You can’t go into a business meeting nowadays, particularly an investment pitch without hearing the mention of purpose, along with AI, blockchain, cryptocurrencies, VR and AR to name just a few. If you’d been away for a decade and had just arrived back, you’d probably think you’d landed on an alien planet.

However, if your trip had been a couple of hundred years or so, purpose might be far more familiar, as it’s something we started to forget during globalisation when customers and employees became (for some) just numbers. In the Industrial Revolution, Cadbury, Lever and Wedgwood plus many others understood the virtuous circle, where looking after your customers, your employees and your community was good “responsible” business. Familiar?

So what is purpose? In its simplest form, it is “why do we do what we do”. Simon Sinek explains this succinctly, using Apple as a prime example in “The Golden Circle” video on YouTube, which if you’ve not watched I’d highly recommend.

When I was Group CEO of IRIS Software Group I was intent on us being the best at what we did rather than focus on being the biggest because if we were the best for long enough, we’d probably become market leader in each of our markets, which is what we achieved. Also, from the outset, I wanted our purpose to be to help our customers (mainly accountancy and legal practices) become successful as the beacons in their sector of best practice, efficiency, high growth and exemplary client service. Our employees at IRIS (the majority of whom were shareholders) understood that we were not selling just a software product, we were delivering a total customer experience.

Now as an impact growth capital investor, I’ve taken this just one stage further by identifying how we can be of benefit to society as well as build highly successful businesses by any normal measure.

So far, my portfolio at Growth4Good is focused principally in helping get people into employment/self-employment, supporting education and reducing business risk, using smart technology wherever possible. They include:

  • Latimer who leverage the power of youth communities for brands and causes
  • Bulbshare who help to empower citizens to shape the products and services they receive.
  • Digital Mums who are challenging the status quo with flexible #workthatworks
  • School Space whose mission is to create thriving schools and thriving communities.
  • Policy in Practice who strive to make the welfare system simple for people to understand so they can gain independence
  • TrackMyRisks who help society by enabling businesses to minimise risk.

In fact, at Growth4Good ours is about purpose itself. It is to “encourage business to be a force for good. We showcase those that deliver positive social impact and share best practice.”

So what’s your purpose? And who cares? If you want to know who cares about purpose, just ask your customers, your employees, your shareholders and your community. It’s your opportunity to authentically differentiate your brand and explain “this is why we do what we do.” Whilst purpose doesn’t have to have a societal or environmental goal, there’s no getting away from the fact that in 2018, we need more businesses to step up and help solve the world’s problems. Business can be a force for good and it’s good for business too –  consumers (particularly Millennials and now Generation Z) want business to do good and those brands that do generate above-average growth.

So what’s your business’s purpose in 2018? Join the conversation on Twitter at @growth4good.