I was first introduced to the idea of an organization having a core purpose statement when our CMO pushed for developing a core purpose as discussed in a Harvard Business Review article by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras.
Author Jim Collins checking out my orange shoes.

Core Purpose Statements in Organizations

A core purpose statement for an organization is essentially its reason for existence. But rather than simply stating what the organization produces or sells, its core purpose statement should be relatively long-term articulation of why the organization warrants a place in the market along with what drives it toward success. It’s neither a brand promise nor a slogan (which are shorter term), but congruence between all three statements is important.

A couple of examples of core purpose statements we used at the time were:

  • 3M - To solve unsolved problems innovatively.
  • Walmart - To give ordinary folk the chance to buy the same things as rich people.

Ultimately, the core purpose we developed as a transportation services company was: To make global commerce work by connecting people, places, & information.

Each of these has a similar format:

  • To (VERB)
  • WHAT? Or WHO?
  • HOW? WHAT? Or WHY?

What was particularly intriguing for me was the Walmart core purpose is about “giving,” and ours was about “making,” even though Walmart doesn’t give things away, and we didn’t make anything as a service company. This discontinuity between what a company does and its reason for being indicates a certain positive internal tension to drive an organization forward to a bigger goal and success.

How does a core purpose statement translate for an individual as part of personal branding?

As an outgrowth of the work we did, and as I started to speak to groups on personal branding, I developed a personal core purpose statement. For an individual, it is the driving force in your life to which all your activities are tied.

When developing my personal statement, I was in a period of spiritual reawakening. As a result, the original version of my core purpose statement, which was tied to a sense of financial freedom, transformed completely into one that defined success as serving others on a daily basis.

My own core purpose statement has been a tremendously important force in helping me abandon trying to balance my life’s activities. Instead, I focus on the success of aligning my priorities, decisions, and activities to my core purpose. That’s provided an incredible amount of peace of mind over the years.

Questions to Develop a Personal Core Purpose Statement

You can ask and answer these questions to start formulating ideas for your core purpose:
  • What things motivate me to get up & get out of bed every morning?
  • In what ways am I of the greatest service to others?
  • What brings me happiness & contentment?
  • What things do I find most fulfilling?
  • On what would I spend my time, talents, & attention if I didn’t have to work?
  • At the end of my life, what things will make me smile when I look back?

Use the format shared above to structure the common themes emerging from your answers into a personal core purpose statement. And whether you share your personal core purpose with others is a decision you’ll have to make. Quite frankly, I’ve only shared the exact wording of mine with a couple of people. Instead, my hope is that people see the impact of it in my behaviors and the way I lead my life.

What do you think about a core purpose statement leading to success in a career?

Is this a new concept for you, or have you already developed a statement? If you already have one in place, how does it help shape your life? - Mike Brown

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