It was the first time in 13 years as a business owner that Barry Chandler had faced this kind of emotional challenge.
For the first time ever, Barry was feeling a sense of loss.
It had been two years since Barry sold his subscription services and marketing agency. He had built the organization from the ground up. As part of the sale, Barry moved across the country from Ohio to California to continue working with the business.“I was now part of a larger organization where I felt like I didn’t have control over my own future,” says Barry. “I realized I was at the mercy of a stroke of a pen if someone decided that my role was no longer needed.”
Up until that point, he always had his next objective, or the next milestone of growth for the business, or the next goal tied to the bottom line. Suddenly, feeling this sense of loss, Barry stepped back and said, “Why am I doing this?”
Panic Setting In
Asking himself some challenging questions, Barry examined his whole, authentic self, and the journey that had brought him across the country. In doing so, Barry discovered he didn’t know the answer to what was now a nagging question: “Why am I doing this anymore?”
“I started to panic,” says Barry. He didn’t know his purpose, and he quickly saw the company itself wasn’t serving a higher purpose either.
He panicked, and he wouldn’t recover from that panic until he left the business, seeking to find what his purpose was.
Fast-forward to today, and Barry now owns a company he founded, Storyforge, which focuses on building other organizations through purpose. Clients range from start-up businesses to large, multibillion dollar companies and everything in between.
Barry’s found a sweet spot: he’s aligned with his personal purpose, his company has clarity on its purpose, and he’s also helping other companies discover their singular purpose, forge their story, and live it every day.
Along the way, he’s seen countless examples of small business leaders and businesses that have transformed thanks to putting purpose before profits.
Putting Purpose Before Profit
Barry worked with a marketing agency whose leaders felt that their own beliefs and values weren’t consistently being extended throughout the organization. The business owner knew he, and the company, existed for a larger reason than just profits alone, but the reality was the business was very disconnected from these beliefs.
By talking to employees about the realities of day-to-day work, operational and cultural challenges surfaced.
Employees were working 80 and 90 hour weeks. They were traveling often, which was taking away from their quality of life and their time with family. When they were away, there was zero communication with the rest of their team.
“They felt disconnected and they didn’t feel a part of something.”
As the firm moved through this process, leaders looked at the intersection of three things, a template that any company can use: What the company stands for and/or believes in, what the company stakeholders need, and what the company does better than anybody else.
“We don’t invent a purpose, it’s already there,” explains Barry when talking about the process of “extracting” the company’s purpose.
At the intersection of these three factors was the company’s “why”: the ability to build community. They were doing so by adding a great deal of value and contributions to local communities.
“They weren’t just offering services, they were genuinely building community—but they weren’t building community inside their own walls.”
The business owner had a series of insights about how his business, in certain ways, didn’t align with its authentic purpose. These insights led to a shift in thought, and a new filter to see how they were making choices which influenced employees’ happiness, ability to thrive, and their overall quality of life.
The business owner reduced working hours, increased vacation time, improved communication and employee connectedness, and he took steps to reduce employees’ travel time. Employees felt immediate benefits and were ecstatic to see the changes occur.
It’s an example of one of the greatest opportunities that comes with being conscious about purpose, and about putting purpose before profits. The biggest benefit of all, says Barry, is the filter for thinking that clarity of purpose gives you, and how that sets your business apart. “It now gives you a filter to look through to make decisions.” It’s a freedom and clarity that can be transformational for any business and its people.
Driven by Purpose
“I really came to understand the power of purpose by discovering that I didn’t really know what mine was, and how I was part of an organization that didn’t know what their purpose was,” says Barry.
He’s come a long way in the last three years. The journey has helped shape his leadership and how he’s growing and scaling his business today.
Purpose challenges a leader to be bold, says Barry. “If we truly believe in the purpose, what are we willing to do to make it true?” It might be jettisoning business units that might be profitable but don’t align with the business’ purpose. It might mean letting people go. It could include making changes in the hiring process.
“Or it might be doing different things that up until now, if we were just in the business of profit alone, we would never even consider, says Barry. “Purpose favors the bold and favors the brave.”