Re-purpose your Purpose
To avoid layoffs during the coronavirus pandemic, some companies have decided to re-purpose their Purpose. A number of companies are getting creative and altering their businesses. As Mark Cuban suggested to help small businesses avoid layoffs and hourly reductions:
“Since you have holes in your schedule, it’s a great time to experiment with new lines of business and see what sticks.”
Cuban also suggested not only brainstorming within your organization, but also with others in your industry.
The Purpose of an organization is its fundamental reason for being. It is why the organization exists. But if you are in a business that no longer has customers due to the pandemic, that does not mean you can’t pivot your Purpose. You can make a change—at least for the short term—to save your business, retain your employees, and make a contribution to society. Your company has technical competencies that could be adjusted to other products or services.
Examples of re-Purpose the Purpose
A number of companies have re-purposed their Purpose. For example,
- Many distilleries are now making hand sanitizers instead of spirits.
- Luxury goods manufacturers are making hand gel instead of perfumes.
- A car-parts company is producing masks.
- Hotels are becoming makeshift quarantine shelters.
Offer your expertise
Some companies are not necessarily changing their Purpose; instead, they are offering their expertise. For example, GM may not be able to make needed ventilators, but the company can help others such as companies like Ventec. With their manufacturing expertise, GM could provide guidance in sourcing, logistics, and mass production techniques.
Some companies have added a focus on new customers and products. For example, Zara—a Spanish fashion retailer—is sourcing material to make masks and hospital gowns. This requires transforming textile factories into medical supply manufacturers.
Bloom Energy is in the fuel-cell business. They repair and refurbish fuel-cell generators. With this expertise, they have offered to refurbish California’s supply of older ventilators. With a lag time in new ventilator production, Bloom Energy has the expertise to calibrate and replace parts to make old ventilators usable.
Dyson with its expertise in designing vacuum cleaners and hair dryers has designed a ventilator that can be manufactured quickly.
Bauer a hockey manufacturing company, is producing medical face shields for hospitals instead of helmet visors for hockey. They also published manufacturing instructions, designs and supplier information to encourage other companies to manufacture needed face shields.
Temporary shift in Purpose
This shift in Purpose does not have to be long term. That’s up to the company. But as I mention in my description of the Purpose of an organization: Purpose is a broad statement of why you’re in business. And the Purpose typically does not change unless you can’t stay in business being who you are. If a crisis puts the Purpose in question, there can be a significant impact. The shock of such a change can be paralyzing. This is because Purpose is a part of the identity of the company. And for loyal employees, it is part of their own identity. But survival is essential and contribution to society is the aim. Therefore, making a shift by re-purposing your Purpose, can save your company, retain your employees, and provide a sense of stability in an uncertain time.
Keep in mind, Purpose is your contribution. And with Priorities changing due to a crisis, it may be that your contribution may need to change, as well. This is a rare time for companies. Most have never experienced this type of change and potential loss. This is probably a temporary path forward. The key is to keep marching onward. The organization is ultimately a vehicle for improving the world we live in. Hopefully, more companies will evaluate whether they need to re-purpose their Purpose or offer their expertise to help the world be a better and healthier place.