What is the purpose of your business?

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In a world that is changing faster than ever, how can businesses develop a sustainable competitive advantage?

There are many people who treat business like a game. You place a few bets, you win some and you lose some, and then you move on. But these bets often have human consequences that get overlooked. Even worse though, when discussing business, I often hear words such as ‘domination’ and ‘aggression,’ and phrases like ‘results at all costs.’

If you read strategic management textbooks you’d think that business is only about self-interest. That the whole idea is about being cleverer or faster than your rivals. 

In my view, business is not any of those things. Business is real lives. Business is people. 

One concept that is doing the rounds has been borrowed from classical philosophy: the common good. The idea proposes that we can create corporate environments that can profit while lending focus to helping people flourish, both within an organisation and our society as a whole.

At a debate hosted by IESE Business School, Jaume Agusti, CEO and Co-Founder of Zenks! argued: “If companies want to be sustainable long-term they must exchange their ‘culture of having’ for a ‘culture of being,’ and look for social benefits beyond profits.”

This humanitarian message is in stark contrast to the profit-obsessed world I’ve discussed above. But Agusti’s thought process provokes businesses to think about strategy in innovative and positive ways.

The New Year traditionally marks a time when people look at themselves and make resolutions. Lose weight, stop smoking, get fit, and spend more time with friends. We’ve all heard these kinds of personal goals before. The same message resonates through almost every New Year’s resolution: positive change.

Given the craziness of the world in 2017, perhaps it’s time for the business world to stop and reflect too? Profit is obviously important, but it also matters a great deal how you make money and what you do with it once you have it.

Perhaps one of the causes of where we are today is because money is easy to measure. Numbers are logical and easy to add up. On the other side of the coin, social or environmental impacts are far more difficult to quantify. However, they can be measured if they mean enough to you.
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The purpose of your local Co-operative is ‘to make a real difference to the communities we serve.’

I sleep easy with that. It doesn’t mean we’re not commercial. We have to be to exist. But we’re not simply in business for our own sake. Our success enables us to fulfil our purpose.

Despite what is happening in the world around us, I believe businesses in 2017 should take the time to reflect and make changes that allow them to make a tangible difference that goes beyond profits. Businesses can drive positive change for the greater good.

What is the purpose of your business?

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