The title of a recent article in Fast Company magazine really caught my interest; “Want a Purpose Driven Business? Know the Difference Between Purpose and Mission.”

We have been practicing this distinction for a very long time with our clients, so it was nice to see it in one of my favorite publications. Implementing both purpose and mission is crucial for leading a successful business. The authors made their case immediately: the purpose is a description of WHY you do what you do, whereas Mission is WHAT you do. The authors provided some examples of purpose by mentioning Patagonia, Tom’s, Runa and Apple. Unfortunately, their examples were all descriptions of WHAT the companies DO instead of WHY they do it. The examples were expanded descriptions of their business models. The examples did not answer the key purpose question presented in the article; “Is this work going to make the world a better place? And if so, how?”

To clarify our understanding of Purpose, the following example may help: the members of a watch company wanted to create and share their Purpose statement, so they met to discuss why their company existed–its reason for being. After taking time to reflect, talk, brainstorm, ask questions, etc., they agreed that living a balanced life was a common value and belief. They shared stories of how they created personal balance and agreed to transfer that into the company’s culture. They could then implement their mission goals grounded by their purpose. Making watches is what they do, and creating balance is why they do it. This could answer the question, “is this going to make the world a better place? And if so how?” Just imagine life in a balanced world!  

FarVision believes that Purpose should be created internally and shared externally to distinguish the values of the organization for all. FarVision publishes our reason for being, “FarVision believes that sustainable prosperity relies on truth, generosity and a caring and supportive environment where inspired transformation serves as a guiding force for achieving success”, so others know who we are and so that we know we are attracting compatible people.

Today with all the talk about the importance of purpose-driven profit, it is crucial to get it right. Knowing the difference between Purpose and Mission will result in a business that embraces purpose, people and profit.


Early on I thought it would be great to own my own business. I worked in retail, summer camps, hospitals and restaurants from high school to graduate school and couldn’t wait to start my own wellness center business after graduation. Business ownership ended and shifted into working in organizational development and new business development for other companies. I have my own business again and focus on working with leaders of entrepreneurial purpose-driven businesses who want to grow their companies and do good with the profits.

Experiences taught me that regardless of the industry and leadership styles, there are 3 common errors made in entrepreneurial companies:

  1. Not recognizing success and failure  
  2. Focusing on profit as the reason for being
  3. Establishing a hierarchical structure

These are three suggestions to avoid these pitfalls

1. Create flexible and strong processes

Entrepreneurial companies focus on growth and sales to provide healthy cash flow and eventually healthy profit. While growing, guardrails should be approximately right to encourage calculated risks, so the company members are supported in both their successes and failures. This kind of internal support results in long term sustainability. Being effective comes before being efficient

2. Commit to a purpose-driven culture to produce profits

Purpose defines why the founder, together with the business, is unique. A written description of the unique beliefs and values is vital information to help customers choose the business, create a market niche, support the organization’s members and have them support the company and to know that profits will be used to do good. “Be the best in the world, by doing the best for the world”. The purpose is constant.

3. Share authority where the problems are solved

Authority that is used laterally supports innovation. Authority that is used linearly creates inertia. The founder is always the Ultimate Authority and decides how authority should be shared. She/he can then stay focused on the vision so that the company grows. Sharing authority with the right person, at the right time builds muscle organically through honesty, openness, accountability, and innovation. Successful founders share authority organically.

All businesses navigate through a natural life cycle and need a road map to avoid the predictable pitfalls along this journey. In the early stages of a business, the road map can be approximately right if the main ingredients are shared and understood so that commitment to long term success is realized.


Do you believe as a business owner that you have the responsibility and opportunity to make the world a better place through your business?

Do you believe that profit is good and should be driven by a higher purpose?

It is not WHAT you do, it is WHY you do it that creates a purpose-driven life and a purpose-driven organization. Aligning the two is the most potent step for long-lasting success. HOW it is accomplished is easily the most sought-after piece to this puzzle.  

In today’s business conversations the topic of purpose is widely accepted as a viable reason for a healthy bottom line, moral consciousness, motivated employees, responsible decision making for environmental sustainability, happy clients, long-term profitability and improved leadershipPurpose Driven Companies Evolve Faster Than Others

The Energy Project, partnered with the Harvard Business Review and surveyed more than 12,000 mostly white-collar employees across a broad range of companies and industries, to find out why people are dissatisfied with their jobs.  Results showed that lack of purpose is one of the key reasons people are disengaged; “Put simply, the way people feel at work profoundly influences how they perform.”

Lack of purpose erodes morale, decreases productivity, and increases turnover. Conversely, Schwartz and Porath discovered (from the Energy Project), “Employees who derive meaning and significance from their work were more than three times as likely to stay with their organizations — the highest single impact of any variable.  These employees also reported 1.7 times higher job satisfaction and they were 1.4 times more engaged at work” (Porath & Schwartz, 2014).

Purpose drives engagement, which increases retention.  Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, “Companies that understand the increasing emphasis of purpose in today’s professional landscape improve their ability to attract such employees and also their ability to retain them for longer periods of time.”

It’s stunning to think, of all the tools available to leaders for improving performance and retention, purpose provides the highest gain, yet has one of the lowest costs.

Mistakes Organizations Make Using Purpose 

A great purpose captures aspiration and is central to the revenue model.  People crave purpose, yet they’re often confused about how to get started.  Here are the four most common mistakes:

    1. Writing a vague purpose
      “We make a difference” is not a purpose statement.  Your purpose must be specific.  HOW do you make a difference?  How are your customers improved from doing business with you?  How does that tie to every single job in your organization?  What kinds of behaviors demonstrate working with purpose?
    2. Equating purpose with philanthropy
      Social responsibility is important, but it’s not an organizational purpose.  Purpose is not a giveback.  Be a good, or ideally great, corporate citizen, focus on the triple bottom line.  But your purpose does not sit on the other side of the table from profit.  Your purpose must sit squarely in the center of your commercial model.  The products you sell must add value to customers.  If you are living your purpose and adding value to customers, you should be financially rewarded.
    3. Making purpose a project
      Yes, you will need a team to get the ball rolling on creating a purpose-driven organizational culture.  But, unlike many initiatives, purpose is not a one and done project.  It’s a way of thinking and behaving that will extend far beyond, and if done right, exist long after your current base of employees jumpstarts it. “(Source: Lisa Earl McLeod newsletter)
    4. Ignoring purpose for mission
      Organizations need both. Purpose is values-based; it is a description of the leader’s reason for being, that establishes the business’s reason for being.  Purpose grows deeper as the business matures and members join. Mission is the measurable goals that achieve the Vision. Mission changes as the long-term goals of the Vision are achieved. Mission has a timeline; Purpose is forever. (Source: FarVision Realizing Optimum).

FarVision President Kiki McShane relates the following story: “I was engaged with a business owner who struggled with her feeling that something seemed to be missing in her profitable, fast-paced company. They attracted good people, they gave back, were growing and were heralded as entrepreneurs. In further conversations, I learned there was not a cultural passion for the business and she often felt alone when there was a challenge.

The reason for this is that the company had no defined “reason for being”, no cultural purpose designed by the Leaders of the Company they could point to, and rally around, during good times and bad, to inspire their work.  They needed to know they were working towards something bigger than themselves.

The symptoms were typical of an organization making all four of the mentioned most common purpose mistakes. The solution to developing the purpose with the founder has a simple but not easy first step; the founder must be willing to be vulnerable. First by being honest with herself (why did I found this company and why is it important to me?) and then by being honest with her members (why do you want to work here instead of somewhere else? Are you aligned with my values and the reason this business exists?).”

FarVision’s “Realizing Optimum” is designed to respond to those special leaders and companies who understand the value of working for a higher purpose.  Our proprietary process that answers the question HOW to create a purpose-driven organization is simple, but not always easy. The rewards are significant for those individuals willing to be open to new ways of learning and functioning.  Contact us today for an evaluation session to see if we are a good fit.

You may find it is the most important decision you’ve ever made.


I must admit that I read almost anything about how to be better organized. I like to know that it is important to make your bed every day, fold socks like sushi so they are happy, make checklists for important projects and pick up items only once to organize them. I agree being organized helps us in decision making.

What I don’t like is spending time getting organized when it does not help produce a result. I believe that being effective is much more important than being efficient, yet I sense both are important. So I began my search to find out how to do both.

My first job out of graduate school was as a guidance counselor at a community college in CA. My colleagues and I examined why the same problems in our department happened repeatedly. We took courses in communication skills, scheduling, time management, conflict resolution, writing goals, strategic planning, making people happy, leadership and assertiveness training. We did better for a while and there was always some improvement but in the long run, we went back to a “business as usual” mindset. We really tried. Nothing stuck. I did learn some tips on how to be more efficient but not how to be more effective.

Finally, three jobs later, moving from the west to the east coast, having a baby and moving from CT to FL, I heard about a methodology that answered how to be both effective and efficient so that solutions stick. I attended training sessions and studied. I learned that the difference in what I tried in the past focused on people’s behavior, NOT on the structures that influence behavior. Structure influences behavior and culture. Structure makes it stick. If there is no supportive organic structure and no alignment around why you are doing what you are doing as a company, the best ideas will not produce permanent results. The improvement will be temporary. People will eventually get discouraged, stop trying and will expect the leaders to fix it. The culture will become risk averse and will stagnate.

So, what is the effective structure?

First, change the focus from people to the mechanisms for working and what is not working. How do you make decisions? Ask if you are making decisions that are short-term and/or long-term oriented. Do you only expect individuals with high levels of authority to implement solutions? Do you use teams designed for specific tasks? Do you have the right authority at the right levels? Do you have gender and ethnic balance?

Second, make sure that everyone, from custodian to CEO, knows the vision – where you are going – and knows their role in getting there. Have a healthy combination of short-term tasks AND long-term task teams to meet the Vision. Do you use Vision teams that are led by the right people regardless of their titles? Do you support teams making decisions vs recommendations? Do you reward risk taking? Do you have a good balance of women at all levels of authority?

Third, use a consistent and organic decision-making process or mechanism. Provide the right amount of time and the right tools so that solutions can be implemented. Do you look at core competency development as part of a successful conclusion? Is there a budget for new projects so that teams and individuals know their guardrails? Is everyone encouraged to talk and contribute for the good of the company? Do you strive to remove silos?

The fast pace of our times requires resiliency and wisdom that seeks effectiveness beyond the mistakes, looks at how decisions are made as well as which decisions are made and who makes them. The new normal accept that traditional business models must be improved upon for long-term success.

What I learned, once I changed my focus from people (who) to the mechanisms (how), is that how problems are solved (effective) is essential for success. The “how to” guardrails (efficient) make it timely. Paramount to producing long-lasting results depends on how problems are solved by the right people and how the implementation is supported by the right people.

The mechanism we implement at FarVision is simple to learn, produces results and can be applied in a variety of circumstances. Our mechanism is very well suited to women decision makers because the result is “problem solved” and the solution implemented for the long run and for the benefit of all.