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Purpose in Business: What Do You Stand FOR?

If your customers see you’re there for them, they’ll be there for you.

On this episode of FMF, I check in with Jeff Henderson, the author of Know What You’re FOR and lead pastor at Gwinnett Church. Jeff shares how he’s learned to find a purpose and stick to it.

Here’s what we’re unpacking today:

  • Why doing good is good for business.
  • The power of what your customers say about you.
  • How to stay true to your purpose through growth.
  • How to get people behind your vision.

This post is based on a podcast with Jeff Henderson. You can listen to the full episode here and below.

Doing good is good for business

Why is it important for a business to know its purpose?

Jeff: I really do think that doing good is good for business. 

Thriving organizations understand that purpose fuels profit and profit fuels purpose. You don’t have to have those two mutual mutually exclusive.

In fact, it’s interesting to me that we have the for-profit world over here. And we have the not-for-profit world over here. So, it’s like we’ve got profit over here and we’ve got purpose over here. 

You can have both. And in fact, not only can you have both, I think research is showing us — especially with millennials and gen Z — they’re demanding it. That’s why this is so important. We’re not talking about having a business that’s not trying to make money. We’re talking about having a business and having a profit and purpose all at the same time.


You are what your customers say you are

How can organizations spread awareness of their purpose?

Jeff: A business is what customers tell other customers it is. 

I can tell everyone that I have the best hamburger in town, but Yelp wins. I can spend a lot of money talking about my hamburger. But if I’m not delivering on that and I’m not making a positive difference and I’m not delivering what I’m saying, then the customers will tell customers what it is. 

You have to genuinely be for people. You have to genuinely be for the customer. And part of what I discovered — this is rampant in the church world — sometimes we’re too busy talking about ourselves that we don’t dialogue with our customers. 

To give you a specific example, I see this in social media and I have the opportunity and the privilege to consult with a lot of major brands. One of the things I point out consistently is that they’re not doing social media. They’re doing digital media because they’ve forgotten the social in social media. 

What they’re saying is “look how great we are and look, we’re better than our competitors.” Look at this, look at that. If we go to their Instagram page, we count the last 10 posts and see how many are about them and how many are about the customers or the people they’re trying to reach. And have you gone onto their platform and communicated with them? They are, because that’s the power of social media. 

So, I say it’s no longer about being the best company in the world. Being the best company in the world is talking about yourself.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t talk about our products. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do any of that. I’m just saying there needs to be a better balance. 

Here’s a visual of old school marketing: Take a football example. The business is on the field and the customers are in the stands and we’re cheering the business on to score. 

We need to flip the script and put the customer on the field and the organization in the stands. Hey look, if our business can help you score a touchdown or win the game, then great for us because we’re not the hero in the story — you are. 


Staying true to your purpose during growth

As your organization continues to grow, how do you stay true to the original purpose you set out to serve?

Jeff: For me, it looks like writing handwritten thank-you notes. I write three thank-you notes a day. You’ve got to have a system, though. 

What I mean by that is every Sunday I send out a group message to our staff saying, “Hey, were there any stories today that happened that you could tell me that would allow me to write a thank-you note?” And then I’ve got to have note cards in my bag and my car so that if I have a moment I’m able to write some notes. I have to have a system that allows me to do that. 

I can’t tell you how many times people have come up to me and said, I have your note on my refrigerator at home or on my cubicle at the office.

In terms of growing small, it’s about those small touch points you can make.


Getting people behind your purpose

How do get people to buy into your organization’s vision?

Jeff: One of the best principles of leadership is leaders are repeaters. You have to say it over and over again because vision rarely repeated is quickly forgotten. 

You can’t say it enough. I remember at Chick-Fil-A, I represented the Atlanta market on behalf of the corporation. This was during the ‘Eat More Chicken’ cow campaign, which is now in the advertising hall of fame. But the Atlanta operators were saying, “Hey, how much longer are we going to do this? Because everybody’s heard this.” And I thought you know what? That’s good feedback. So let’s do some research. 

We discovered that in Atlanta, the hometown, Chick-fil-A was only barely starting to register a little bit in the minds of the consumer. Because as you well know, there are so many messages that are coming in. But because we were in that all the time in that world, we were seeing cows and eat more chicken all the time. We were thinking, hasn’t everyone already heard this? 

You’ve got to say it over and over. And yes, you should say it in different ways and it should be creative and not boring and redundant. But don’t talk yourself into thinking everyone’s already heard this.