The Purpose-Driven Company: How Passion Fuels Performance

Written by Paul Marchildon, on March 10, 2015.

Employee filled with happiness

When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

In The Alchemist, which changed my outlook on life, the protagonist Santiago dreams of treasure in the Egyptian pyramids and sets out to find it. Along the way, he discovers his metaphorical treasure; he becomes wiser, kinder, happier, self-actualized. This book, which the New York Times calls “more self-help than literature” (in a good way!) urges readers through its simple, powerful story to achieve their dreams. “Wherever your heart is, that is where you’ll find your treasure.”

Even – and especially – if it’s at work! When your needs, desires, and passions align with those of your organization and clients, it’s not work at all. It’s passion. It’s fulfillment. It’s leisure. It’s treasure!

Aligning Your Passions with Clients’ Purpose

As a creative strategist, one of my favourite clients was GlaxoSmithKline. Their purpose: “At GlaxoSmithKline, we’re committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.” Big pharma? Really? Isn’t their goal to make money? Sure. Make money to fund research and produce life-saving and life-enhancing medications. It was important for people, including those who worked there, to see GSK as “human.”

Among the projects we worked on were training videos designed to inform the salesforce about specific products, such as a new medication for managing chemotherapy-related nausea. We created the video, using real patients to teach the salespeople about not only the product but about how necessary it was for people undergoing treatment.

This wasn’t just another medication; it was the difference between getting out of bed in the morning, or not. Between spending quality time with family, or not. Between feeling like you were living… This is what big pharma does.

As a marketing agency, we felt like we were contributing to and sharing GSK’s purpose; we felt as though we were saving lives and improving the quality of life for people. It wasn’t just selling a drug; if it were, how much genuine passion or enthusiasm could we have possibly drummed up? We were engaged on an emotional level.

Do more. Feel better. Live longer. How great is that!? My talents and goals were aligned with GSK’s purpose, which allowed me to find great happiness, even self-actualization, with this company. I wasn’t even an employee, yet I achieved that feeling on many an occasion while working on highly-engaging projects with them.

Purpose: A Key Differentiator

If purpose can create such passion and engagement in an “outsider,” imagine what it can do within an organization. Runit Renjen, Deloitte Chairman, doesn’t imagine: he quantifies. According to his firm’s research, strong purpose is linked to long-term success.

Looking for Work/Life Integration?

Paul Marchildon, an experienced Leisureologist, can work with you and your team to increase productivity by incorporating leisure into the workplace.

“[E]xceptional firms have always been good at aligning their mission or purpose with their execution, and as a result have enjoyed category leadership in sales and profits…. So there is an empirical financial benefit to organizations that instill a purpose-driven culture.” Additionally, in purpose-driven organizations, 73% of employees are engaged. In companies that are not, just 23% are engaged. That has a tremendous impact on results.

Buy a Pair, Donate a Pair

Warby-Parker is a perfect example of passion strengthening performance. Their mission: providing eye care for as many of the 703 million people, as possible, who currently lack access. Their website proclaims: “Buy a pair, donate a pair.” But wait. They don’t actually donate glasses to these people. They sell them. What’s going on? Are they hiding behind a “purpose” to appeal to socially-conscious spec-wearing hipsters?

No. They know that donations can lead to dependency and unsustainable results. Instead, they donate money to cover the cost of sourcing glasses from non-profit partners. The non-profits train people in local communities to do basic eye exams and provide them with glasses to sell at “ultra-affordable” prices.

The impact of one pair of glasses? It can boost the wearer’s productivity by 35% and monthly income by 20%. So far, Warby-Parker has donated the equivalent of 1 million pairs of glasses – for an estimated economic impact of $200,000,000. The only word I can think of is, “Wow.”

But this purpose has another impact: it makes Warby-Parker a tremendously sought-after employer. There are even articles and blogs with tips for getting hired. Employees, particularly Millennials and Gen Zs, want to work with companies that allow them to follow their passion and engage in meaningful, fulfilling work. Organizations like Warby-Parker are able to attract and retain the best of the best.

When companies – and people – have purpose and passion, “work” isn’t work at all; it’s an avenue through which people can achieve self-actualization. Perhaps it’s even the universe conspiring to help them achieve their goals and desires!

Paul Marchildon

Paul Marchildon

A self-proclaimed Leisureologist and Motivational Speaker, Paul Marchildon applies his vast expertise in human engagement to help leaders create more productive, effective organizations. Building on an influential career as a pioneer in employee incentive and loyalty programs, strategic creative communications, social media and mobile marketing, Paul provides insight into the advantages of incorporating a leisure culture in the "work" place. He is past president of Society of Incentive and Travel Executives’ (Site) Canadian Chapter and founder of Atlantis Creative Group (now part of Maritz Canada). He is one of a select group of Canadians who have received the Certified Incentive Travel Executive (CITE) designation.