Is ‘purpose’ enough to drive business growth?
What you stand for matters more than what you do
What do companies that have survived long-term have in common? They are nearly all driven by a belief or idea greater than the products they sell or the services they offer. As Jerry Porras and Jim Collins, authors of “Built to Last” say, these “visionary companies” are almost always driven by a “core ideology”.
When you look at companies like 3M, American Express, Boeing, Citigroup, Disney, GE, IBM, Virgin, Apple and Sony it’s clear what they stand for because it’s obvious in everything they do, from the people they employ to the products they sell, the decisions they make and how they act and behave when no one is looking.
Everyone inside and outside the company “gets it” – they understand why they choose to do what they do, and more importantly they identify and believe in it.
That’s why they buy into it as customers, employees or advocates.
Using ideology and the power of belief to drive growth
Why these companies have managed to endure when so many others have failed is because they built their businesses around a clear set of beliefs and ideas – they have an ideology that is greater than just a company purpose.
A purpose gives you direction. An ideology is a deep-seated belief in that direction, driving what you do, how you do it and why it matters to the whole organisation.
Whether you are aware of it or not, every company has at its core an ideology. That unique ‘way’ they go about their business, that over time shapes the identity of the organisation and permeates through every aspect of it.
Many businesses haven’t taken the time to identify what their ideology is, or they have tried to define it through corporate vision, mission and values statements that are only ever meaningful to the C-Suite responsible for creating them.
The impact on business performance of not having a clearly defined and articulated ideology can be significant. At best it can lead to underperformance over time, or at worst the ultimate failure of the company (think Nokia).
The reasons for this are simple. If employees don’t know where the organisation is going, then they can’t be expected to know how best to help the business get there.
If there is no ideology to guide management strategies and everyday decisions, then it becomes all too easy for a business to find itself off-course by making choices that are not in the best interests of its customers or stakeholders.
If customers can see what you do, but have no understanding of why you are in business in the first place, then they won’t see the value in what you do differently, they won’t want to pay a premium for it and they won’t remain loyal to your brand.
Ideology is your competitive advantage
While it is relatively easy for competitors to replicate your products or services, your ideology is fundamentally unique to your organisation and impossible to copy.
That’s why the more compelling your ideology, and more deeply it is embedded within your organisation and the more clearly it is communicated to the outside world, then the more differentiated your customer experience and the greater your competitive advantage will be.
It starts at the very top
Ideology shouldn’t be thought of as just a brand exercise that is the responsibility of the marketing department and aimed squarely at an external audience.
Ideology is a company’s reason for being, and as such sits at the very heart of the business.
It drives the business strategy and is woven into every department from HR, finance, operations, procurement, and sales and marketing to investor relations, so it is evident in every customer interaction and transaction.
Importantly, ideology must be driven from the top by the CEO and the leadership team, the people who know where the business is going, how it will get there and why it matters to people inside and outside the organisation.
We are a creative management consultancy that brings together business strategy, brand and culture to create meaningful relationships.
We work with ambitious B2B leaders to drive transformation and accelerate growth by unlocking competitive advantage within their businesses. We get to the heart of an organisation’s unique reason for being, its ideology, and build the brand from the inside-out by embedding it in the culture and in every customer experience.