging and supporting business to have a purpose which serves society.

We host public events and private forums. We convene experiments in corporate environments and run workshops for consultants. We contribute towards public conversation, and share our knowledge with wider society. We create safe spaces for discussion: where we are able to question long-held beliefs and assumptions about the purpose of business, and about what motivates people.

We do all this with a view of challenging people to think differently, and to catalyse action towards a more responsible, sustainable and purposeful world.