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.

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