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The power of purpose – views from Intrepid Travel

Many organisations across Australia and the world are learning how discovering and living a new and higher order purpose can transform their organisation from the inside out, and in doing so add new focus and energy to employee endeavours. Nicholas Barnett and Rodney Howard wrote about that in their new book, Why Purpose Matters: and How it Can transform Your Organisation, which they released in July, 2017. Nine CEOs shared in this book how purpose has, or is expected to, transform their organisation, motivate employees, build sustainable competitive advantage and deliver greater organisational capacity and shareholder return over the long term.

Below is another case study of a purpose-driven company kindly shared by Geoff Manchester, Co-founder and Director of Intrepid Group. We’ll bring you further case studies in future newsletters.

About Intrepid

Intrepid was founded in 1989 by two friends who gave up their jobs to travel the world “off the beaten track”. A business idea grew and today, the Intrepid Group employs more than 1,600 people who help over 350,000 travellers explore over 1600 different itineraries around the world each year. Geoff Manchester and Darrell Wade were those two friends and are still involved in the day-to-day running of the company, along with CEO James Thornton.

Why did Intrepid develop its purpose?

Intrepid has had a core purpose since 1993. We found it valuable when answering the question, “Why do we come to work each day?” I think our people have benefitted tremendously in identifying with our purpose, and sharing an understanding of this basic principle. In recent years we have simplified our core purpose to be, “The best travel experience ever”.

We often combine this with a choice of verbs at the beginning to make it completely relevant to everyone in the business no matter what their role. These words include: create, lead, sell, operate, book, etc. Our core purpose is very much an internal piece. It is not used in marketing.

As part of our company strategy we also have: Purpose Beyond Profit. This is something that has been a driving force behind Intrepid over the years, but we have only recently verbalised it as being part of what we do.

What have been, or are expected to be, the main benefits?

It is generally accepted that companies need to grow to succeed. However growth for some people is not a very motivating reason for being. Having purpose beyond profit allows all our people and especially those who are less sales or profit driven to see that Intrepid can do good in the community. Business does not exist just to make profits. Businesses need to contribute positively to society. This is becoming more accepted and is why we are seeing more interest in business philosophies like Conscious Capitalism and certifications like B Corp. All of these assist with staff retention and with attracting the best talent to work for an organisation.

While “Purpose Beyond Profit” is part of our DNA, by it being part of our strategy it also motivates us to become involved in activities that we might otherwise let slip. While these activities may not generate short term profits, they are hugely beneficial in the long term. They help grow our brands, they associate our brands with activities our customers see as important and valuable, and they do lead to creating long term shared value for the business and other stakeholders.

What are your recommendations to others in relation to purpose?

Every business would benefit from having all their stakeholders understanding why the business exists. Discovering the “why” (a business exists) may take some time but it is worth the effort.

This is especially important these days as younger people are becoming more selective in who they work for and consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about brands – more and more want to purchase from brands they trust and can associate with. Having “Purpose Beyond Profit” really helps to bring the “why” to life and helps to ensure it is realised.

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