Stakeholder Business 

3 Business Purpose Examples And Why They Work

Jan 05, 2023
Interface carpet is featured in 3 business purpose examples and why they work.

By Nathan Havey

What do a carpet manufacturer, a coffee franchise, and a restaurant have in common? Well, these particular ones serve as incredible business purpose examples.

As purpose is becoming fashionable, many companies are publicly discussing their purpose statements. Privately, however, CEOs confess that they’re unsure of what a purpose is supposed to be and how to tell if theirs is “good” or not. They are searching for solid business purpose examples for some direction.

Fortunately, other company leaders have paved the way by creating ambitious company purpose statements that address a worthy cause and then effectively getting their entire organization on board to work toward the larger purpose. Read on for three inspiring company purpose examples, how they were created, and why they’re indeed “good.”

Photo: Interface

1. Interface

Purpose: Become a Restorative Company

In 1994, Interface CEO Ray Anderson, under pressure to create an environmental message for his company, had his mind blown by Paul Hawkin's book The Ecology of Commerce. Anderson unilaterally announced that the new purpose of Interface would be to become a “restorative” company. He challenged his team to pick the year by which this would happen, and the purpose journey began.

The Exception Proves the Rule

We usually caution companies that a good purpose must be bigger than the company, and Interface’s purpose statement seems to violate this rule. Yet, the context for their purpose required the company to impact its entire value chain, and indeed to instigate a “second industrial revolution,” bringing industry in line with the sustainable processes of nature.

In addition to the grand scope, Interface's purpose process quickly defined the company’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to correlate with the organization’s purpose of becoming a restorative company. Its culture morphed to focus on those KPIs through being a ferocious competitor in the marketplace. The better Interface performed, the better for the planet. Every employee was and still is trained to understand exactly what more the company must do to finally become restorative.

The Global Standard

Interface has become something of a global standard bearer, winning honors from the U.N., as well as massive contracts from companies and governments that require production standards that only Interface can meet (for now). Their case is studied in classrooms worldwide.

Photo: BIGGBY Coffee co-ceos Bob Fish and Michael McFall

2. BIGGBY Coffee

Purpose: Support You in Building a Life You Love

In 2016, co-CEOs of BIGGBY Coffee, Bob Fish and Michael McFall, initiated an inclusive process to define the company’s purpose. Through a series of open meetings with corporate staff at every level, the large coffee franchise landed on the idea that the workplace could be a source of love, support, and growth for all of its stakeholders  specifically for the thousands of young adults who served as baristas.

Photo: BIGGBY Coffee

The BIGG Picture

The BIGGBY purpose statement is complimented by a vision that the company will “Improve workplace culture in America” by learning how to achieve its purpose internally and then helping other business leaders build cultures that do the same.

Here again, the company created KPIs to measure progress toward achieving their purpose, and the performance of all departments (and eventually all franchise units) are measured against them. 

Exponential Growth

BIGGBY exploded out of stagnant growth in the middle of the last decade and is now one of the fastest-growing franchise systems in the United States. Its owners credit the higher purpose with this performance and are quick to point out that while the growth is a great thing, people need to understand that it only matters to the company because it is aligned with their vision to change workplace culture in America.

Photo: Cafe Momentum (Founder Chad Houser featured third from left.)

3. Cafe Momentum 

Purpose: End Youth Recidivism in Dallas County

Chad Houser had realized his dream of becoming a borderline-celebrity chef in Dallas. At the same time, he met a group of kids who were about to be released from juvenile detention and learned that roughly half of them would likely be back in jail a year or two later. As is often the case with purpose in small companies, Houser discovered his personal purpose and then built a company to help him achieve it.

Photo: Cafe Momentum

A Unique Operating Model

He began to work to understand the specific obstacles that kids in the juvenile detention system face, as well as the resources and organizations that exist to help remove those obstacles. Houser then launched a one-year, post-release, voluntary restaurant internship program designed to end recidivism in Dallas County, which also happens to be the unique operating model for his restaurant, Cafe Momentum. So far, Houser and his team have reduced recidivism by nearly 50 percent. And yet, he and his team are not satisfied with that, nor are they satisfied for this incredible model to exist only in Dallas, Texas. 

What works well about this purpose is that it’s about much more than the restaurant. This purpose has a very measurable goal (the rate of recidivism), and Houser has built an ecosystem of stakeholders who care about his purpose as much as he does.

Key Word: Momentum

The result? Cafe Momentum is generally on a months-long waiting list to get a table; Houser and his team were invited to do a pop-up dinner at the last Super Bowl; and the model is being studied by a wide variety of influential funders working to build a just and equal society.  

Time to Aim Higher

A carpet manufacturer, a coffee franchise, and a restaurant are all working to leverage every part of their business to solve a worthy problem that they see in the world. If your company's purpose is in the same league as these three, then you likely have a great purpose. If not, then there is likely an opportunity for you to keep working and aspire for something more.

For more, listen to 10 Things You Should Know About Stakeholder Capitalism: Episodes 4 (Interface), 8 (Cafe Momentum), and 10 (BIGGBY).


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