I believe businesses can change the world for the better. I’ve seen it first hand. Ever since I saw a business that was doing this I’ve been on a quest to discover what allows some business to go from success to significance. In my study of this, I’ve found that most successful businesses have all the ingredients to make this happen. My favorite example of a nearly perfect business that has the opportunity to change the world but just hasn’t yet, is coca-cola.
Let’s define a mission-driven business upfront. A mission driven business is one that is impacting a community’s (locally or abroad) poor for the better. This could be through meeting unmet needs like clean drinking water or through education programs. It’s a community of people that are impacted by this business. It’s not enough to just “make life better.” A Bugatti might make someone’s life better from an entertainment and luxury perspective, but it’s not the life-changing impact we are looking for.
Now that we have a clear definition, let’s cover the 7 “P’s” of a Mission Driven Business.
The sole purpose of a business is profit. The sole purpose of a mission driven business is to sustain enough profit that it can fuel the plan to fulfill the purpose for the people. The idea that profit is something evil or bad is wrong. Profit is the measure of how well a business solves a problem.
There are certain instances where some businesses have taken advantage of customers. The leaders in the business are the ones to blame not profit. Money in and of itself is not evil. It’s the “love of money” that is considered evil (1 Timothy 6:10).
Without profits, a business is in survival mode. The leaders of that business will need to get the business profitable before they ever get to fulfill a greater purpose.
If a business isn’t growing then it’s shrinking. A mission driven business needs profit and growth in order to sustain the pace of its mission. It’s true that members of a business or the business itself could be very modest and still make an impact. However, for long term sustainable impact, growth is required.
Growth isn’t a “P” word, but I didn’t pick progress to be cute. Progress represents forward growth. Meaning that the business isn’t just growing or becoming bloated, it’s growing toward the goal of the mission.
Personally, I think passion is the key to getting the mission accomplished. You don’t need passion for profits or growth. Passion could be considered optional in many cases. Could Walmart change the world? They have size, profit, progress, and people. The one thing Walmart lacks is a passion around a purpose.
Passion is only going to come from clarity around a vision. Passion will attract people to the cause and provide fuel for the mission.
A word about passion.
Sometimes passion without profit or purpose (see below) can create interesting “businesses.” These businesses sell t-shirts and bracelets under the umbrella of passion for a purpose. There is a clear difference between what Toms is doing and what the online merch vendor that wants to stop poaching is doing.
Toms has a profitable shoe business that is infused with the passion of giving back. Toms is highly profitable and leverages the great press from giving back to continue to fuel their progress. If you want to provide lunches to underprivileged kids in your local city, launching an Etsy or Shopify store with t-shirts isn’t going to complete the mission. You have passion but not a real business.
Purpose helps businesses answer the question, “if the business closes today, would the community notice?” A purpose that is great than itself. How do you get there? I think it’s by having a clear mission.
Purpose practically looks like a mission statement as a start. However, it expands from there. The Why behind everything you do. In our Coca Cola example, their statement to “refresh the world” works beautifully for this. If they simply took the next leap and said, “refreshing the world means ending world thirst.” Then you’d have a mission driven business. However, it doesn’t have to be water for them, there are many things that could be “refreshing” to an impoverished world.
In our example above of Walmart, we said they lack passion around a purpose. Their self-described purpose is “to save people money so they can live better.” Living better is certainly a great thing. Would anyone notice if Walmart closed?
A mission driven business is intentional about its pursuit of this goal. It’s one thing to claim a mission, it’s an entirely another thing to be about doing the mission. For smaller or newer businesses this one is tough. You could easily have a great business and a great mission but not know where to start.
You start with finding what breaks your heart. What causes your blood to raise a few degrees when you see it. You say, “that’s not right!” Maybe it’s fatherlessness or maybe it’s homelessness or human trafficking. Find that thing that sparks you. See how it connects to your business.
If you comment below, I’m happy to try to help you connect your business to a cause. Keep in mind that a mission driven business doesn’t have to set up a non-profit to get this done.
In fact, Toms shoes has a great model where they leverage NGO/Non-profits to distribute the shoes they give away. While I think a truly impactful business needs to be more involved than just donating, donating starts there.
Having a clear plan goes hand and hand with progress. For a mission driven business, there needs to be an integrated plan. A plan that will allow a passionate pursuit of the purpose for the people.
Having a plan is very practical. I’m talking about literally adding events to your calendar, systems to your process so that this mission takes off.
The key to having a great plan is a bit like a mission. You need a plan that is so big that it will require progress, and small enough that each person has a role to help execute it.
A mission driven business at its core effects people. I’m not against saving the elephants or the environment. I think those things have merit and we should be doing them. However, my first mission is to people. Mission driven business put people first. The only real impact a business or a life for that matter is how it impacts another life.
When you look at a mission driven business you need to remember to achieve significance you’ll need these 7 “P’s” to some degree. While it makes for a cute blog post, each element is essential to go from success to significance.
Without profits, you can’t fund the mission. Without progress, you can’t sustain the mission. Without passion, you can’t fuel the mission. Without purpose, you have no mission. Without pursuit, the mission remains a dream. Without a plan, your mission plans to fail. Without people the mission is worthless.