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Seeking a purpose in planning

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One of my financial planning colleagues describes his business purpose as helping people to 'make work optional'. Both he and his clients are very clear on their purpose. What is our business purpose?
What is our purpose of being in business? Are we in the business of financial planning for planning's sake or are we in the business of being paid to help people make smart decisions about their money and delivering this via financial planning services? One of my financial planning colleagues describes his business purpose as helping people to 'make work optional'. Both he and his clients are very clear on their purpose. What is our business purpose?

There is a new book out by Nikos Mourkogiannis called Purpose - the starting point of great companies. Mourkogiannis describes the principles needed for meaningful success. Purpose is a set of values that defines and motivates a workforce within a company. Ideas are what cause companies to go from good to great. The major purposes he identifies are discovery, excellence, altruism and heroism. What we need to do is identify what it is we do that can harness one or more of these philosophies to energies our organisation.

We know we are in business for much more than to simply produce gains for our shareholders. Purpose, more than status or financial reward, is what most people are looking for when they join an organisation. We all want an ego-affirming title and competitive remuneration, but most of all we want our lives to mean something. The fiduciary care for our clients and their financial wellbeing means more to us than we care to acknowledge. Their success is what makes our endeavors worthwhile.

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Purpose is based on well-established moral ideas. In order to build a business that lasts, we have to establish a business based on ideas that have stood the test of time. We have to be competitive and moral. It relates to the way we deal with people and the plans we make for expansion. A charismatic leader can draw people along for a time, but ultimately it is the purpose that enunciates a philosophy the entire team can identify with and carry forward that becomes the real culture of a business. There are too many planners working under a dealer licensee service that is not aligned with their own interest and purpose. For their clients sake they need to determine who they are primarily representing.

When purpose is lacking there is usually a morale problem within an organisation. Planning has achieved unprecedented growth and success in the past few years, but there is still dissatisfaction and a lack of willingness among employees to stretch that ethos to continuing their careers in a way that may not be possible in any other organisation. Those that stay the course and follow the philosophy of an organisation tend to be more valuable advisers. It is critical we include these people in the process of expanding our understanding and providing others with real-life experience of what caring advice is all about.

The ideas that are the basis of a great purpose are offering great products, giving good service and focusing on the customer. A successful purpose drives the customer, the business and the employee in the same direction. It is this shared sense of purpose the employee is inspired by and therefore is motivated to serve well and truly above and beyond the mere financial rewards. Henry Ford knew what his purpose was in starting the Ford Motor Company. The people who worked there knew they were doing something far more important than working on a mundane production line. Ford was able to enunciate his vision and inspire people to share the purpose and to work for something far greater than themselves because they believed in what they were doing. The key for the financial services industry is to find our purpose and to align our values and delivery to achieving that purpose. Those organisations with direction and purpose will continue to attract and retain the best personnel to carry out that purpose and will ultimately survive for the long term. Others will fall by the wayside.

Following a purpose is not the same thing as following ethical principles or a code of ethics. These codes are designed to prevent or restrain undesirable actions. Codes restrain whereas purpose inspires. Purpose creates a direction for a company but does not identify its destination. Purpose is not a corporate mission and cannot be encapsulated in a mission statement. It is something far more meaningful and gives far more clarity as to why we elect to do what we do.

When a company is driven by a purpose, the vision, mission and values flow from that purpose. Others are already aligned and attracted to the organisation as employees or clients because of its purpose. It inspires confidence and aligns the interests of strategic stakeholders. Understanding the shared purpose of an organisation motivates us to go above and beyond the call of duty. It serves us all to ask ourselves what is the purpose of the organisation we are aligned with. It should be to help people make smart decisions about their money. This means these decisions are free and advice is without the potential for conflicts of interest. If this isn't the case then we are doing little more than exploiting the opportunity for personal gain and our organisation is not destined for greatness.

 

Seeking a purpose in planning
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