Purpose, under pressure

Businesses are here to create value for customers, not just to return value to shareholders. Richard Curtis, CEO at FutureBrand Australia explains how businesses need to explore purpose, without pressure.

Purpose is a hot topic at the moment, if only because the market is cooling under the threat of some kind of recession.

Photo by D koi on Unsplash

Saturday’s Weekend Mumbo took a dive into the icy waters to explore whether some businesses and brands could soon be drowning if they cling to their purpose over profit – for others, purpose could indeed be a life raft if you hold fast long enough.

I made a small contribution including this comment – “Some companies will get found out to have overstated their purpose, under pressure” – although the Weekend Mumbo also happened to omit a small bit of grammar from my original written quote, the comma.

English has never been the most accurate of languages, although I should say that I find its ambiguity intriguing. And this sentence is a case in point: retain the comma and “under pressure” could equally describe one or the other of two scenarios.

It could describe the possibility that market economics are putting pressure on purpose, so much so that businesses might prioritise profit regardless of their commitment to purpose and consequently get “found out”.

Photo by regularguy.eth on Unsplash

Or, it could describe the possibility that market expectations created the pressure in the first place that led those businesses and brands to “state” or “overstate” a purpose, regardless of its relevance or value.

It’s all too easy to conflate the two: the symptoms may be similar (and they are indeed linked), but the diagnoses are different.

Did your business fail to deliver its purpose under operational pressures, and therefore you need to rethink if and how you might ultimately be able to transpose that purpose into profit?

Or, did your business initially create its purpose under pressure, and therefore you need to rethink if your pursuit of profit can ever be purposeful?

Both are powerful questions to ask, and they lead in different directions.

Either way, one thing in this debate is clear and it’s the fact that businesses no longer exist simply to return value to shareholders, they’re here to create value for customers. And that’s the reality that every business needs to explore, with purpose.

Richard Curtis is CEO at FutureBrand Australia. 


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