Vision, mission, values… and purpose. Many – in fact most – companies usually have the first three, but the fourth is too often overlooked.

Being clear about your company’s purpose – essentially defining exactly why you do what you do as a company – is crucial to the success of your business. Here at Holborn Assets we’d argue that instilling a shared sense of purpose in your teams is, in many ways, the single most important thing you can do as a leader. Even beyond setting your company vision, or defining your values.

Seeing the bigger picture

Why? Because being clear about your company’s purpose goes way beyond just saying what you do, or how you do it. Instead, it defines your organisation as one that sees beyond the everyday business of just selling a product. You understand that customer needs and market conditions change, but your purpose. For example to connect people, or to help them to enjoy more music – is a constant.

Having a clearly defined purpose also shows your customers that you are aspirational – that you want to make a difference, not just a profit. And finally, having a clear purpose is one of the best ways to get your own people on board. Your purpose as a business should be precisely why they get out of bed and come and do a great job for you and your customers every day. Research by Deloitte back in 2014 shows that 73 per cent of employees who work for a company with a clear purpose say that they feel fully engaged in their work. This is compared to 23 per cent of employees at businesses that haven’t. That’s a substantial difference.

Creating a sense of purpose

So how do you go about instilling this sense of purpose in your teams? Our first suggestion is that you make time – lots of it – to actually define clearly with them what your purpose as a business is. Talk about it with your teams, and get a true understanding of exactly why they think they’re doing what they do.

And, once you’ve make it clear exactly what your purpose is, make sure it then truly defines everything you do as a business. People – customers, as well as your teams – will very quickly detect if your stated purpose isn’t authentic. So, if you’re a company whose stated purpose is ‘connecting people’, and your people don’t use social media to talk directly to your customers, or never answer the phone or emails, or don’t go out together socially, or sit in silent isolation in cubicles in a quiet office, then there is a clear disconnect between that purpose and the reality.

Ultimately, your purpose must feel genuine, for everyone who is in  contact with your company. It may be that you don’t find your true purpose as a business straight away but, once you do, it will draw your people together like a powerful magnet. They will stay with you for the long haul because they have a clear understanding of why they do what they do – not just what they are doing.

And why is all of this important? Because companies with a purpose are ultimately more successful and profitable. In 2016, Harvard Business Review Analytics and professional services firm EY’s Beacon Institute surveyed a large number of companies and came to this conclusion: “Those companies able to harness the power of purpose to drive performance and profitability enjoy a distinct competitive advantage.” That’s a compelling case for creating a powerful sense of purpose in your teams.