Customers today care about whom they do business with, as reflected by studies in which 90 percent of consumers have said they would switch to brands that support social causes. "Causes" are also good for business: When companies look beyond profitability to focus on a purpose, they tend to have happier employees because they're fostering a culture that those employees can buy into.
Take as an example the lifestyle brand Life is Good, which donates 10 percent of its net profits to children in need. The brand is known for its optimism, which is reflected in its name, its products and its overall persona. Recently, the company launched a campaign to celebrate fellow optimists who are making a difference.
For every story shared in its Heroes of Optimism campaign, the company helps raise money to support individuals providing child care in the neediest areas.
The campaign embodies Life is Good’s mission to be about something more than a large profit margin and establishes an example for others to follow. When companies set their sights beyond profit, that choice creates a positive impression in the marketplace, which of course is good for business.
These examples of mission-driven company may intrigue you as a business owner; and, if that's the case, you're not alone. Certainly, making money is essential for any business, but focusing on something more can actually benefit your bottom line in the long run. For entrepreneurs starting with a blank canvas, now is the perfect time to add a mission to your business plan.
According to a University of Alberta study, when employees in the survey said they considered their jobs meaningful, their employers saw a 60 percent decrease in absenteeism and a 75 percent decrease in turnover.
And when employees said they were happy, customer retention was 18 percent higher.
Millennials are particularly concerned with a company’s mission. A study found that six in 10 of millennials surveys said purpose was the main reason they wanted to work for a company, and 40 percent said they planned to stay at jobs long-term when their employers had strong missions beyond making money.
So, if you're an entrepreneur considering implementing a mission beyond profit within their business plans, how do you do that? Consider these four tips:
1. Put your ego aside.
At OpenNest, gratitude, empathy, transparency, honesty and vulnerability are qualities we value. Our leadership team models this behavior, and our employees put it into practice with customer interactions, which in turn lead to important partnerships. Success is relative and is rarely about an individual -- it is a team approach. Profit is not the only mark of success, so don’t let your ego drive your business decisions.
Chobani is another example of a company whose leader looks beyond himself (or herself) to achieve success. Chobani's CEO has given company shares to employees who have contributed to the business’ success.
Do something similar: Create a collective goal that your whole company can strive to achieve. Put some checks and balances in place to ensure the mission is at the forefront of every decision and that profit is not the driver.
2. Identify the whys and the whats.
People often get wrapped up in the day-to-day -- the next client, the next deal to close or the next employee to hire. Instead, focus on the big picture, and shift your viewpoint to “why.”
Asking questions helps to identify a purpose and goal: Why are we doing this? Why is this important to me? Once you identify why you’re choosing a mission and what it will be, put it into writing, and continually reinforce it. For example, we created a handbook to guide every decision we make in conjunction with our mission.
Once you’ve identified your “why,” hopefully it will help you attract the type of client (and the type of employee) you want. Of course the everyday stresses of running a business can make it easy for you to lose sight of your mission. And we're well aware of this possibility at our company: That’s why we make it a point in our employee onboarding process, pitch decks and company culture to continually talk about why we're doing what we are doing.
3. Let the mission determine who’s in your circle.
Avoid adding clients just for revenue. Make sure you believe in their products or services. Do not hire employees just because they’re smart. Choose candidates who care about your mission.
Our partnerships with clients are highly valued. We do business only with clients who are the right fit for us, and we’ll turn down business with clients who don’t align with our mission. We also care about our clients' own missions and want to help them be successful. We establish trust by not selling them what they don’t need. This mentality is why we still have our first client, whom we signed on nine years ago.
In each decision, stay true to your own company's mission. You can’t sacrifice your values or purpose to accommodate anyone, and the resulting tension can be difficult. But, focusing on a guiding principle will improve employee satisfaction, which will improve client satisfaction.
4. Forget about the benefit.
What’s most important is that company leaders fundamentally believe in the purpose or mission, lead by example and follow through. Employees and customers are good at sniffing out insincerity. So, companies' efforts to focus on a purpose first will allow them to be more fluid. If you focus on what you’re locked into, the model you have can negatively affect your business long-term.
By looking at your purpose and not its benefit, you can adapt to whatever model puts you in the right direction.
TOMS Shoes is an excellent example here. TOMS creates shoes, but for every pair sold it also donates a new pair of shoes to a child in need. The CEO even started a social entrepreneurship fund to help new businesses interested in improving lives -- a campaign which aligns perfectly with the company's goal.
Just as TOMS Shoes, Chobani and Life is Good have done, let your purpose drive your company’s goals. As you develop your business plan, focus on how your mission will move your company forward. This lays down a path for success and ultimately leads to profit.