In this post, I’d like to back way up, to when we started Guusto. We made a lot of mistakes in those early years, but we did get one thing right - building purpose into the company. I think it’s something all companies could benefit from doing, so I’ll share our story, the lessons we’ve learned, and some tips on how to work towards becoming a purpose-driven company.
We founded Guusto back in 2013, as a consumer app for sending a beer to a friend or a bottle of wine to a client at a restaurant when you couldn’t be there in person. Pretty cool, right?
We thought so, and took our pitch to Dragon’s Den in 2015.
We were in the Den for well over an hour answering questions. One of the Dragons, Michelle Romanow, was adamant that the recipient be required to download the app in order to get their gift. We had actually tested that growth strategy, and let her know that very few people wanted to send a gift if that was the case. We even asked the other Dragons if they would ever send a gift if an app download was mandatory for the recipient, to which they all replied: “NO WAY”.
Unfortunately, they also left out the part where we talked about working with the One Drop Foundation to donate one day of clean drinking water for every gift sent. There were many flaws in the business model back then, but this was definitely one of the things we got right, and we held onto it throughout our transition into an Employee Recognition tool.
Start with Why
Just before launching the company, a mentor of ours recommended Simon Sinek’s TED talk called “Start with Why?”. He shares some amazing insights:
“Most companies know WHAT they do (product or services description), and some know HOW they do it (different or better features), but few know WHY they do it (purpose, cause, belief).
If you don’t know WHY your organization does what it does, then how will you ever get people to be loyal, and want to be a part of what your organization does?"
Simon inspired us to build purpose into Guusto from day one.
Somewhat serendipitously, we had recently met the team from the One Drop Foundation while hosting a dining tour in Whistler (our first venture). The One Drop Foundation is an organization started by Guy Laliberte (founder of Cirque du Soleil), that builds sustainable water projects for communities around the world.
Both my co-founder and I had travelled extensively for several years after university, and saw first-hand some of the challenges faced by developing nations. So we partnered with the One Drop Foundation to donate one day of clean drinking water for every Guusto gift sent. It was a great fit: send a friend a drink, and someone in need will also receive clean drinking water.
While our business has changed and pivoted dramatically over the years, this purpose has remained a guiding light, and I’m proud to say today that our startup has donated hundreds of thousands of days of clean drinking water through One Drop’s sustainable water projects.
This purpose, this “Why”, has helped to attract social-minded customers, but more importantly, it helped to attract great people to join our early team and inspire them to show up everyday. It has given us all something to be passionate about, and to return home at the end of the day feeling proud and fulfilled. There’s no way the company would be where it is today, if it weren't for the tremendous efforts from many key employees who all stated that part of their interest in joining was the social purpose component.
So we got that right! Creating a deeper reason for being at work can definitely help attract, engage, and retain great people.
Some tips for adding purpose
- Get clear on purpose
The first step is to identify your company’s purpose. It needs to be simple and in-line with your company’s brand. It’s not a static thing. It can, and will, change over time. When we started out as a consumer app for sending drinks to friends and colleagues, we had the following:
ORIGINAL PURPOSE: Make someone’s day, and provide clean drinking water to people in need.
As Guusto pivoted to become employee recognition software, the Purpose Statement evolved into:
NEW PURPOSE: Create better workplace cultures, and make clean water more accessible.
We review our Purpose every year to make sure it still feels right. It differs from our Mission (HOW we work to deliver on purpose) and Vision (WHAT we hope to accomplish) which follow:
MISSION: Help HR leaders implement modern recognition programs that inspire great performance, and donate a day of clean drinking water for every gift sent.
VISION: Become the industry leader in employee recognition programs, and one of the largest donors to clean water projects.
- Communicate purpose
Make sure to communicate the company’s purpose to your people. This starts with the interview, where we ask candidates how they connect with the company’s purpose. It then gets included in employee on-boarding and management training sessions. It’s much easier to get everyone working towards the same goals, if they all have a good sense of the company’s North Star.
- Share results
It’s then important to be transparent about results that tie to your purpose. At weekly team meetings we share stories from happy customers, and how many days of clean drinking water were donated. We also put customer testimonials and water donation progress charts on office walls.
- Show employees their impact
Lastly, we always try to show employees how their efforts make a difference. When we assign tasks, we try to explain why it matters. When we do performance reviews, we share how their efforts have made an impact.
If you're looking for a bit of help building purpose into your organization, contact our team anytime to chat strategy.
If you’re thinking about integrating purpose at your organization, you’ll want to subscribe to read next week’s blog post - How to Build Purpose to Attract & Engage Employees. It will cover the following in detail:
- What is purpose?
- How purpose can impact your business
- Steps to integrate purpose
Hope you’ll join us for the discussion. Have something you want to learn more about? Let me know in the comments below or connect with me on LinkedIn.
Muucho Guusto :)