Purpose: Beyond Non-Profits
For decades now, we have focused on the differences between corporations and non-profit/NGO organizations. The primary distinction, of course, being function — a corporation’s function is to make a profit and a non-profit is to fulfill a people-directed purpose. This, however, is changing and the move is driven by the redefined expectations of the next generation of workforce. These young professionals are transforming the very definition of success to include such things as “living a good life” and “doing something greater than oneself.”
The landscape of business is traveling at warp speed with new technology is reshaping how we connect, buy and sell, create, travel, share, and prioritize. Amidst all this change, we have a great opportunity to transform the way we experience work with organization development; and it involves re-creating the workplace to include the value of both profit and purpose.
Profits + Purpose = Thriving
In 1998 Sam Mogannam re-opened the small, family-run Bi-Rite Market in the now-trendy Mission neighborhood. At the time, the area was far from chic with drug deals and other crimes witnessed on a regular basis. Sam saw potential, however, and re-directed the energy of the organization to a new vision: to create community through food — while also realizing a profit. He did more than take the bars off the windows, he welcomed the larger community into his store by completely re-thinking his product offerings. No more cigarettes and malt liquor, but rather farm-direct produce and sustainably raised meat.
This interests me, as a positive psychology coach. According to numerous Positive Psychology studies, one of the most important factors in achieving well-being, if not the most important, is great relationships. Sam intuitively understood this and steadily built an impressive network of authentic, positive relationships with the community and local producers. He provided education opportunities that further connected his customers, employees and producers building knowledge, commitment, and ownership.
It was a resounding success; he not only built a profitable business, but he created it by living a purpose. Today his purpose-driven strategies attract and retain a talented staff that is encouraged to grow into their potential, while connecting with and living the purpose.
Sam and his Bi-Rite business is a great example of what Aaron Hurst calls The Purpose Economy. In his book of the same name, he explains how the next evolution of the economy is emerging and how its focus on purpose is changing work, organizations, and markets. Inherent in this topic is the positivity research and the ubiquitous “happiness movement” which espouses the advantages of cultivating thriving/flourishing environments. This strategic differentiator impacts the bottom line through the virtuous cycle – the happiness of employees is contagious and will manifest itself in their behavior and thus the customer’s experience. Clients are happy and become loyal users. This is far from a soft, fluffy topic, and it impacts bottom line; we must focus on profit and purpose – the big opportunity!
The big business opportunity lies in the intersection of profit and purpose, and we can have it all. While we still need to overcome deeply instilled management systems and the belief that non-profits are the only organizations with purpose, the next generation of workforce will push the boundaries and change the paradigm to achieve the newly-defined success. Work and life intersect in ways never before imagined and expectations that we will experience our work/life together as a calling will be a given. It will take change for organizations to succeed — transformational change — and it must start now.
For more on my approach to coaching, take a look at my website and other blog posts about Life Coaching and Organization Development.
 Hurst, Aaron. The Purpose Economy: How Your Desire for Impact, Personal Growth and Community Is Changing the World. USA: Elevate, 2014. Print.