The role of Purpose and Passion in a start-up

While a fantastic product, a disruptive business model, and adequate funding are the established critical success factors for building a new company, the last 40% of success comes from a majority of the employees working towards a purpose, and having a passion for that. Without this, we may end up with 80% success; with it, it may go to 120% (hence, the last 40% :) ).

Purpose comes from addressing some important need of a large swathe of the population, making their lives better. In the process, one ends up building a high-quality MISSION-DRIVEN & PROFITABLE business. Many a times, the founders of the business, and possibly few of the Unit leaders, and some Product managers are the ones who remember the purpose, and work towards it. The majority of the employees then are left out, just doing a job! And that’s a monumental waste of a purpose!

In one of the mobile telecom companies that I worked for, the founder-entrepreneur used to speak about connecting all Indians, solving daily-life problems using mobility, and adding value to customers through providing relevant information. He got a video made showing him taking an auto-rickshaw from the airport and meeting many people on the road, whose lives had been transformed because of the mobile phone. This video was shown at all employee cafeterias across the country, and seeing this filled the people with pride that we are making a change to the lives of people…we are building the nation.

Similarly, in a wealth management company that I myself led later on, we were passionate about Financial Planning for our clients. We wanted entire India to become “Financially Planned”. People had to be aware of investing / saving for life goals, and we used to preach the virtues ad nauseam. Customers who went through the Financial Planning exercise had tears in their eyes holding a copy of their 40-year family Plan which would lead to their children getting educated in great schools, and they themselves, being well-prepared for retirement.

Many of the businesses have some stated purpose. But many of these fail to communicate this among their employees. I think this should be communicated and over-communicated at all times. This increases engagement of employees by 50% (again from my famous levels of 80% to 120%). While some may find it gimmicky, we need to print the Purpose on small cards to be kept in a wallet by all employees. We need to make videos of customer testimonials about how our purpose has helped them improve their lives. We need to review our regional business heads, in addition to revenues & profits, on execution of this Purpose, through some smartly designed KPIs.

Coming to Passion, this is a bigger component of organizational success. Purpose drives a significant part of passion. Some of the other sub-factors building passion among employees could be :
• Being treated with respect by the senior management – majority of people work for respect, and want to be treated well
• Awareness of the larger goals and ambitions of the company, and awareness of the role (however small) that each employee is playing towards that goal
• Transparent and meritocratic system of evaluation and rewards, as well as of consequence management.

The list for building passion among employees could be longer, but keeping in context of this article on Purpose, shall restrict to the above. Compensation, ESOPs and getting bright people together could take you to 80% success…but only few companies are able to hit the 120% levels…consistently…and on purpose :) . All the best!

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