Purpose-Driven Business is not All-or-Nothing

When my wife and I had our first child, our diets and purchasing behavior were like many Americans. We didn’t eat particularly badly, but we also didn’t put much thought into where our food came from, how it was produced, or what exactly was in it. We had a similar lack of concern around the other products in our home such as cleaning products and clothing.

As the years went on, we had three more children. While our first child drank any old formula and ate regular baby food, our last two have been strictly breast fed then transitioned to fresh, organic food, such as avocados and bananas. We use organic cotton and bamboo cloth diapers, homemade wet wipes, and even homemade household cleaners.

Sure, there were occasions of big shifts, but mostly this was a gradual change that took place over years. We didn’t go straight from cheese puffs to granola. Similarly, when we speak about different “markets” within the marketing industry, our language tends to portray them as static groups of individuals. In reality, the actual individuals are constantly moving throughout the different groups; out of one and into another.

Being purpose-driven can mean that we are making a value judgment about the nature of those movements. We can arrange those groups onto a spectrum, on the one end representing the low end of our value judgment, and the opposite end representing the highest value point. This value judgment can be around health, sustainability, social impact, and many other areas. They can be broad, like the previous examples, or they can be very specific, such as how a product category affects a local economy in a specific area.

Being purpose driven does not, however, necessarily mean that your particular organization is trying to move people to that very highest group in the spectrum. If you are actively working to encourage people to move from any lower point to any higher point, then you are doing good, purpose-driven work. This is an important point that many people miss when evaluating if they should start a purpose-driven organization or transform their current organization to a purpose-driven one. It’s also important for organizations to recognize when evaluating if their organization already has a purpose and if so, what it is.

We encourage all organizations to look within their circle of influence to see what purpose-spectrums they are working within, and how they are or could be moving people to higher points. Many organizations who do not consider themselves purpose-driven will find that they are, in fact, and that there are fairly straightforward ways that they can strengthen and focus this impact.

By doing the work of identifying your purpose circle of influence and focusing on making a positive impact within it, if even in small ways, you are enhancing your organization’s ability to make strong, clear and bold brand statements that articulate your purpose and recruit customers and believers. Find your influence. Exercise your purpose. Enhance your power.