What kind of impact can my brand make? Who do we want to impact? How do we create this impact? What will this impact look like once it becomes a reality?
Great business leaders have probably asked these pointed questions more times than they can count. After all, building an iconic business is a continuous process of self-improvement.
The answers to these questions can sharpen the company’s focus — the key to unlocking long-term success.
To feed that focus, business leaders must have a purpose.
Your brand purpose matters not just to your profits but also to your customers and staff. To prove our point, let us look into the Ford Motor Company — one of the world’s most well-known automotive brands.
“To help build a better world, where every person is free to move and pursue their dreams,” — Aspirational and inspirational, it’s a purpose both their customers and staff could buy into.
But after Ford strayed from their purpose and made several bad bets that were not directly related to manufacturing vehicles, they reported a $5.45 billion net loss in 2001.
“Overwhelming everything else is that we didn't execute well on the basics,” Nicholas V. Scheele, Ford's former CEO, stated.
Your company purpose provides clarity about who you are as a brand, what your brand does, why your brand should matter to your target markets (and employees), and where you want your brand to go.
In other words, your purpose is the reason why you, as a brand, do what you do. It is the reason your company exists beyond making money.
From our experience, the best company purpose is one that works (and one that you can share) across the board.
It must inspire your team to show up to work every single day, create better products, and — subsequently — build a better brand. Your purpose should also give your target markets a sneak peek into what is guiding your brand and help them buy into your journey.
Gary Burnison, the author of The Leadership Journey and CEO of Korn Ferry, says “The more people embrace the purpose, the more likely they will follow — not only at the beginning when adrenaline is pumping and excitement is running high… but later on when the going gets tough, and people question whether they can go another step.”
For your purpose to resonate on a grander scale, break it down into two elements: your mission and your vision.
If your company’s purpose is the WHY, your company’s mission is the HOW — the unique way your business does what it does.
Your mission is the destination your brand chooses to do and the choices you collectively make to get there. Ultimately, your mission is your vision in action — the “magic” that enables your brand to deliver on your value proposition.
Let us look into Canva, one of Australia’s most valuable companies.
“Empowering the world to design.”
Canva’s mission is to empower people who are not skilled in design to open up untold opportunities not just for themselves personally, but also for their organisations.
Canva has removed the design barriers and helped customers kickstart businesses, grow charities, find volunteers and donors, and reach wider audiences than before.
Since the beginning, Canva has seen countless people buy into their journey as a brand by successfully creating a super simple way for people to create anything, from a logo to a social media post, flyer, business card, and even a presentation.
And they never wavered from their mission.
Today, they have over 30 million active users around the world and have set up bases in numerous countries, including Manila, China, and the US.
To successfully and profitably get to where Canva is now, your brand’s mission must take on a simple, strategic, and direct approach to help you accomplish company goals that align with your purpose.
Your vision is your WHAT — it is the thing you aspire to become, the goal of your purpose, and the blueprint for your mission. It does not have to be limited to the long-term. It can also be for the now.
In fact, we recommend that your vision should not be set too far into the future. Why? Because your vision should be something your company strives to do or become in your day-to-day.
It needs to be personal to your brand and what you want to achieve. Your vision determines your goals. More specifically, it sets your expectations on the magnitude of impact you will achieve when you reach your goals.
To see this in action, let us look into Valve — arguably America’s most successful video game developer, publisher, and digital distribution company.
They are self-funded and developed the software distribution platform Steam, as well as created the franchises Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Portal, Day of Defeat, Team Fortress, Left 4 Dead, and Dota.
Valve aspires to be more than a gaming company: it aspires to greatness. Their handbook states, “We’re an entertainment company. A software company. A platform company. But mostly, a company full of passionate people who love the products we create.”
What makes them great is evident in their Mission-Vision statement:
“When you give smart, talented people the freedom to create without fear of failure, amazing things happen. We see it every day at Valve. In fact, some of our best insights have come from our biggest mistakes. And we’re ok with that! Since 1996, this approach has produced award-winning games, leading-edge technologies, and a groundbreaking social entertainment platform. We’re always looking for creative risk-takers who can keep that streak alive.”
Working for Valve means you will not have to worry about being micro-managed because their culture believes it destroys the creativity of their employees.
Hierarchy is necessary for maintaining predictability and repeatability, of course. But Valve has spent decades going out of its way to hire the most talented risk-takers and disruptors in the industry.
Policing their gifts simply takes away their agency and does a complete disservice to their ideas. Valve workers are given the freedom to choose their position and what to do with it.
Valve practices what they preach. That is why they are in the big leagues.
Our tip: Begin with the end in mind.
We believe that there is no scientific way to produce a Purpose, Mission, and Vision that all key stakeholders can easily buy into. But it does need to be something you and your team agree upon.
Why do we get out of bed in the morning? What is the North Star guiding everything that we do? Why are we building this for our customers and ourselves? How do we know when we have won?
Our job as a scale-up consultancy is to ask these questions and go through the other foundational elements of your brand. The goal is to learn more about the why and how of the brand, what problems they believe they are solving, and where they want it to go.
It is about focusing on the best bits and the common language used across the team to refine and create a simple but extremely impactful Purpose, Mission, and Vision — ones that reflect on the brand as a whole and resonate with everyone inside the company, as well as outside of it.
We take this approach because our job entails bringing out the “magic” from within the brand’s key people and crafting it in a way that galvanises both staff and customers, as well as delivers on how it is meant to perform as it pertains to their brand strategy.
This is crucial because, at the end of the day, the brand is their baby. The last thing you want is to lose that magic through over-engineering.