By Pamela Hawley
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman
This is very true.
Often I hear people say, “Oh, I wish I did something meaningful like you do, helping the world.” Working in philanthropy is a wonderful way to serve. But social workers, teachers or philanthropists don’t corner the market on meaning. If you want to create meaning and a core purpose at your company, here are the top five inspiring — and practical — steps.
1. Start with you
Your company cannot have a core purpose if you don’t know your own. It’s that simple. Follow what your deepest inner voice tells you — not what society says.
Not the “I must be an investment banker; I should be a consultant.” And definitely not “I will do something good for the world, and then go ‘get a real job.’”
You are created for a purpose. Your company has to see that purpose in you. It’s not just a product, but all your drive, passion and energy at the forefront, every day.
2. Define the values and activities around your purpose
What is it you most value?
Pick the one value and one service, and start there. Don’t make it complicated. We are not talking about an Executive Summary. Whether you are starting out or have been in business for 10 years, this is a superb exercise. Start with your passion, or get back to your passion.
If this is difficult, take some time. Retreat centers, walks on the beach and sitting in a forest simplify your thinking. Take nothing but a pad and paper to write down what inspires you, both in a) how you take action and b) what type of service. Don’t think, just let it pour forth naturally, whether it is an essay or a few inspired words.
A) How you take action/What is natural to you
- Mobilizing people
- Closing deals
- Bringing consensus
- Exploring new frontiers
- Building sure and steady
- Creating a boutique firm
- Excellence in client service…
There is no limit.
B) Types of service — here are a few examples that may fit your situation:
- Service and a beauty salon
- Technology and apps that make people efficient
- Health and organic foods
- Eco-friendly and better composting techniques
- Efficiency and a better search engine
- Purer dry cleaning services
- Marketing/promoting others
If you can’t do this, your team can’t work to their potential.
They can’t see your focus or drive. They will be B players; and you are not a B player.
Take the time to solidify your A-player status. Sometimes we get off track, and now you can get back on.
3. Build (or rebuild) a practical, inspiring business
So, what does this look like? It depends on your interests and passions. Here are a few examples.
Create a haven. It may be that you have a passion and talent for interior design. Help make people’s homes special. We all need a haven: a place to welcome others, and ourselves. Build a company around that.
Inspire confidence with your numbers. Perhaps you love numbers. Provide order to your clients’ finances. What would I do without my bank? Where would I put, record, manage the deposits of donations for UniversalGiving? We need a trustworthy expert. Let it be you.
Mobilize People Through Sports. You are an athlete at heart. If you are a player, play that game with integrity and enthusiasm, with the greatest sportsmanship. You will be a model for everyone watching, your colleagues, the audience, the referees and any children present.
If you are a coach, your guidance and words can impact hundreds of people — and for their entire lifetime.
If you run a sports shop, you can sell the best equipment. Search diligently to find the products that will help people succeed.
4. Core purpose statement
Come up with your core purpose statement. Use an inspiring verb or adjective and clear action. Here are a few examples:
- “We sell the top soccer balls, with enthusiasm for the sport.”
- “We create life-changing apps that save you time.”
- “We are calm anchors with our cloud service, ensuring your data is safe and secure.”
- “We create the most professional dry cleaning, making you feel like the President.”
- “We protect your company as you face cyber-terrorism in your backyard and across the world.”
Put it up on your wall with your values. Talk about it and reference it in meetings. It’s more verbal, casual and easy than a mission and vision statement.
Use it in conversations: with your team, with clients and to yourself when you wake up every day.
It should roll off your tongue, and soon everyone will speak about it naturally.
5. Go back to yourself
Your company has a core purpose because you do. Serve by following your passion. Don’t do what you think you should do — do what you are created to do. You will find all types of people needing your inspiration and services, in ways you’ve never imagined.
Image credit: Flickr/Eversheds International
Pamela Hawley is the founder and CEO of UniversalGiving, an award-winning nonprofit that connects volunteers and donors with quality service opportunities. She is a winner of the Jefferson Award (the Nobel Prize in Community Service) and has been invited to three Social Innovation events at the White House. She also writes Living and Giving, a blog with the mission of “Inspiring Leaders to Live with Excellence and Love.”