4 Questions to help you find & shape your purpose.

Business is not fun, it’s full of conflict, disagreement and mistakes - so best make it something you desperately care about. 

This is part 3 in a series of short articles looking at the why, what & how of being a purpose driven business.

Building on the work I’ve been doing with various CEO’s and Management Teams, I’ve put together four questions to help identify your businesses purpose. This works for individuals, teams and businesses. Using the model below for a business is more effective when you work with the entire management team.

  1. What drives us?
  2. Who are we?
  3. What do we want to achieve?
  4. What does success look like?

What drives you?

Talk about what people are passionate about and they will almost certainly talk about what they love. The likes of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet talk about the secret of their success as having an absolute passion for it. "If you see someone with even reasonable intelligence and a terrific passion for what they do and get people around them to march even when those people can't see over the top of the next hill." – Warren Buffet.

But the word passion has a far darker and far older meaning – the flavour of which we can still see today but the richer meaning has been lost.

The word passion stems from the Latin ‘pati’ which means to suffer and is inextricably linked to the suffering of Christ. St Matthews Passion is St. Matthews story of the suffering of Christ … not the story of what St. Matthew gets really excited about. The link is obvious, but the real meaning can have a real impact on you personally and your business.

You can love the idea of building a sustainable brand or, you can be passionate about it. You can love the idea of getting fit – or you can be passionate about it. You get the idea.

There are few things that will stop a CEO in his or her tracks – but asking what them what they are willing to lose their job for will certainly do it. After family – what is the answer? What will you quit your job for?

Business is not fun, it's full of conflict, disagreement and mistakes - so best make it something you desperately care about. 

Who are you?

In a world of accelerating change and disruption – the surest and most stable aspect of business is you: who you are and what you aspire to be. Everything else can change but your core values and drivers won’t. As an individual or as a business. Rooting your business purpose in who you are, and who you are as a team is critical. 

There are three aspects of identity:

  1. Core – who you are, your values and your drivers
  2. External – how you are perceived by other people
  3.  Aspirational – what you are when everything is working perfectly

Your identity as a business, as leaders and as a leadership team is impacted by many thing: history, your founders, technology, products, crisis, success. Your identity is unique to you and is expressed in terms of passion, values (not the corporate blah you have written on your wall somewhere but the real values that are lived our in your human and fallible leaders), the difference you want to make, the technologies or patents that have helped define you.

Why does it matter because this is who you are, its constant, it's how you make decision, it's how you look after your talent, it's how you grow, how you manage failure, mistakes and rejection. There is no individual like you on planet earth and there is no company that looks like, smells like and tastes like yours. Your are unique.

Who are you?

What do you want to achieve?

Change the story, change the thinking, change the action.


Something magical happens when you visualise and write down your ideas. You’re creating a narrative, a story for what you want to achieve and the difference you want to make. This is more than just positive thinking – we all create scripts for our lives – consciously or subconsciously. We’ve all met those people who are determined to be a victim in every circumstance or who have a chip on their shoulder that flares up in every meeting. Change the story, change the thinking, change the action.

Write it down – a short story. This is who I am. This is what I’m passionate about. This is what I want to achieve.

There is power in writing something down. Letting the ideas in your right brain leap over the corpus callosum to the left brain that looks after writing can increase your likelihood of achieving your goals by 42%.

So right now, write it down: what do you want to achieve?

What Does Success Look Like?

What you want to achieve identifies your goals. When those goals are delivered – what does the world look like? How is the world a better place? How is your business more valuable? Being a purpose driven business does not mean sacrificing business success to ensure we still have icebergs. Being a purpose driven business intrinsically means creating business value as well as community and planet value.

Articulate your success. This is not about motivational blah, or “yes we can” – although without doubt, that helps. This is about throwing your cap over the fence, making a statement to yourself (-selves) and to your stakeholders about what it will look like in the future. It starts with phrases like “we believe this will…” and “By 2030 we’ll see X investment in sustainable…”

It's easy to dream and it’s easy to have idea. The world is stuffed full of well-meaning people with great ideas. Very few of them ever do anything to bring it to life.

Define what success looks like for your purpose. Even if you don’t hit it – being close might also be ok.



I firmly believe that being a purpose driven business with everything that implies for talent, retention, ROE, business value, making the world a better place, increasing profitability; is the only way to be truly successful in the 21st Century busniess landscape.