December 11, 2006
News & Opinion: MUST READ: PURPOSE
I know most people would say they can remember the music they were listening to when important events happened in their lives. I can define my career by the business books I was reading. I can remember reading Built To Last and realizing that Porras and Collins were talking about me when they said great companies have cult-like cultures and those who don't fit are "ejected like a virus". I can remember getting Purple Cow in the milk cartons when I worked in the family business and realizing we needed to do something remarkable. My must read for the fall has a similar story.
Jack and I made a trip to San Francisco in September to visit publishers and authors. I had been reading Nikos Mourkogiannis' Purpose: The Starting Point of Great Companies, but this was my first real chance to get into it. I was blown away. On the train ride into the city, I started reading Jack part of the book. It hit us both like a lightning bolt - the purpose for 800ceoread.
What is different about Purpose is it is thoughtful and deliberate. You don't find that much in business books. Nikos slowly constructs his arguments and takes you along on his journey to understand the power of purpose. He is quick to say not all companies have a purpose nor do they need to, but the bridge between good companies and great companies is purpose. Purpose is a bedrock principle that once engaged drives everything a company does and once a company starts living by a purpose, deviation from it risks everything.
Nikos' thesis is four types of purpose matter for the business/competitive world. There are the discoverers who thrive finding the new. There are the helpers who are believe the world is a better place when those around them are happy. The strivers believe in excellence above all else. Heroes are the larger than life companies change the course of history, for better or worse.
After laying out his framework, Nikos keeps expanding on the idea of purpose. He spends an entire chapter describing what purpose is not. He believes purpose is often misunderstood and leaders substitute vision and values for purpose. Nikos illustrates of power of purpose with profiles of Tom Watson, Sam Walton, Warren Buffet, and Henry Ford. These leaders defined their companies by the same purpose which drove them personally. Nikos ends the book talking about how purpose affects all aspects of the corporation ranging from innovation to competitive advantage to morale.
The thing that clicked for Jack and I was the idea of being helpful - that was the purpose of 800ceoread. We started talking about everything through that lens. We could see how we had made good and bad hiring decisions. We could see where we were doing well with customers and where we could clearly improve. We started to talk about our business development ideas and discussed which ones were truly helpful for authors, publishers, individuals, and organizations.
Purpose has changed how we look at our business. I would call that a must-read.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.