How to Build a More Meaningful Business
These days, business isn’t just about making a profit. Over 90% of consumers believe it’s important to live life with a sense of purpose, and 81% believe businesses can be a positive force for social change, according to the Enso 2018 World Value Index. Businesses that make meaningful contributions to society inspire greater loyalty among both consumers and employees. But how do you build a more meaningful business? Follow these steps.
Take some time to catalog your goals and values.
The journey of building a more meaningful business starts with cataloging your goals and values. (If you haven’t already defined your company’s values, read this article.) Make sure the goals you’re setting are the proper gauges to the business. Often, people set goals for the business that really don’t track with what the business needs to measure to improve or to achieve its vision.
Come up with 20 or 30 goals and put targets and measures on them. Then go back into that list of goals and assess which are truly marching you towards your vision and which are sequentially appropriate for the coming year.
Invite your executives to weigh in.
Don’t just present your list of goals to your executive team and ask what they think. Instead, invite them to collaborate. You want them to do the same type of work you did in assessing and evaluating goals so they, too, can put their fingerprints on the business.
Some people think sitting in a room talking about goals is horribly boring. If your execs are among them, it’s your job to make it fun. Goals represent hope—your dream for your business. As a leader, you must make sure the goals are inspiringly interwined in a better story and get your executive team involved so they can be passionate about your dream. That makes the business meaningful to them.
Ensure your initiatives and investment follow your purpose.
You’ve set great goals, your execs have weighed in, and everyone’s aligned on how to measure and achieve them. But you still don’t have a meaningful business unless those goals strike at the heart of your purpose.
For a founder, purpose is deeply personal. It has to align with the economic vision of the business, but it also needs to become part of the organization’s mission. Your initiatives and investments transform those goals into strategy.
A framework such as the 2 Visions framework can help here, because it brings your purpose to the forefront so you can isolate the business’s economic vision from its larger, human mission. (Read more about how 2 Visions works.) Then when you bring them back together, you can make smart decisions about how they’ll coexist, how you’ll track progress toward each of them separately, and the initiatives and investment around each. It’s a great way to ensure that you’re purposely choosing where and when to invest this year, both to make money and to be who you want to be
Value your conversations.
To get the most from any conversation, you need to bring preparation and presence to it. For example, if you think a conversation with a prospect could make you a million dollars, you’ll value that conversation, so you’ll do a lot of preparation. You’ll conduct research, make notes and learn as much as you can. You’ll also be fully present. That means you’re not answering calls, looking at your emails or thinking about your next meeting while the other person is talking.
People can tell if you value a conversation, and if you don’t value the conversation, they feel you don’t value them. Why is that important? Business begins with conversations. Relationships—business and otherwise—are built or chipped away one conversation at a time.
There’s a lot of opportunity in that one little moment we have together. Treat that with respect; be anticipatory and willing to be surprised by what could come of it. When you value a conversation by preparing and being fully present with the other person, you’re creating a space for great things to happen.
Vary your conversations.
On a macro level, what kinds of conversations are you having? For instance, are all your conversations about problems? That can happen when you’re in a tough spot. Or perhaps all your conversations are about your dreams for the business, so your execs feel you’re woefully out of touch: “We’re drowning here, and you’re dreaming.”
On a micro level, look at individuals and ask yourself how you’re varying your conversations with each person. For example, how are you treating low performers? Are all your conversations with them focused on their issues? That can drag them down. On the other hand, if all your conversations are celebrating their successes, you’re not helping them spot opportunities to improve.
When we have the same kind of conversation with the same person over and over, we’re putting people in a box, and people in a box are not likely to change. Varying your conversations is a way to make sure that you haven’t hunkered down on a single solution for a person or for a problem. The more different perspectives you have available to you, the more likely you are to achieve a meaningful business.
Building a meaningful business may start with your dreams, but it doesn’t end there. To make your business truly meaningful, you need to get your executive team involved. By inspiring, uplifting and listening to them, you’ll help to build a business that not only makes a profit, but also attains your weightier goals.