What does your company stand for?
My team and I recently had the opportunity to work with the founders and core employees of Sitka, a west coast Canadian apparel manufacturer and retailer. Sitka’s people spent three days with us, hashing out the true spirit of their company. This energetic group declared that their company was in the “wilderness activism” business. The company may sell apparel, but its mission goes way deeper.
Rene Gauthier and Andrew Paine, the founders of Sitka, had always preached conservation and sustainability and, as such, had attracted a core tribe of customers and employees. The thing is, at no time in the firm’s history did the team commit to words its vision, mission and intentions in a compelling, inspirational manner. As soon as the team heard the words “wilderness activism,” they got out of their chairs in an energetic frenzy. That was it! The soul. The purpose. The source of the future legacy of the company.
Moving forward, the company now can focus on articulating and living its values and behaving like a company on a mission. A percentage of sales will be diverted to wilderness conservation and marketing activities will revolve around insightful activism. This focus on Sitka’s greater purpose will undoubtedly attract like-minded influencers, and the tribe has the opportunity to evolve into a cohesive, legacy-driven group. Sitka will not be stopped.
Imagine the opportunity for dialogue—for customers and employees alike—when a company uncovers and articulates its mission. Conversations cease to be about what you sell (e.g., how Sitka’s clothing makes people look) and become about the greater good the company enables (in Sitka’s case, the carbon-footprint reduction and sustainability initiatives surrounding the organization). Legacy-driven companies deliver purpose beyond simple consumer purchase decisions. The decision to support a mission-driven company is important. It affects your life!
Companies should be for-profit entities. Part of their purpose should be sustainable financial growth and positive cash flow. What we know, however, is that money rarely motivates a tribe into frenetic energy. To energize a group of customers and employees, a company’s mission must reflect a strong value system; one in which social impact and societal benefit are entrenched. Like-minded people will connect and relate. And in that context, the company will be supported.
I have two simple questions for you. Are you on a mission? And how will the world be left better because of the work your company does? By answering these simple questions, you can refocus your firm into a mission-driven organization that practises purpose and profit. And you can be part of something that is meaningful for all corporate stakeholders—not just your shareholders.
Darrell Kopke is the founder of institute B, a Vancouver-based accelerator for entrepreneurial businesses that put profit and societal value on equal footing. Formerly general manager (and the sixth employee) ¨at lululemon athletica, Kopke is currently a part-owner of several growth companies and a board member with The Gratitude Aeffect Foundation, a Vancouver-based charity devoted to ending homelessness. He founded iB in 2010.
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Do you agree that it’s important for entrepreneurs to find their mission? Why or why not? Share your thoughts by commenting below.