Matt Sanderson, president & CEO of the association management and services company
SmithBucklin, explains how a sense of purpose
delivered through a clearly defined and articulated mission and vision can infuse energy into
an organization and provide the power boost
necessary to grow and succeed.
What is purpose, mission and vision?
Simon Sinek, a speaker whose TED Talks have
Mission and vision are strong statements that
recently gone viral, famously asks: “Why?” In
particular, “Why do we do what we do?” “Why
do our organizations exist?”
Questions like these are necessary to define
and ensure alignment of an organization’s fun-
damental purpose for existence.
articulate that purpose. They can and do serve
as reminders to all stakeholders and ensure that
an organization stays on track.
At SmithBucklin, our mission statement is
Our mission is to achieve the missions of the
client organizations we serve.
Our mission statement makes our purpose
clear to all: our company exists to serve. We
value the strong link between what we do
and the impact we have—it’s a direct connection to achieving a greater good.
Our mission is at the heart of our unique
culture and the value we deliver to our client
organizations. Being “purpose-led” inspires
our people to do the great and important
work they do every day.
What is the impact of being
Studies have shown that companies that instill a
sense of purpose have higher rates of long-term
success. According to the 2015 Harvard Busi-
ness Review report, “The Business Case for Pur-
pose,” 89 percent of respondents agreed that
an organization with shared purpose will have
employee satisfaction, and 85 percent agreed
they were more likely to recommend to others a
company with strong purpose.
Another study, “2016 Purpose at Work” by
LinkedIn and Imperative, showed the impact of
purpose on a company’s bottom line. The survey
• Eighty-five percent of purpose-led companies
had positive revenue growth in the past three
years versus 42 percent of non-purpose-led
companies, which had a drop in revenue
during that same period.
• Fifty-eight percent of companies with a
clearly articulated and understood purpose
experienced revenue growth of 10 percent or
more, versus 42 percent of companies that
did not prioritize purpose.
For SmithBucklin, being purpose-led has
contributed to our ability to attract and retain
talent, achieve results as a company, and deliver
successful outcomes for the client organizations
we serve. It is clear to each of our colleagues
that our work matters.
How is this meaningful for associations?
At their core, associations are purpose-led. Associations advocate for businesses, professions
and industries. They help create and protect
jobs, grow careers and enable training. They
increase product and workplace safety, and they
contribute to new discoveries and technologies
that save and improve lives. Associations are
essential to our economy, and their work touches
millions of people and organizations every day.
While it may seem obvious that associations
are purpose-driven, I’m not sure this link is con-
sistently articulated to their membership, their
stakeholders or the public in general. This is
a missed opportunity. A March 2016 study by
Heidrick & Struggles, “Association CEOs: Lead-
very association relies on the energy of its membership. Membership,
in turn, gets its energy from the value proposition. If crafted correctly,
the organization’s mission and vision provide the high-octane fuel to
make the association stronger and more powerful. E