Is purpose an overused buzzword?

Written by Wyseminds · 3 min read >

By Julie Perkins, Founder of Wyseminds

When I began writing this article, I searched online for the phrase ‘business purpose’. There were 7.1 billion results. So, has ‘purpose’ become a buzzword that’s had its day? At Wyseminds we believe the opposite; it’s more relevant than ever. Here’s why…

Beware word immunity

The danger with commonly-used words and phrases is that because we hear them everywhere, we stop thinking about what they really mean. The value of what they represent is reduced. It’s called ‘semantic satiation’ – the psychological phenomenon of the brain reducing the impact of words and phrases that we hear often. We become immune to the hype when everything is amazing. Black Friday is not so exciting when it’s expected.

Light years beyond marketing prose

Deeper meaning is required. Purpose, rather than marketing prose. In these challenging economic times, it’s never been more important for leaders and businesses to focus in on, and project out from, their driving purpose. Something that Rebecca Henderson, the John and Natty McArthur University Professor at Harvard Business School feels passionately about:

“The sense of being part of something greater than yourself can lead to high levels of engagement, high levels of creativity and the willingness to partner across functional and product boundaries within a company, which are hugely powerful.”

A calming continuity

The pandemic showed us that the brands and businesses with a clear and enduring sense of who they are, are the ones that thrive. Opportunistic corporate responses to unprecedented and difficult times are remembered, just as the businesses who looked after their teams when it really matters are. But for very different reasons and with very different commercial results. When people are afraid, worried about their livelihoods or the availability of goods and services, the calming continuity of purpose is grounding. It reassures us that things will be OK; the pandemic will pass, the recession wave will recede. But purpose remains.

Credible and clear

Those of you who are familiar with The Wyseway will know that everything we do, everything we help you do as a female entrepreneur, is built up and out of a credible and clear purpose. And it works: EY research shows that 58 percent of businesses surveyed that prioritised purpose experienced growth of 10 percent or more over three years. 

A growth guide

As one of our Wyseway graduates, Shakoofeh, Founder of Athleisure brand Tanfit, explains: 

“My purpose brings direction to every conversation, why we’re doing it and what I’m looking for – there’s not so much noise. My team is clear on it too – it guides us and helps with decision making, especially with our suppliers and new product ranges.”

Purpose first, profit follows

Market conditions across Europe are tough. Perhaps your path to growth is proving a little turbulent? When times are hard, it’s more important than ever to review and track your business’ Key Performance Indicators; not just what you’re doing, but more importantly, how you’re doing it. And why.

“Businesses today are finding that doing good also means doing well”
Mark Weinberger, Global Chairman and CEO, EY

This is where purpose becomes so much more than a buzzword. True purpose is not just a mission statement you can write into your business plan and forget about. It has to matter. It has to be lived by everybody, every day. Only then will it unite your team and drive your business forward across a number of important fronts. Research by EY finds that purposeful companies are better at:

  • Attracting and retaining talent
  • Driving innovation
  • Navigating disruption
  • Boosting profit

Going back to the start

Clearly there is a huge benefit in going back to first principles and re-establishing exactly what your purpose is. How does it shine through in your communications, plans and actions? When your purpose is clear and consistent, it delivers tangible results for everyone linked to your business:

  • Boosting client loyalty: Customers seek out brands that are purpose-driven and are more loyal to them. 66% of consumers rate transparency as one of the most important qualities of a brand. In today’s world where consumers hold so much power, they need to believe in your values and your purpose – it’s a real differentiator for people choosing goods or services that may be available cheaper or faster elsewhere. Providing the ‘right’ thing is about value, not price. Creating a community that shares your purpose makes good business sense
  • Building an engaged team: 83% of Gen Z’ers in the US say that they actively consider a company’s purpose when applying to work for them. Uniting everyone working in the business, at every level, in a common vision and belief is incredibly powerful. Fuelling a genuine passion throughout your team when they bring the company’s purpose to life in every action and interaction. Shaping a movement for change, a force for good
  • Driving financial return: Purpose-led brands build value at a much faster rate than those without clear beliefs. They return more value to shareholders. Authentic purpose first, means that profit will follow

Purpose-led growth is here to stay

Purpose drives success, whether your business is in the early stages, or is an established multinational. It helps you focus on what really matters, engaging and empowering your team to pull together behind a common belief in doing the right thing in the right way.

It’s not a buzzword, it brings the buzz.

If you’re ready to realise the many benefits of a purpose-led business right now, why not join the Lift-Off programme? Find out more here.

Or if you’d like to chat about how Wyseminds can help clarify and embed your company’s purpose, book a virtual coffee with me here

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