Business with a purpose: its time to practice what you preach

Businesses today face a number of challenges to their growth and success. Externally, digitalisation and rapidly changing consumer expectations are forcing businesses to adapt and change, quickly. Concurrently, the demands of a new generation of employees on the quest for more meaningful work and a wider debate about the role a business should play in society are reshaping expectations. By David Vitek

To combat these internal and external forces, savvy businesses are now focusing on ideals beyond pure profit and finding that purpose-driven strategies are helping to improve employee brand, make a difference in society and, as a flow on affect impact the perception of a business by its customers.

In a global survey by EY’s Beacon Institute, the study found that although there is a strong understanding in the business community about the value of purpose in driving performance (90 percent of business leaders), only 46 percent of the executives surveyed said their company had actually articulated a sense of purpose and used it as a way to make decisions and strengthen motivation.

From this research, it’s clear that despite our best intentions as business leaders, leading a company with a purpose is much harder to practice than it is to preach. According to EY, some of the most common barriers to adopting a purpose within a broader business strategy include short-term shareholder or  investor pressure, systems and infrastructure that are not aligned with long-term purpose, and the lack of performance targets and incentives aligned with purpose.

So, how can you overcome these barriers to successfully drive purpose and put your money where your mouth is?

HARNESS YOUR STAFF TO CHAMPION THE CAUSE

A key driver of a business’ purpose-led strategy is its staff. According to research by Deliotte, respondents who said their companies have a strong sense of purpose are much more optimistic about the future prospects of their organisations.

In fact, an overwhelming majority of respondents (91%) whose organisations have a strong sense of purpose believe that their organisation will maintain (or strengthen) its brand reputation and loyalty, compared to only half (49%) of those working at organisations without a strong sense of purpose.

At hipages, working with our staff to ensure that they understand not only our business purpose but also dedicate time to philanthropic avenues that are important to them, enables us to foster an inclusive, respectful and collaborative workplace culture. To encourage our staff to give back, we provide our team with two paid days per year to volunteer for charitable causes they care about. As a result, we’ve increased our employee loyalty and average tenure and ensured staff feel more connected to our business.

On an individual level, an area close to my own heart is homelessness and this year I will again be participating in the 2017 Vinnies CEO Sleepout. To bring this purpose to life and ensure our staff understand we’re a business that really cares, we’re also bringing Vinnes into our offices to present to our team about the work they do – a full circle experience that keeps our employees close to our business purpose.

BUILD YOUR PURPOSE

Leading with a purpose isn’t just important for internal culture and employee brand, it also helps with the acquisition and retention of

customers. Deloitte found that 89% of respondents working for an organisation with a strong sense of purpose said their clients trust that they deliver the highest quality products and services.

That’s in contrast to only 66% of those businesses that do not have a strong sense of purpose.

With over 83,000 registered tradespeople in our network – this set of customers are critical to

the success of our business. It’s important we keep their needs close to our business planning and ensure their voices are heard.

When speaking with a number of our tradies a key theme to come out of these conversations has been a desire to help their local communities, but a lack of understanding as to how to get involved. With our purpose top of mind, we’re working hard to facilitate opportunities for our tradies to work with us and give back to their communities.

A recent example is a competition we ran where children around Australia were invited to submit a drawing of their dream cubby house. A winner was selected and we’ve engaged our tradies to help build a real-life version of

the cubby on the playground of the Shepherd Centre in Newtown,

NSW and in the back-yard of the winning child’s home. The Shephard Centre provide early education for deaf and hearing- impaired children. We had an

overwhelming number of tradies on our platform offer to donate their time and resources into bringing this project to life – an example of how a strong business purpose can be build and embraced by a variety of stakeholders.

PURSUE PURPOSE: REAP REWARDS

There will always be challenges for companies in implementing and maintain a strong business purpose, however, the benefits will far outweigh these challenges when purpose is a priority. The research is clear, companies perform better if they have a clear sense of purpose. Purpose-driven companies make more money, have more engaged employees and more loyal customers, and are even more innovative. BFM

By David Vitek, Co-founder and CEO of hipages.



Business First is a peer-to-peer magazine: written by CEOs and other high level executives, with interviews with some of the country’s best leaders.