I recently went to a dinner party where John Mackey, the slightly awkward-but-lovable hippy founder of Whole Foods, spoke about his theory of success.
“You want love to be the dominant value in the work place,” he said. When it is, businesses create significantly more value, and people perform better.
Research indicates that purpose-driven companies are more successful in the long run. I think that’s because as humans, our default instinct is to do good. And as we progress and are able to provide for our own needs, the things higher up on Maslow’s pyramid become more important to us. Shelter, food, stability—check. Self-actualization? That comes from making a difference.
Entrepreneurs, executives, the people running companies — we often have the “purpose” of our businesses in our heads. But the businesses that articulate their purpose, paint it on their walls, and lead with the mission over the features, tend to gain the most trust and loyalty from both employees and customers.
One of my favorite examples of this is the designer community Behance. (Disclosure, founder Scott Belsky is an investor and friend.) Infused into everything Behance does is the idea of “empowering creative people to make ideas happen.” Everywhere you read about the company, every time Belsky speaks, you’ll notice that point gets hammered in, and first. And when you hear it enough, you start to believe it. You want to support Behance, you want to join. You want them to succeed.
Another company I love for this reason is Holstee, which creates and curates sustainable, upcycled products. The founders started the endeavor not as an apologetic non-profit, but as a for-purpose business, and its customers love that so much that posters of Holstee’s manifesto happens to be one of its most popular products.
According to Mackey, 81 percent of Americans don’t like corporations. That’s a pretty dismal statistic. But that means now is a great time to create purpose-driven companies; it’s easier for the good guys to stand out. As I recently wrote in Fast Company, people want to join and stay at companies that care. Perhaps it’s no wonder, then, that one of the three most-watched TED talks right now is Simon Sinek’s, where he discusses how great leaders start with “Why” not “What.”
Starting a company is hard. And working at any company, whether a startup or big corporation, is, well, work. I attribute much of our early success at my startup to the fact that we were vocal about our purpose: freeing up freelance journalists to do what they love, and empowering anyone to become a publisher.
One of the first things we created was a manifesto, our flag on the moon that told everyone to hold us to our values. That ethos helped people take a chance on us in the early days, not because our technology was any good, but because they believed in what we believed. That helped us get survive the troughs until we could stand up on our own and ride the industry wave we were paddling for.
What’s your favorite purpose-driven organization?
How should businesses put purpose into action?
And perhaps most importantly, what’s your purpose?
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