Thursday, 8 June 2017 – Rebecca Wilson, CEO
Want to know my number one initiative in informing our business planning this year? Spend an hour with a three-year old. That’s it. And it just may be the most important decision I make this year.
Why? Well actually it’s all about the why. A three-year old’s relentless pursuit of the answers – why is the sky blue, why are undies worn under clothes, why do snails move so slow, why is broccoli green instead of orange – why, why, why … We’ve built a successful business at WE Buchan and as I head into my third budget as CEO, I’ve taken the opportunity to pause and consider the ingredients for sustained, continued growth and success.
It’s easy to look at the numbers. And I have. I’ve pulled them apart and put them back together again. But it dawned on me that I was looking for the answers in the wrong place.
The numbers are the outcome of the business we run. It’s actually why we do what we do that is the most important factor, and I’d realised that the ‘why’ had been left behind in the fast pace of growth.
So, I find myself channelling my inner three-year-old and asking why is what we do important; to our clients and our employees? What we do is the action of the business, why we do it is what defines us as an organisation. Purpose is the secret sauce.
Purpose is not just a warm and fuzzy feeling, it runs much deeper. It involves a clear understanding of the ecosystem in which we operate – the behaviours of the marketing and communications industry, the wants and needs of our clients, the skills and capabilities of our team, the changing dynamics of the consumer, and the passion and drive that motivates us to want to get out of bed every day and do the very best job we can.
The frustration of exploring purpose is that it’s not black and white. And as communication professionals who are hard wired to the solutions part of the brain, not having a clear, linear, and somewhat binary answer is uncomfortable. It’s also challenging for people who are great at the narrative and risk developing a tagline rather than a meaningful pursuit.
So, what is purpose and why is it important? By pure definition purpose is the reason for which something is done and a person’s sense of resolve and determination.
Purpose is about intent, aspiration, and inspiration. For me, purpose in the business context has two equally important drivers: the impact we seek to achieve in the services we provide, and the motivation and intent of the people to deliver those services. They are not mutually exclusive but neither are they completely reliant on each other. What is essential is understanding both drivers and centring our business decisions on it.
The process of considering our purpose is iterative and seeking input from everyone in our business is essential to it being successful. It must live, breathe, and evolve. We have an enormous opportunity to positively influence the businesses we work with and in many respects, help them to deliver their purpose to their own customers. We are paying it forward. We are powerful connectors, curators of community, influencers of thinking, inspirers of change and awesome storytellers. It’s my story, your story, our story. These are the characteristics of our purpose.
However, this alone is not enough, for purpose to be meaningful it must connect to us individually and this is where it gets tricky. What motivates us to do what we do each day is not standardised and, in fact, it’s wildly variable. As a business, all we can do is set a purpose and help people – whether they be our clients or employees – to connect with what resonates with them. The heart of individual purpose is a term loosely to cover passion, desire, motivation, drive, relevance, meaning. Need is ever-present; I need a job to allow me to live my life. Just having a job is important but there is something much more powerful at play.
I love my job because I can see the effect of what I do each day on the people around me, whether that’s my clients or my team. The privilege of being in a position of influence, however you want to measure that, is powerful, self-satisfying and rewarding. Each day we are planting new seeds, some fail to flourish but most grow – sometimes quickly and other times in a slower but more sustained way.
To see this growth and evolution in the people I work with is an amazing and fulfilling opportunity for me – and I hope, for those on the other side.