It’s all very well to decide that your business or organisation needs purpose, but maybe the biggest step to think through as a part of this is how it will be adopted? There is plenty to learn in this area. Sometimes we sweat the small stuff with what a purpose should sound like and get caught up in syntax, when what matters is whether it resonates with the business as it stands.
At RetailOasis, we often talk about the fact that you can have the perfect strategy but if no one adopts it then it’s entirely theoretical. It’s a bit like that old saying ‘ culture eats strategy for breakfast’. We’ve had plenty of experience developing purpose (if you need a refresher look here) and we decided the best way to broach this topic is with a listicle (BuzzFeed style).
So here’s our Top 4 what not to do when developing and rolling out purpose.

1. Don’t Leave it Up to Marketing: 

We see this a lot. As soon as the word ‘brand’ is dropped, it becomes marketing’s problem. However brand is actually a function of the whole business.  As a side note, if you ever work in an organisation that is scared of the word brand – aka say it and people look at your strange like you’re talking a different language, just slowly walk backward and out of the room, and leave; as that is a business that will end up in a commodity heap if it isn’t already.
Ok, back to the topic, when purpose is left to marketing, it only infiltrates one area of the organisation and often only manifests itself in ads. This is a huge problem, because if the store experience or staff training isn’t inline with a customer sees before they come in store.
If you want to bring brand purpose to life it starts with the CEO driving it. To quote a good friend of ours, Mark Sareff, the CEO is the ultimate brand champion. So if the CEO isn’t on board (or worse doesn’t value brand), then guaranteed that purpose will not get off the ground.

2. Don’t just make it a lofty, written statement that sits in reception

One of the big issues with rolling out purpose is that we think it has to be written or in words for people to understand it. We think if we nail the purpose and then print it out on some high quality stock paper for a training room or reception area, people will just get it…and then that means tick we’re living our purpose. This is so flawed as it doesn’t get into the behaviours that epitomise how the business operates to be on purpose or the characteristics someone might have that would enhance our culture.
We can go one step further, in fact processing information through words (aka System 1) isn’t easy compared to creating stimulus that engages system 2 (aka, emotions, feelings, non-verbal communication). For a purpose to be adopted in a business, you need to understand the characteristics, and behaviours that demonstrate what you are after. Then understand how this can be communicated across the organisation through specific training…not just a pretty printed out platitude that sits in a training room or reception…or worse on everyone’s computer desktop.

3. Don’t exclude it as a KPI

Now this is the tell tale sign of whether leadership is on board and values purpose or not, here’s why? Often standard individual financial KPIs can conflict with overarching business strategies – such as investing in culture, people, training and purpose. If a company is really serious about their purpose (and believes in it) then they will re-adjust and rethink how they measure the success of their people. To paraphrase Warren Buffet’s right hand man Charlie Munger, if you want to understand a business look at what it measures and rewards.
If you want a business to adopt and believe in a purpose, or at least act with it as a core intention – then you must reward and measure it. Maybe something that was missing from Sinek’s Start with Why video was the fact that yes we are driven by purpose, but when purpose conflicts with your job security you will always (most often) pick job security. Aligning KPI’s – measurement and reward – to purpose is key.

4. Don’t expect an immediate result

Finally, it takes time and there is no shortcut. We spend our lives looking for the ’silver bullet’ guess what – it doesn’t exist, particularly when it comes to changing behaviour – because that’s exactly what implementing a purpose is, it’s behaviour change. For some people in an organisation it might not mean changing much but for others it will mean learning new ways of working, behaviours etc.
To roll out a purpose, you need time. Time to adjust KPI’s, time to understand the behaviours and characteristics you want to foster and time to see a result. Just think about yourself for moment and how hard it is when you decide to do something different like try to eat healthy or go to the gym and how you have moments when you ‘fall off the wagon’ and moments when you feel like you’re hitting your goal. The results from this take time, but every action builds momentum.


As you look at implementing a purpose through your business or start to invest in more soft KPI’s, understand these 4 things – 1. its must come from the CEO, 2. you must understand the characteristics that embody it; 3. you must make it measurable and finally 4. You must give it time.