This “Outside Consultant” column by Casey Frid, associate professor in the Department of Entrepreneurship at the Opus College of Business, ran in the Star Tribune on Jan. 11, 2021.

A mission statement is really about how a company plans to pursue its goals. These goals can revolve around the pursuit of market leadership, operating efficiency or customer satisfaction, as just a few examples. An organization may also touch on a number of themes in its mission, but these may or may not include what we might term “corporate purpose.” When we talk about corporate purpose, this is more about the core reason for being. It is the impact an organization wants to have on the world or on its surrounding community. And, this desired impact is grounded in shared values.

For instance, the craft beer industry nationwide is defined in some ways by shared values such as paying it forward and helping new businesses address challenges inherent to entering a given segment. In fact, similar values are shared by businesses in a number of other artisanal or craft-based categories.

It’s interesting to see the roles that founders of these businesses adopt, and how these roles can evolve with the growth of their businesses. In Minneapolis-St. Paul, we find that many owners in a sense become stewards of the entire ecosystem. For example, in my research on how business relates to community, I came across founders that spent a significant amount of time really helping to lay the groundwork in the community – by sitting on neighborhood boards, writing to politicians and crafting op-eds for the local paper around issues such as zoning laws. They sought to do everything possible policy-wise to ensure others starting a business in their industry did not have to jump over the same hurdles that they had to surpass when they started.

In interview after interview that our team conducted, we noticed that many business owners didn’t talk directly about making money or explicitly mention the competition; they relied on a totally different language that was much more relational than it was transactional. It was much more about quality. It was about how we can educate the consumer base so that they can develop an understanding of the potential of the product. The words they used shed light on these core shared values that lie at the heart of corporate purpose.

Casey Frid is an assistant professor in the Department of Entrepreneurship at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.

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