Opinions

Be Led By Your Purpose, Not Your Plan

Why business owners should focus on more than mere money.

Share this article

Share this article

Why business owners should focus on more than mere money.

Opinions

Be Led By Your Purpose, Not Your Plan

Why business owners should focus on more than mere money.

Share this article

When I was a young man, I went to London in search of gold. One morning, while working at one of the largest financial advisory groups in the world, I asked my boss, “What is it that will get me on the fast track?” And he said, “If we can beat the return our clients can get on cash by between half and three quarters of a percent we will have done our job.”

I nodded along, but inside my heart sank and I realised something about myself; making money wasn’t enough of a purpose for me. It was candyfloss: instantly gratifying, but providing little nourishment.

It didn’t take much longer for me to realise that mere financial success wasn’t going to sustain me through a decades-long career, so I headed back to my home city of Dundee and, along with my father, we established Insights Learning and Development. And it was on this entrepreneurial journey that I began to realise the importance of focusing on my purpose, rather than my plan.

Disruption can leave you feeling powerless

The truth is though, that in this fast-paced and changing world, none of us can predict what our organisations will look like in five, let alone 10 years’ time.

The pace of change we’re experiencing now is the fastest it has ever been in human history, and yet it’s also the slowest it will ever be.

Disruptive technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) are going to revolutionise what organisations look like, how our customers operate, and what the possibilities are for almost every industry.

When we consider the startling fact that 65% of today’s schoolchildren will come to hold jobs that don’t yet exist, we must acknowledge the disruption that is impacting almost every walk of life – political, social, climactic, economic – and crucially for entrepreneurs, the business world.

This ceaseless disruption can leave leaders like us feeling powerless; struggling to build a business strategy that feels grounded in reality, yet capable of meeting the unforeseen demands of the future.

One of the pitfalls of such tremendous business disruption is that at any given moment you are presented with any number of directions you could pursue.

Have a purpose, not just a plan

That’s why you need a strong purpose, and not merely a plan. Plans are useful bridges across turbulent waters, but why are you crossing the river in the first place?

Purpose provides the ‘why’. If you feel you don’t have one already, then spending time considering what your purpose is, and what you’ll have to do to achieve it is a huge fillip for a satisfying work life.

In support of your purpose, you’ll probably create a plan – but you should know that it’s likely to be knocked off course regularly by world events, new technologies, or any one of a million factors in your industry that are outside of your control.

So, be prepared to ditch it if you find it isn’t serving you well. Hold fast instead to your purpose. When you do, your decision-making process will become that much simpler.

Find your Ikigai

There’s a Japanese philosophy I try to live by called Ikigai which loosely translates to ‘reason for being’ and lies at the intersection of four distinct points:
- that which we love to do
- that which we are good at
- that which we can be paid for
- and that which the world needs.

The sweet spot, or Ikigai, is found where these four overlapping circles intersect, and it is your purpose. Whatever activities you plan, whatever goals you set, whatever industry you set out to disrupt, should always hold true to this purpose, your very own Ikigai.

When starting any business, you must begin with whatever is inside this intersection. Having a purpose that you believe in is the bedrock of any venture. It will set you up to focus on the future you want to create and why, and regardless of whatever is thrown at you, only pursue what furthers your purpose.

If you can uncover your own purpose – your ikigai – and put a host of committed, self-aware people behind it, there is little you cannot accomplish.

Andy Lothian is CEO of the Insights Group and co-founder of Insights Learning and Development. He received EY’s Scottish Entrepreneur of the Year accolade in 2016.

Related Articles
Get news to your inbox

Be Led By Your Purpose, Not Your Plan

Share this article