The tech world has long been seen in a negative light, with many viewing companies large and small as profit-driven machines only concerned with feeding their bottom line. Recently there has been a turning point, in the form of mission-driven companies or those united by a cause, but the majority of big tech has been slow to adopt the idea of operating with a mission at its core.
The world is changing, however, with social movements and sustainability initiatives leading the way toward a more thoughtful and selective consumer base. At the same time, the economy is still reeling from the global impact of Covid-19, and many businesses have been forced to pivot or close their doors in response to the pressure.
With these factors in mind, it’s never been a better time for tech companies to take a step back and reevaluate their priorities to be more aligned with a mission. Here are three reasons why leaders should do just that, as well as insight into the benefits of becoming mission-driven.
3 Reasons Companies Should Prioritize Mission Over Profit
- Being mission-driven is motivating for you and for your employees
- A mission provides a clear path forward for your business
- Having a mission often drives greater profitability
1. Being Mission-Driven Is Motivating for You and for Your Employees
As a new business, we were excited at any opportunity to take on new projects and build out our portfolio, but after a few years of building tech for products that weren’t meaningful, our motivation and excitement levels for the work decreased significantly. The first product we created that was aligned with our values was more exciting from the business perspective and personal perspective, because we were working with people who really wanted to make a change.
It wasn’t a “flip of the switch” transition, we as a team realized the power that developing meaningful and helpful products can bring. The turning point for us began with an offer of a large contract to work in partnership with a client involved in the palm oil industry. At that time, we were desperate for work and nearing bankruptcy, which made the dollar amount enticing. But internal discussion led us to the conclusion that it wasn’t worth sacrificing our values for the sake of profit. Shortly thereafter, we received a contract to work with a health tech company doing work that we all really believed in and the rest, as they say, is history.
Many people pursue a job in tech to create something that could help someone, and all too often they find themselves working on endless examples of corporate projects without a sense of their impact. We only have one life and when you spend eight-plus hours each day working on something, if it’s meaningful and gives you the feeling that you’re helping the community or the world, you’re much more likely to stick with it and give it your all. Findings from a Gallup report indicate that motivated employees do more work and are less likely to experience burnout, which is a win-win for you and your workforce.
2. A Mission Provides a Clear Path Forward for Your Business
When it comes down to it, making decisions is much easier if you are consistent as a mission-driven company. Whatever that mission may be, it provides a “decision compass” that gives you a clear understanding of where to go and what to focus on. In addition, it allows you to easily gather together people with the same mindset, goals, and expectations. It is far easier to work with someone who is aligned with your mission, and while there is more to a good employee than that aspect, it’s an important one to consider when hiring.
Along the same lines, being mission-driven means following established values consistently and relying on that compass to make every decision, whether it relates to team building, culture, contracts, legal, or any other operational aspect. It also means you feel proud of the things you do and have a feeling that everything that you have done is in harmony with company values, even if the result wasn’t what you expected.
Without a mission or other element driving your decision-making, it can be difficult to find clarity on how each individual choice relates to the larger strategy for success. For our team, leading with a mission means we only take on projects and clients that are aligned with our values, and we are extremely selective about hiring new team members based on whether or not they believe in what we are building.
3. Having a Mission Often Drives Greater Profitability, Anyway
The main stumbling block for companies considering a reevaluation of their values and priorities is the fear that going after a mission — instead of profits — will lead to poor financial performance or even bankruptcy. But the reality is that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Sometimes companies are too focused on an exit and scaling up as fast as possible, but a mission-driven company can grow just as dynamically as a profit-driven one. Our growth alone is proof of this concept, particularly as it took the transition to being mission-driven for us to secure some of our biggest contracts with like-minded clients.
People working hard and collaborating to achieve their goals is a key ingredient in any successful venture. An alignment of purpose helps to ensure that mission-driven companies will succeed, as employees see the impact of their work as more than just dollars and cents. Our team regularly works late or leaves work together to go get drinks or a meal and continue discussing our projects because everyone is so passionate about the end result. That passion then plays out in our work, with everyone striving to give their all to make a product that will do the greatest amount of good. The same motivational aspect that can make mission-driven companies great employers can lead to great strategic partnerships, and when you work hard at something you enjoy, the results often speak for themselves.
It’s not always easy making the switch to being mission-driven, as staying true to that mission can dictate the company atmosphere and looking for partners is challenging because it wouldn’t make sense to work with someone that isn’t aligned. But building meaningful tech can be its own reward, and the impact of being a part of something bigger can be powerful. Imagine you’re building two apps: one helps clinics keep better track of patient records and the other integrates with a heart rate monitor to detect abnormalities and help lower the number of fatal heart attacks. Both are making an impact on how healthcare is managed, but the second one has a more tangible and immediate result. No matter how you look at it, your work will directly lead to saving someone’s life, and what could be more rewarding than that?
From a business perspective, prioritizing a mission provides motivation for employees, makes the path to success clear, and can prove to be just as profitable — or more so — than prioritizing profits. There’s no right answer to how to build a sustainable tech company; you need to find your own way based on mission and vision, and you will only be successful if they are aligned. No matter how you choose to move forward, one thing is clear: prioritizing mission over profits is a viable — and rewarding — business model for the future of tech.