Helping clients find
Q&A: A conversation with Slalom’s Director of Client Purpose
February 24, 2016
Slalom’s first Director of Client Purpose, Pete Stofle, discusses why he’s helping clients live out their purpose, purpose-driven brands to watch, and how purpose can—and should—be profitable.
This is an excerpt from Pete’s full interview. Download the full Q&A.
You’re focused on helping clients live out their purpose—what does that mean to you?
It starts with the belief that every company has a why. It doesn’t necessarily have to be social in nature, but there has to be that why. It taps into Simon Sinek’s talk around why customers don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
From there, the temptation is to create a really compelling statement that's ambitious and audacious and inspiring … and I've seen companies stop there.
Most companies who are successful have a series of actions that becomes part of their culture to live out that purpose.
Why should companies care about purpose? What's the risk to them if they don't organize around purpose—and quickly?
There is a seismic shift happening in business. Over the next few years, we are going to see more companies than ever make decisions based on their purpose.
"This is not just about doing good or doing the right thing: This is about business sustainability."
From an employee standpoint, millennials will have 18 jobs in their careers.
From a market standpoint, when the S&P 500 was formed in 1926, the average tenure on that list was 61 years. Today, it's 18 years.
And 87% of global consumers think that businesses should be just as concerned with society’s interest as their own business interests. Yet a third of consumers believe that businesses are actually doing a good job of that.
There's a massive opportunity there.
This is not just about doing good or doing the right thing: This is about business sustainability.
Operating a company on the idea of purpose represents a pretty significant shift in thinking and doing business. Where should companies get started?
It starts internally: defining why we exist as a company.
There’s a consistent need for data to replace suspicions and hunches of where a company thinks their culture is at, asking questions around why are we doing what we're doing, why is employee engagement low, why aren't people getting fulfillment out of their work, and what is our role in that equation?
Are profit and purpose mutually exclusive?
For a long time, purpose was an extension of philanthropy or CSR, something companies did very defensively.
We are coming into a phase—and Michael Porter talks about this from Harvard Business School—of shared value, where if businesses want to have an impact on the world, they have to do it profitably, because then they can actually repeat the impact over and over again.
If it's not driving profit, we're not doing it right. It’s a shift from doing good for the sake of good to, wow, we can make money doing this.
What companies are doing a good job living their purpose?
REI tends to back up what they say they are about—and turning down revenue on arguably the busiest shopping day of the year, Black Friday, with their #OptOutside campaign was a great example. They saw an immediate increase in both sales and employee retention, and it aligns with what their brand represents.
Patagonia is helping clients fix their current gear in the Worn Wear Tour. It’s part of a deeper pattern of Patagonia solving problems that they don't necessarily benefit from, like helping develop technologies for cotton growers so they can use less water.
And there’s Novo Nordisk with their stated purpose of ending diabetes. Their belief is that they'll work themselves out of a job, and that’s reflected in their behavior as a company and what they're inspiring their employees to do.
Zappos’ culture of customer service seems to have the purpose of being the absolute best company in the world around service.
You mentioned some fairly well-known brands. Does purpose matter to companies of all shapes, sizes, industries, or functions?
The brands I cited tend to be more visible, so we can relate to them a bit more. But I do think that purpose plays a role in all companies.
When employees look at where they want to work, 81% of people look at a company's corporate social responsibility strategy. Companies have to compete for talent, and they need a good strategy in place to help draw that talent.
Again, this is about business sustainability.
It’s about how do we plan on continuing to grow and with the most of that growth coming from a millennial workforce. Before, the workforce was driven by money and titles. 60% of millennials leave their jobs because of a bad “cultural fit”—that’s when it becomes a business problem, especially when it costs about $20,000 to replace that millennial within a company.
You’ve started a dialog across Slalom on purpose. What does success look like for you?
Slalom has done an amazing job by being a great partner in execution. I think it's time that we play an even more impactful role in the identity of our clients. When we can say that we have been the most important company in enabling each of our clients to live out their company purpose to the best of their abilities, then we've done our job.
Because I think that's our purpose. So when we can deliver on that crazy, audacious statement, then we've met our goal.
Find more purpose
This is an excerpt from our full interview with Pete Stofle. Download the complete interview to get Pete’s Purpose 101 reading list, a look at Slalom’s tools to help companies use data to pursue their purpose—including an example of those tools in action at Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities—the difference between work life balance and work life integration, and a discussion on the importance of authenticity.
“When we can say that Slalom has been the most important company in enabling each of our clients to live out their company purpose to the best of their abilities, then we've done our job.”
Download the full Q&A