This story was published in the June edition of our newsletter. It is the first installment in our series on building an intentional company culture.
Your purpose is one of your company’s most valuable assets.
While this statement may seem like hyperbole, I’ve personally seen the enormous impact of purpose in my own company. It’s foundational to your business. Your purpose dictates and guides how your company runs and how far it will go. It’s your compass telling you what to take on and what to say no to. It provides everyone in the organization a direction to work towards. You support your purpose with a common set of values shared by you and everyone on your team. Ultimately, your purpose and your core values will shape your company’s culture.
It took us a number of years to find our purpose as a company. We had trouble articulating it, but it just needed to be discovered. We asked questions like “why did we start the business,” “what do we enjoy about the business,” and “what motivates us to continue in this business?” For us, we realized it wasn’t about what we do, but how we can positively impact others.
However, even after that realization, it took some time for Pat and I to work out how we could form a cohesive purpose when we owned three very different companies: a manufacturing company, a mosquito control company, and a lighting installation company. So, we began to try and answer the “why” questions of our businesses by listing out what we wanted to accomplish: good stewardship, building others up, providing for our families, and helping others.
From there, we were finally able to discover our purpose statement. Now, everyone who works at Sterling Lighting knows our purpose well: We practice faithful stewardship over everything that is entrusted to us, and we positively influence all those who come into contact with us. It’s why we exist as an organization. It also prevents people from working here that do not share our vision, and it gives us a unified direction we’re all committed to moving toward.
Understanding and articulating your purpose statement is difficult enough, but applying it takes even more creativity and effort. However, we’ve worked hard to be intentional about living out our purpose and letting it guide how we run our business. Our purpose gives us a yardstick to measure our decisions against. Either consciously or unconsciously, we always ask ourselves: Will this decision make a positive impact on the lives of our customers, employees, family members, or friends?
So, when we design and manufacture high-quality products, our purpose underlies our choice not to cut corners to save 15% on a product that will fail in two years. Poorly-made LED fixtures that need repair work after a couple years will leave a bitter taste in your mouth. However, by using quality materials and cutting-edge technology, we’re able to offer you a product you’ll feel confident installing.
When we decided how we would sell our fixtures, our purpose guided our choice to sell directly to contractors instead of distributors. While this may have slowed our growth because we’ve had to build our brand from the ground up, it has also saved us 20-30% on our fixtures. We’ve then been able to pass those savings along to you! Selling directly to contractors has also allowed us to form stronger relationships with you, our customer.
Finally, when we asked ourselves what else we could do to positively impact our customers, our purpose underlay our decision to create marketing programs, such as Sterling Storefront. We wanted to help our fellow small business owners with an aspect of their business that, because of the time and money involved, often gets put off to the side. Our hope is that by offering affordable, easy-to-use marketing solutions, you’ll be able to more effectively get the word out about your company.
Other marketing programs are also in the works. Just last month, we went and visited a couple of our customers down in Florida, Tim Pleasant and Tim Salopek, to shoot company videos and testimonials for them. In the future, we hope to continue to use our video and marketing resources to help even more of our customers.
Ultimately, I believe that when we fulfill our purpose, we help your business thrive. This, in turn, gives you more time and energy to positively impact the people in your own life. This is why I encourage all entrepreneurs to form and embrace a purpose.
Once you know your purpose, you can form your core values, which determine how you act. With purpose influencing your decisions and core values influencing your actions, you begin to form an intentional culture in your company. You will spend so much of your life working in your business, why create an accidental culture that doesn’t align with the vision of what you want your company to look like? Purpose is just the first step, but it’s an important one.
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