Thursday, September 22, 2011

What is Your Purpose?

"What is the mission of this company?" That was the question that I was supposed to answer.

I was to give a short speech to some investors who were thinking about investing $1 million (USD) into my small start-up company. One million dollars is not a lot of money as far as investments into start ups goes, but in this economy, and especially for me and my partners, it was the difference between life and death for our fledgling company.


One of my partners kept insisting that I say something like, "We intend to become to biggest, most profitable company in the niche within 3 years..." and padding that with a bunch of fancy words to make it sound better. Those words were "money," "gains," etc... He kept saying that these investors were not interested in philosophy. He said they were only interested in the bottom line.

I strongly disagreed. Basically what he wanted to say was, "We want to make money. Lots of it. Money. Money. Money. We own you!"

Sure, that might actually be what everyone is thinking, and it might actually be the real purpose, but it doesn't make a very good publicly stated mission. It doesn't look good on paper or on advertising. They might want to make lots of money but they definitely want to look good doing it and look like they are doing something for the betterment of society.

Here is the mission statement of a very famous oil company: "At the heart of the (company name) way is our Vision to be the global energy company most admired for its people, partnership and performance." Get that? "People, partnership, performance"! Compare that with my friend's idea that basically translates into, "We want your money!"

Not a good comparison.

A mission statement for a company or your personal goals is a very important thing and one needs to consider deeply what the stated mission is.

My oldest daughter is a jazz singer. She sings traditional jazz. Her company figures than since CD and record sales have dropped off the map, they can still sell albums if they take a young, pretty girl and have her sing standards. Stuff like "Take the 'A' Train" or "All that Jazz." She has been performing at dinner shows around Japan to audiences that comprise people old enough to be her parents or grandparents.

Why not? These are the only people who have any money these days and they are still the people who will buy CDs.

But, even with extensive touring and a successful track record at that, her CD debut has been delayed now for over a year. The delays had to do with her attitude.

She has had a serious problem with her motivations and her intentions. One day, the president of her company told her that he had met a girl who'd been singing at public parks. Though she wasn't nearly as talented, what she lacked in talent, she more than made up for in enthusiasm. He told my daughter,

"That girl said she didn't care about anything but music. She just wanted to sing. She'd sing anywhere just as long as people could hear her voice. You have to be like that!"

I asked my daughter what she said to him about that and she said that she didn't reply at all. I asked her why and she said,

"Because daddy, I don't want to sing at parks! I want to sing and make lots of money!"

"Foolish girl!" I cried. "Haven't I taught you anything? You shouldn't think that way. Ever! You should realize that you have a gift from god and that god didn't give you this gift so that you can merely fatten your bankbook!" 

I went on and explained to her why this kind of thinking is doomed to failure. It is exactly as my friend above thinks. These people who are supporting you with money may want to do so in order to make money, but they want a better, more magnanimous excuse for what they do.... Just doing what they (you) do for money? That's no good. You must state a higher purpose! You must do what you do for a higher love!

I told my daughter to think deeply about why she has a gift and what the purpose of music is. I told her to go back and tell her boss that her purpose of singing is something like this;

"Life is short and life is difficult. So may people have a hard life and so many people are unhappy. I want to sing so that if I can make them forget their problems and become happy, if only for even a few minutes, then that's what I want to do... God gave me this gift and I want to use it to make people lives better... If only for one minute or two...."

I told her to consider this deeply everyday and to change this into her own words and her mission in life. I told her to write it down everyday. I told her that if this wasn't to be her mission then she should stop singing right now and go get a regular job if all she wanted to do was make money.

L to R: Julie, Sheena, some dude

She realized where she'd been selfish and had been on the wrong path. I think, later, she began to cry. 

A few days passed and, after careful consideration, she told her boss what her mission was. He was quite happy, from what I understand, and has now decided to use his connections and resources release her debut album.

Will she succeed or fail? I don't know. But I can tell you that if her mission were, "I want to sell lots of records and make lots of money!" then that wouldn't capture the imagination of her backers nor would it have inspired them to finance this project. This project would have failed for certain.

Everyone, from the backers to the promoters to the people who stock the store shelves, they all must be motivated that this is an artist who is doing what she is doing for a higher purpose. That is a formula for success.

For my own experience with my financial backers, I ignored my partners advice of saying that "We want to dominate the world and make lots of money! and I said to them,

"The purpose of our company is to help people live better lives and to help them to better themselves and their personal businesses. This year has seen some difficult times for Japan. We want to help the people of this country to overcome, to be more prosperous and society as a whole to become more positive and forward looking. If we can help people to achieve their dreams and become what they really want to become and to have our company become synonymous with that, then we will be hugely successful. If we can help people to capture their dreams and be more prosperous and happy, then our profits will surely come. That is our mission."

The investors all looked at me and smiled. Five of the eight gentlemen, watching my short speech, lightly clapped for me when I was done....

Four weeks later, we had the money in our bank account and the company was on its way. I was fortunate that my short speech captured their imaginations.

Always remember that what you do is for a larger and bigger purpose. If you can make people happy and satisfied with what you do, then you will be successful. Always remember that.

Placing profits before people is a bad combination and an extremely bad public image. Don't do it.

You have a higher purpose in life.  

For Julie Rogers, Tosh and Alistair

1 comment:

Andrew Joseph said...

No offense... but I'd still rather have a lot of money and make people happy. I don't believe that money would ever change me. Truth. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like I will ever get to prove that point. Truth.
I have always had a self-deprecating sense of humour... and I'm too old to change it. I wish more people were like you and my father in raising their kids. Money is not everything. My father quit a six-figure job because he wasn't happy. he retired at 42. I'm 46 now and he hasn't worked since that day 29 years ago. Good for him. He is still happy. he told me to find a job where you are happy and to not worry about the money. Despite me wanting to have money, I'm proud to say he is correct. Money ain't all that. Of course... that's coming from a guy who doesn't have any money and has more debt than anybody he knows. Sucks to be me, maybe, but I'm still happy where I am.
Good article!