Who do you trust most? If you’re like the people surveyed in the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, it’s not government, media, non-government organisations, or business. They all received poor marks in the recent global survey. In fact we seem to be in crisis of trust, as evidenced by ‘fake news’, dishonest customer treatment by corporates, and a lack of confidence in our leaders, which has yielded six Australian prime ministers in just over a decade.
We know that trust is one of the most meaningful bonds between businesses and their customers. Once broken, it’s hard to mend, and it needs to be protected at all costs. Over 50 percent of people think the government is the most broken institution, and people look to their employer for a source of truth and meaning. That’s a massive responsibility and a huge opportunity!
The Edelman survey also found that people believe that building trust is a CEO’s number one job. If they get this right, then their employees will follow. And 65 percent said CEOs should take the lead on change rather than wait for government to act.
That means businesses, not government, have the mandate to show the way. And there’s more of a need than ever before for businesses to be purpose-led. Why? Because having your purpose at the core of what you do creates a powerful ripple effect outward to your people, your brand, and ultimately to your customers.
At Xero, we call it the inside-out approach
Here’s how it works:
- The ripple starts with defining your purpose as a business, and aiming for something meaningful and bigger than yourself. At Xero, our purpose is to have a positive impact on the world by growing small business. Because we believe that collectively, small business has the power to create a more meaningful impact in the economy. And when economies flourish, jobs are created, and communities thrive.
- Defining your mission motivates your people and can inspire buy-in, which has tangible benefits. A Harvard Business Review study found that employees who derive meaning from their work report almost twice the job satisfaction of those who don’t, and are three times likelier to stay with their organisation.
- Our brand tagline started out as ‘beautiful accounting software’ but today has evolved to ‘beautiful business’. This new motto reflects how we are not just a product business but we are building a thriving technology platform and global community, connecting millions of businesses to their advisors, banks, apps, enterprises and each other. ‘Beautiful business’ highlights how the sum of us is greater than the individual parts. From our people, partners, to our small business customers – we are collectively working together to achieve something unique and beautiful. This therefore creates an opportunity for all our brand ambassadors, from the inside-out, to be proudly sharing the Xero purpose.
- When customers understand that you stand for something larger than just commerce, they often want to join you. More than 90 percent of consumers say they would switch brands to another one of similar price and quality if it was was purpose-driven, according to the New York Times. Connecting with customers and putting them first is critical. Therefore it’s super important that our brand speaks to our partners and customers in a way that resonates with them.
- Ultimately, these rippling forces create communities of people who all believe in and champion a vision bigger than any one person or company. Xero is the nexus for more than 700 app partners, 180 connected financial institutions, and thousands of accountants and bookkeepers, as well as 1.4 million small business subscribers. All are linked by a common purpose, which is to have a positive impact on the world by helping small businesses thrive.
So how does a business, of any size, put this process into practice?
- First, revisit your purpose and values. Make sure they reflect and drive what you do, and how you do it. Use goal setting as a way to approach your purpose with clarity whilst celebrating small wins along the way.
- Think about how you can build a customer-centric mindset and culture across the business and into everything you do. This includes a focus on recruitment, partnering with like minded organisations to execute on your vision, driving consistency across all your communications (internal and external) and ensuring as much of your workforce has a connection to the customer so they can truly understand their needs and feel empowered to create change for the better.
- From a talent-acquisition perspective, seek out people who have an affinity to your purpose, your customers and your vision for the future. Hire passionate players and let people play to their strengths. When we have people performing in roles that they do well and that energise them, we then have a high performing culture. At Xero, we’ll often look for people who have had experience working in a small business and an empathetic connection to want to drive our customer’s success.
- Ensure that diversity and inclusion is a priority. You can only best serve your customers when your own workforce reflects the diversity of your customer base. We also know that diverse teams outperform teams with limited diversity. Most importantly make sure you foster a culture of inclusivity where people can bring their whole selves to work as only then can they be and do their best.
- Focus on leadership development with an emphasis on mindful leadership skills. Mindful leaders are better listeners, better positioned to coach rather than ‘do’, and foster a culture focused on employee well-being. This is essential in organisations that are continuously disrupting themselves to stay ahead of the curve.
- Build your communities of champions. Know that together you are better! Involve your people, your partners and your customers wherever you can. At Xero we encourage all our people to engage with the Xero community and we invest in ensuring our technology and our events facilitate this. What’s more, to create a culture of abundance we share their stories through Xero blogs, articles, small business insights and PR opportunities. All of this brings to life our purpose, the impact we’re having, and what we aspire to bring about in the world of small business.
Here are some resources that I’ve personally found valuable:
- The book The Power of Moments explores why certain brief experiences can jolt us, elevate us, and change us. For example, we can probably all remember a lesson from a great high school teacher that still sticks with us 20 years later. This book shows how to create those extraordinary moments in our life and work.
- Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High Performance Companies, by author Paul Zak, uses neuroscience to measure and manage organisational cultures to inspire teamwork and accelerate business outcomes.
- The WOOP app for your smartphone teaches you how to set goals effectively for different time spans and different life domains (health, interpersonal relations, and career).
So just remember: Trust is king. You can become among the ‘most trusted’ if your purpose remains at the core of what you do and you stand for things that matter in the eyes of your people and customers. Because when businesses are purpose-driven and values led it has a powerful ripple effect through to your people, your brand, your customers and the community. And that’s a beautiful thing!