Making time to sit down and think about a long-term mission is a vital first step toward infusing the company with a culture of purpose.
If you were to sum up the concept of a purpose-driven culture in a commercial, it would look like Chrysler's 2011 Super Bowl commercial featuring Eminem. The ad, while powerful by itself, hits even harder when viewed with this in mind: Chrysler filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy less than two years before, and the airing landed smack in the middle of a major automotive industry crisis wrapped up in a countrywide recession.
The intensity crammed into that two minute commercial is almost palpable, showing a company that was 100 percent positive about where it's from and what it stands for. Not one viewer doubted that Chrysler was committed to a single-minded purpose and vision.
It's no coincidence that Chrysler's sales, which had fallen to a dismal low of less than a million dollars in 2009, shot up to $1.8 million by 2013. Much more than a clever marketing gimmick, Chrysler's "Imported from Detroit" ad campaign showed consumers exactly what they most want to see in a business: a clear intent and mission, backed by passion and topped off with confidence. Together, these qualities form the core of establishing a purpose-driven culture.
I've been involved in a number of HVAC company turnarounds, and have used these elements in each of those endeavors. A purpose-driven culture, regardless of the specific industry in which it occurs, includes four common elements.
A purpose-driven culture requires a vision of purpose first and foremost. This is one area where newer start-ups may hold the advantage, as they can incorporate their values into their business as it becomes fully formed.
For older, more established organizations such as those commonly seen within our industry, making time to sit down and think about a long-term mission is a vital first step toward infusing the company with a culture of purpose.
Businesses should be able to answer questions about who they are, what makes their product or service meaningful to clients and customers and what defines their priorities.
A visionary mission statement forms the foundation upon which a company's culture is built, so it's critical to first recognize the goals and values of that organization.
A purpose-driven culture doesn't evolve on its own; it has to be built up under the sure guidance of management. Unfortunately, there's often a gap between what many leaders think makes a business successful and what actually creates success.
Traditional leadership talks about market shares, profits and quotas, while purpose-driven leadership focuses internally on objectives that have more to do with igniting emotional engagement, both among employees and extending outward to clients and customers.
Successful leadership goes back to the first point of knowing a company's vision, and then adopting the necessary management strategies required to be true to that vision.
Effective leaders have the exceptional ability of rallying employees around a company's vision, and the strength of their belief inspires a willingness in others to work and pursue it.
Who's going to make a better and more reliable employee: the person who clocks in, clocks out and contributes only the bare minimum necessary to collect a paycheck, or the one who's truly invested in helping his or her employer carry out the company's mission statement?
Workers feel more positive about jobs that hold an emotional connection for them. They want to feel like they're part of something bigger, that they're making a difference and make important contributions as valued team members working toward a higher cause.
Not only does a deeper level of connection lead to a more engaged, long-term employee-employer relationship, but feeling inspired by an employer's big-picture aspirations means lower stress in high-pressure situations, as the trust in an eventual positive outcome is that much stronger.
Happy, enthusiastic employees also mean a higher level of customer satisfaction, as clients respond in an emotional way when passion is personified at every level of an organization.
Impact Beyond Finances
While financial solvency represents a practical aspect of a company's success, money is only one tiny cog in a much larger machine. Looking for a meaningful impact that extends far beyond financial performance is a more significant contributor to an organization's ability to sink, swim or thrive.
Holding to higher standards is becoming the new normal in the business world; companies that demonstrate their belief in an ideal that's more than pure profit consistently perform better (and are viewed more positively) than those without a purpose-driven culture.
Just like a personal sense of self-worth, a company develops a purpose-driven culture by being true to its own nature, developing a deep understanding of its roots as well as its dreams for the future and then adapting existing daily practices to better reflect all of those elements.
In doing so, customers and clients respond more enthusiastically and with greater loyalty, which ensures both immediate and long-term success.
Kenneth D. Goodrich, principal of Arizona-based Goettl Good Guys Air Conditioning Repairmen and The Sunny Plumber, is a seasoned entrepreneurial executive with more than 26 years of experience in acquiring, integrating and developing HVAC, plumbing and service contracting businesses. For additional information, visit goettl.com.