People and Purpose

People and purpose leadershipRecently, the Puget Sound Business Journal featured the 2015 Eastside’s Fasting Growing companies and asked several to provide one tip to manage fast growth. The one that stood out to me was, “Great people who are motivated by a purpose beyond profit can accomplish more than you imagine. So if you get the people and the purpose right, the rest will largely take care of itself.” -Scott Svenson, Co-founder and CEO of MOD Pizza.

This certainly speaks to me because as you know, I believe it all starts with purpose. So often when people start a business their intention is “to make money,” “to provide a living,” or something similar. These are reasons, but not what is meant when we talk about purpose. A purpose reaches for something larger and more meaningful than just getting along day-to-day.

MOD started during the recession and wanted to create a unique experience. Here’s what it says on their website, “The “MOD Squad” which emerged helped turn MOD into a place where you want to take your family, and where it feels like family. A place that prides itself on providing a special experience to customers and MOD Squaders alike. Like magic, a spirit of individuality, teamwork, and service emerged. That’s what we call MODness. And, the best part is, it’s just starting to spread. MOD Pizza. Simple food for complex times.” You can read the larger purpose in that statement and it seems that MOD has managed to stay true to their purpose and in the process got some good people on board to create the MOD squad and magic happened.

Much like baking or cooking, the combination of purpose and people is about the right ingredients in the right amounts and then following the recipe, but including your own unique twist to make it happen. Many entrepreneurs start with a good purpose, (maybe not as powerful as Microsoft’s original one, for example, which was to put a PC in every home and on every desk), but still compelling and meaningful to the founder. The problem emerges when they don’t communicate this to the team and/or have the wrong team.

Let’s start with communication and be real about the fact that many founders, CEOs and owners are not great at it. Somehow leaders seem to think that because they are clear in their own minds, the rest of the team should just “know” what they are thinking. It doesn’t work that way, so start by talking about your purpose with passion, the “why” you are doing what you are doing and be open to questions, comments and suggestions from the team to help make it better. Once the team feels it’s “theirs” too, there will be no stopping them from making it happen. Additionally, it pays to have someone really help you tell the story. Consider hiring a professional or agency to help you craft your communications. Although the employees will get behind the purpose because they believe in the why, they may not always be able to communicate it well to others. Give them tools and talking points to maximize the consistency and delivery of your message.

The people part can actually be pretty easy with the right approach. Screen for the necessary skills or aptitude, but hire for belief in the purpose. Ask what it means to them when you share your purpose, have them explain it, and ask them to give examples of when they have been passionate about something in the past and how that showed up in their actions. You’re looking for character, not placeholders. As you build the right team and hold fast to your purpose the magic MOD talks about can happen in your business too.