Most businesses have a mission statement, and some even have vision or value statements. But despite the importance of defining a purpose for your business, few companies have developed business purpose statements. When you’re first starting your business, you may think these statements are just busy work or boilerplate items you need to stick on your website to be considered a “real” business. On the contrary, each one brings unique value to the foundation of your business, plays a specific role in how your company presents to the public and informs decisions for your business growth for years to come.
What is a Business Purpose?
Your business purpose describes your core motivation and what drives you. You started your company because you wanted to fill a need for customers, but your business purpose isn’t about simply stating that need. Defining your business purpose is an opportunity to explore why filling that need is important to you.
Going through the process of creating a business purpose statement lets you consciously connect with the why of what you do. When you’re busy working and growing, you’ll be tempted to make choices outside of your purpose. After a few months or years, you may find your business in a completely different place than what you initially intended. Checking in with your business purpose before making big decisions helps you stay on target and within scope.
How is a Business Purpose Different?
Let’s start with what a business purpose is not. Your business purpose is not a mission, vision or value statement. But those statements are important and have their own role in laying the foundation for your business. Let’s take a look at how these statements differ from a business purpose statement.
Your mission statement crystalizes in one sentence what you do and who you do it for. A mission statement is aspirational, so a company may never actually satisfy their mission. A great example of this is Starbucks. Their mission is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” Definitely something to strive for, but not something that can actually be accomplished.
Your vision statement projects where you want your company to end up. A vision statement describes what is beyond the present, repetitious and sometimes mundane workload. The San Diego Zoo’s desire for the future is captured in their vision “to become a world leader at connecting people to wildlife and conservation.”
Your value statement embodies your core beliefs and commitments. This statement gives confidence to employees and trust to customers. L.L. Bean’s value statement does both. “Sell good merchandise at a reasonable profit, treat your customers like human beings, and they will always come back for more.”
Your purpose statement is inspirational, grounding and guides you to make good business choices. Your purpose statement serves as a constant reminder of your initial intentions. Johnson & Johnson’s business purpose is “Caring for the world, one person at a time… inspires and unites the people of Johnson & Johnson.” In this case, before making a business decision, they could ask, “Does this decision fit with our purpose of caring for the world?”
Why Do You Need a Business Purpose Statement?
When your days are full and decisions need to be made immediately, it’s easy to lose sight of the reason you started your business. With a clearly defined purpose to return to, you’re able to check that a decision fits with your purpose and makes sure you stay on track. So when an opportunity doesn’t support your core purpose, check your business purpose statement, and don’t take it!
photo courtesy: Bigstock/Gustavo Frazao