How to define a company’s purpose……

There are a host labels out there that can describe a company’s direction? Do we really need a “purpose” to add to this list?

I believe we do. Below I have pulled together a list which starts to distinguish between the various direction led labels.

A vision statement says what the company wants to be like in some years’ time. It’s usually developed by senior management, in an effort to take the thinking beyond day-to-day activity in a clear, memorable way. For instance, the Swedish company Ericsson defines its vision as being “the prime driver in an all-communicating world.”

There’s also the mission, which describes what business the company is in both now and projecting into the future. Its aim is to provide focus for management and staff. A coaching firm might define its mission by the type of work it does, the clients it works with , and the level of service it provides. For example: “We’re in the business of providing executive coaching to middle to senior managers in medium-to-large firms in the marketing industry.”

Values describe the desired culture. They serve as a behavioural compass. For example, Starbuck’s core values are:

  • Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome.
  • Acting with courage, challenging the status quo and finding new ways to grow our company and each other.
  • Being present, connecting with transparency, dignity and respect.
  • Delivering our very best in all we do, holding ourselves accountable for results.

So how does purpose differ from all the above, which emphasise how the company should view and conduct itself?

Kellogg Food’s state their purpose as “Nourishing families so they can flourish and thrive”. This takes outward focus to a whole new level, not just emphasising the importance of nourishing customers but also helping them thrive.  It says, “This is what we’re doing for someone else.” And it’s motivational, because it connects with the heart as well as the head.

Other example include:

  • IKEA: To create a better everyday life for the many people.
  • Tesla: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
  • TED: Spread ideas.
  • BOOTS: We help people across the world lead healthier and happier lives

If you’re crafting a purpose statement, my advice is this: To inspire your staff to do good work for you, find a way to express the company’s impact on the lives of customers, clients, students, patients – whomever you’re trying to serve. Make them feel it.


"Vision is the true creative rhythm." Robert Delaunay

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