As a young graduate, planning to build my career in sports physiotherapy, I found true inspiration in the most unlikely of places: an eighty-something-year old man called George.
George lived in a Melbourne aged care home because his legs would no longer work the way he wanted them to – his dream was to return home to live with his wife, Mavis.
George was working towards his dream, and as a physiotherapist, I was able to share the journey with him. Together we worked on bringing George’s dream to life by improving his strength, balance and fitness.
Without knowing it, George also helped me to discover my passion for working with older people and, ultimately, the core purpose of my business.
A core purpose is the reason an organisation exists. It’s a brief statement that anyone can read and think, yep, got it. I know exactly what they’re up to. The fewer words the better.
Facebook’s core purpose is ‘to build a global community’. With more than 1.3 billion daily active users on average, Facebook uses its core purpose to continuously pursue a dream to make the world more open and connected.
In my favourite business book, Good to Great, author Jim Collins describes how greatness is not a result of chance or circumstance, but is largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline.
Collins’ research has found that a core purpose, or what you stand for, is a critical part of building a team that achieves long-term success. According to him, there are five important characteristics of a good core purpose:
- It absolutely has to be inspiring to those inside the organisation
- It has to be something that could be as valid 100 years from now as it is today
- It should help you think expansively about what you could do but aren’t doing
- It should help you decide what not to do
- It has to be truly authentic to your company (teams that fail on this important point are often the ones that really don’t stand for anything and never will)
A core purpose is usually more succinct, clear and powerful than either a vision or mission statement (possibly because a lot of vision and mission statements are wishy washy and effectively meaningless).
In my experience, a core purpose has helped provide a filter to what we should and shouldn’t choose to do.
Does what you are doing fit your core purpose? If something aligns with it, do it. If it doesn’t fit, don’t do it.
The power of a compelling core purpose is in the simplicity and direction it can provide when used in decision making every day.
A core purpose has to be sticky. It has to roll off the tongue many times every day – for everybody involved with the organisation – in one-to-one conversations, company updates, presentations, meetings, interviews, emails, training sessions and all sorts of other places.
For me, an early career discovery was that I was more passionate about working with elderly people was key. I couldn’t have figured out a sticky core purpose if I didn’t have that discovery first.
My business, The Physio Co (TPC) exists ‘to help seniors stay mobile, safe and happy’.
That’s our cause. That’s what we stand for, That’s TPC’s core purpose. By providing one to one treatments and group exercise classes for elderly people, the TPC team help seniors stay mobile, safe & happy. That’s it.
Before I read Good to Great and discovered the idea of a core purpose, TPC was foundation-less. It was impossible for anyone to succinctly know exactly what was important to us, and even I, the founder was confused and could not communicate the reason we existed.
I was trying to figure out vision and mission statements because I thought that a business wasn’t a real business until it had both of these things. I was only able to make them useful for TPC when I shifted mindset to try and inspire our workplace community and help us decide what to do by focussing on a simple core purpose.
In the years since discovering and sharing TPC’s core purpose, those eight words have become amazingly powerful in aligning our team and growing our business.
From George to today, that’s what TPC has always done and what we’ll do for the next 100 years.
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