Written by Hilda Lunderstedt
I am an avid reader and some years ago I was reading a book on successful entrepreneurs and business builders. I came across this quote from Henry Ford which changed my whole perspective on how business can and should be conducted.
Henry Ford stated: “the purpose of a business is to make a profit. If however, the sole purpose of a business is to make a profit, there is no need for this business and it will cease to exist”, this is something which I have taken with me through my business and entrepreneurial career.
Entrepreneurs drive economies and, in my opinion, this is the most important sector in the majority of economies, especially in emerging markets such as South Africa. This is a sector that will become more and more important as we move forward into the future. South Africa has merely 1,2m taxpayers out of a population of 54 million. If the taxpayers’ base is increased, the whole economic situation of the country and its citizens will improve. The role of small and entrepreneurial businesses is crucial in this objective. It is entrepreneurs who will innovate, create the products of the future and who will generate the most jobs in difficult economic climates. But with most businesses failing within the first couple of years (9/10 in the first 5 years); I cannot help but wonder what made the difference between the 1 that made it through that first 5 years and those that did not. Shockingly, 9 / 10 of those who made it to 5 years will not survive to 10 years! I am sure there are many factors that play a role, but research has shown that one of the major differentiators is the mission that drives the business.
The mission of the business, I believe, is that burning desire which the founder/s has to make a difference in the world, both in their own as well as that of the greater community around them. Yet, very few share that desire with anyone around them. They work tirelessly every day to make ends meet, grow their business and deal with whatever needs to be done on the To-Do list for that day. They might read in a book that your business or company needs a mission, vision and values and too often this is then -created by others that do not share the same burning desire and insights into the business, as I have seen happen in my own business.
The mission must be created by the leader of the organisation. The person who possesses that burning desire to make a difference to the world, not by anyone else. Your mission is how you or your business changes the world; how it makes the world a better place. That mission comes from the passion you find in the business leader and/or founder. That very reason you started the business in the first place…. Your WHY!
Once you have identified that mission, that “why”, you have to share it with everyone you work with and ensure that they fully understand that mission and this purpose must be kept alive. Those who do not want part of it or are not inspired by your mission should be free to leave and find something they believe in, thus creating the space for those who want to join your mission and who believe in what you want to achieve.
Out of this purpose comes the mission of your business, why it should survive and why there is a need for your particular business. Your teams will carry your mission forward and spread it to the world and guess what happens…by being true to your purpose and your mission, the end result in your business will be profits…huge profits….
Peter Ducker stated that to define your definition of success is critical to your mission and your life purpose. Until you figure out what success means to you personally and to your business, leadership is an almost pointless conversation.
Absence of knowing what really matters to you in your life, not just for today, but for the long term, is listed as one of the major reasons why so many companies fail. When achievement for you or your organisation comes without meaning, it does not last.
My mission with the healthcare company I owned, was to make the world a better place by helping people to be healthier and feel better by offering certain products for specific niche health related problems. I believed that if you felt better from a health perspective, you could contribute more positively to the lives of your family, friends and colleagues. From the emails and correspondence I received in which people thanked us for helping them, I know we changed millions of peoples’ lives, leading to a massive ripple effect.
Another business I am now involved with was struggling to make ends meet and suffered huge losses every year. When the current CEO took over, it took her nearly 2 years to save the business and pay off debts. When we met, and took a hard look at the business, we discussed the purpose of the business and I realised why the business was floating (to put it gently). There was no purpose and no mission. I helped her to identify what she was passionate about and to pinpoint the reason why she wanted the business to survive, why she was working long hours to ensure the business made it through another month. I explained to her my belief that the business was like a ship in a stormy ocean because it lacked mission and purpose and that it could not survive without mission and purpose, no business will. Although sceptical at first, she agreed to let us carve out a mission for the business and find its purpose
We soon realised that both of us loved the business because it made such a difference in the lives of people who want to feel better about themselves and that became our mission. To make a difference to the world through making people feel better about themselves and when they feel better about themselves, they have a higher self-esteem… I am sure you see the far reaching effect when any person has a higher self esteem and is more positive in life.
She started to share this vision with all the staff. They now understood why they were doing what they were doing and their role in making a difference to the lives of others. In the 18months since we identified the mission and purpose of the business, profits started showing! It’s no longer a floating ship in a stormy ocean, but rather a speeding powerboat that understands the race, knows how to handle the stormy ocean and is geared up to lead and win. Everybody still works hard, still work long hours, but the difference now is that they are working together to make a difference in the world. They have a mission and a purpose.
There are many more such examples that I have experienced firsthand If you have a business or am thinking of starting one, my challenge to you is to find a way to make the world a better place through that business.
Even if you are not a business owner, your life can have a mission and purpose to make the world a better place. Find it and together we can change the world and leave it a better place for the next generation. I know I will.