Bringing purpose back to business for FY19

Last week I flew back from an amazingly enriching experience, where I rode horseback for days on end to reach a dwindling community of reindeer herders in remote northern Mongolia. I met local people, slept in an ancient teepee with a dirt floor and logs for a bed, and had the most incredible ‘bucket list’ experience — an experience that will last a lifetime.

While on the ‘frontier’, travelling with a small group, we really had the feeling that we were ‘in this together’. We were each challenged in different ways: physically, emotionally and spiritually. We endured some of these challenges quite privately; but other times the sharing of what was happening for us created an incredible bond. It was our small troop together on this adventure, miles from anywhere, with our trusted guide and team — without any distraction.

We had unplugged from our world and inserted ourselves into a new world.

The experience was all the richer because of our camaraderie, storytelling and laughter. There was no Wi-Fi, hotspots or 3G; it was just us — no distraction. Great conversation ensued; we shared ideas, photos, food (and vodka). With the nights spent in tents with not much to do, we invented our own experiences: my cocktail making course, Stu’s ‘how-to-appreciate-whisky’ guide, and other shared experiences. Much of it through translators with our hosts.

A close community of shared experiences was created. This sense of community is often called the ‘circle’; the circle is close, trusted and tight, and it is only broken when an outsider distracts one of the participants – or they are no longer truly present. It is kind of sad to say that this happened literally within minutes of us arriving back into Mörön where there was an internet connection; each of us curious to see if everything was ‘okay’ in our other world.

Upon my return to Australia, I went straight into a planning session with the Big Red Group leaders. And while I was exhausted from my travels, my Mongolian experience had connected me powerfully with my purpose and the wider business purpose of the Big Red Group. I needed this ‘circle’ to remind me of why I have done what I have done for close to two decades.

Had I not taken the time to get away from the day-to-day, I’m not sure this would have happened. I am often so busy rushing, I have little time to reflect — or create. Yet that is what we need to achieve as leaders.

It was a ‘light bulb’ moment.

Because of the work we do, we want to shift the way people experience life.

In commercial terms that means that as a group we will serve an experience every minute during the 2018-19 financial year. But the ‘experience’ life extends beyond that — to our suppliers, distribution partners, customers and the people we come into contact with.

I urge you to use this often busy time of year to take stock, take some time out and get honest with yourself about why you do what you do. I have spoken at length over the years about being a purpose-driven professional, yet I too am human and guilty of losing sight of the bigger picture from time to time. I too get caught up in the daily grind of execution and forget to keep my eye on the prize, or the ‘why’.

Being really clear on why we do what we do is a powerful driver that can be used to align teams in a business. My business purpose has to be equally about the workplace that I create, as much as my commitment to my customer groups. And I think that’s why it is important to share, far and wide, your vision and your purpose.

I’m always inspired when I look to truly purpose-driven businesses, and there are plenty of them out there. Those who are on a mission to change something, or better something, or do something bigger than themselves. One example that springs to mind in Thankyou Group.

Their story and business purpose is powerful:

There’s a darkness in our world. 1 billion people live in extreme poverty.
It’s made darker by the fact that in this same world, extreme consumerism exists.
Each day as consumers, we give billions of dollars to the world’s largest multinationals for everyday products.
Together, we think it’s time to bring the light.
It started with an impossible idea: a bottle of water that exists to help end the World Water Crisis. That idea has now grown to over 55 products, from personal care products to nappies and baby care. We are Thankyou, a social enterprise that commits 100% of our profit to end global poverty.

Everything they do as a business — every product, every marketing campaign — comes back to their purpose. They even allow customers to track the impact of their purchases to see the dent they are making in world poverty.

With the new financial year upon us, there is no better time to take stock of why you do what you do, align your people to your purpose, and set out with a vision to change your world.

This article originally appeared on Smartcompany.

Also published on Medium.

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