Follow the Higher Purpose

If you’re like virtually every other person in this country, you’ve been to a network marketing meeting (Amway, USANA, Mary Kay…) and you’ve surely noticed how these people believe, I mean really, scary believe in what they are doing. These people don’t just like the products but they invest their heart and soul in these organizations.

Successful network marketing companies understand that they must have a higher purpose that binds people together. A higher purpose is a mission, not a mission statement that you just stick on a wall, but a real mission, a cause, a purpose for being that goes beyond just making money. A true higher purpose concentrates everyone’s energy like a magnifying glass focusing sunlight.

Nothing is more powerful. I’m not talking about a rah-rah motivational meeting. I’m not talking about a tactical marketing move designed to show customer’s that you care. It’s not a slogan, a sales push or a pat on the back for employees.

This higher purpose is the reason that people in your organization get up in the morning and it’s the reason that people fall over themselves to work for your company. It’s the reason people read your blog every day, it’s the reason they buy your products and it’s the reason that people tell everyone they know about how awesome your company is.

Companies that have a true higher purpose can be wildly successful. These companies have a level of customer loyalty and word-of-mouth referrals that most companies can’t fathom.

An example of a company that is firmly committed to its higher purpose is 37 Signals. This web-application company has established itself as the leader of a new era of young, vibrant on-line tech companies. The leaders of 37 Signals are vocal about questioning the “old” ways of doing business. They have established a new web-based programming language that they share for free. They share their message in books, talks, podcasts and a daily blog. They have rabidly loyal fans and they make gobs of money.

Yes, 37 Signals has good products. Yes, they have a good business model. But their success goes far beyond just a good business model and good products. They are the leaders of a higher purpose and their success is a result of their commitment to this higher purpose. Their higher purpose is their primal cause.

There is no tactical decision that can replace a true higher purpose. Many business leaders are simply incapable of understanding this. They are hardwired to be hyper-practical, a good quality for the president of a cardboard company where price and efficiency is the key to success, but not a good quality for a leading edge, specialized company that has to push the envelope.

These hyper-practical people are strictly focused on “reality”, and reality is usually pretty bleak. To them, growth is a function of how much money you can spend on advertising and employee morale is a function of how much you can pay someone. To them, every move is tactical because they break everything down into small pieces. They segment, divide and look at statistics. These people may understand a vague concept of a higher purpose, but be completely at a loss to see how this has anything to do with the day to day operation of their business.

Visionary leaders on the other hand, understand the powerful driving force of a higher principle because they see the big picture. They see the business as a whole and how every aspect of a business affects the other parts. They understand that sometimes this happens in such an intangible way that it simply cannot be measured by statistics or dollars and cents, yet these intangible effects can be powerful.

Visionary leaders can easily lose their way though. They can flip and flop, become distracted and not remain committed to the higher purpose. The key is to remember that the higher purpose must lead and the business must follow. The higher purpose, if it’s strong and pure, will create a wake of success for the business. The business must be the leading advocate of the higher purpose, but the idea itself is still the prime cause.

If a company wants to make the most significant, ground-shaking move that it can make, there is nothing more powerful than finding, living, breathing and sharing its higher purpose. This change resonates through every corner of a company, and sends ripples out to the world. But it’s a dangerous move if you’re not sincere. This commitment is not merely a tactical move. It’s not something that the marketing department or a project manager is in charge of. This is a company-wide, fundamental, to-the-bone, living, breathing realization. Every decision and every action must reflect this commitment. Every employee must be fully on board. If the leaders don’t get it, I mean really get it, then don’t even try.

Tips for realizing your business’s higher purpose

Define. Find the heart of the company. What is the purpose beyond making money? How are you making the world a better place? Why, beyond a salary, do your employees come to work? Come up with a list of six to ten individual words that define the heart of your company. Keep the purpose short and concise.

Commitment. Are you committed to doing only the things that reflect your higher purpose? Every decision and action that the company makes must reinforce the company’s commitment to the higher purpose. If this commitment isn’t there then don’t fake it.

Leadership. In the book, “Tribes” Seth Godin tells us that the people of the world want us to lead them. Your business is the leading advocate of your higher purpose and you must see your business as the leader of a cause. Remember though that the higher purpose is the primal cause.

Capability. Does the leadership get it; really get it? Are they capable of making a commitment, or do they say “yes, but…”, or “we will do it except in this part of our business”? Does the leadership see this as just one more thing that they are going to do or do they see it as the fundamental heart of everything they will do from this point forward?

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2 thoughts on “Follow the Higher Purpose

  1. Good material but you have two blogs combined and too much to read. One is on higher purpose and the other is on visionary leaders. And while they are certainly interrelated as you present it, they might have had higher impact if separated into two blogs.

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