As the CEO of a publicly traded company, my job is to stay immersed in the finances, the strategy and the operational execution of the company – in order to deliver results. As such, it is easy to get tightly focused with my team on the detailed execution of the business.
However, I have found that a key goal of any leader is to find and define the greater purpose behind the products and services they offer. Reframing the greater purpose behind its products and services allows forces beyond the company’s mission statement to surround and propel a business to new heights. My experience is that the higher the purpose we can define for our business, the greater the motivating forces can drive the business to achieve greater results.
For example, if you manufacture and sell something as mundane as sponges, it would be easy to focus on the product details, such as absorption levels and trade-offs in manufacturing costs. But, if you can redefine your business’s greater purpose to be about cleanliness and organization, you begin to reach to a higher plain of emotional connection for your product. The greater purpose has qualities beyond self; they are in effect selfless. Who can disagree with the notion that a cleaner and more organized world is better than the opposite? Anyone who disagrees with that proposition would likely not be a customer of your product anyway, nor someone that the business would care to associate with. This should be especially true among the employees and customers, the two most important constituents of any business.
In fact, every business’s greater purpose should be the “definite major purpose” of the organization. These definite major purposes of the organization should have the ability to clarify your mission and values that transcend basic mission statements. Why? Because a statement of your definite major purpose gives you the opportunity to put emotion and action behind the achievement of a goal. This allows constituents touching the organization to emotionally share in the goal by placing the purpose within their belief system, and take action to practice their beliefs in their daily lives. By doing this, we create the conditions to have meaningful work and meaningful relationships, the cornerstones of greater personal and professional pursuit.
Recently, I had the opportunity to experience, firsthand, a key greater purpose of our business when I spent the day with John and Donna McMullin of Godfrey, IL, (here’s a video about the experience) a couple who were a direct recipients of the key product and service GWG Life offers. It was a humbling experience and in line with a key element of our corporate definite major purpose: to create a vibrant life insurance secondary market for the economic benefit of seniors needing post-retirement financial solutions.
To fully appreciate this story, you have to understand that the McMullins are the kind of Americans who represent the very best of this country: They were childhood sweethearts who married, worked hard, served our country and never asked anyone for anything they didn’t deserve. In essence, over the course of the 50 years of marriage, after John McMullin returned from serving in a Marine Recon Battalion in Vietnam, the McMullins had done everything right. After the war, they lived a financially responsible life, raising five children and building a home remodeling business. They saved their money and purchased life insurance as a way to provide for Donna in the event of John’s death. When the Great Recession hit, they had to borrow against their life insurance to keep their business afloat. And, after they moved to Godfrey, IL to be close to the school that their son with special needs would attend, John’s health began to decline (attributed to Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam), and they could no longer afford their life insurance policy premiums.
This year, GWG Life was able to purchase the life insurance policy from the McMullins for tens of thousands of dollars more than the surrender value offered by the insurance carrier. With the proceeds of the sale, the McMullins were able to pay off the policy loan and have the financial resources to spend time with their grandchildren and enjoy some of the extras in retirement. When I visited the McMullins, I saw the meaning of the greater purpose of our business and it was a moving experience. I have met few people in my life that deserved the opportunity to live a better life than John and Donna McMullin. The fact that the life insurance policy Donna described as “feeling like a huge liability” was actually an asset that could make the difference in their lives is an amazing testimony to the greater purpose of our business and its power to affect the lives of the customers we serve.
Countless numbers of Americans are similar to the McMullins and have no idea that their life insurance is an asset capable of changing their post-retirement financial life. None of us at GWG Life are doctors, nurses, priests, rabbis, teachers or charity workers, yet our profession has the power to change peoples’ lives, something life insurance does not get enough credit for. Restoring the hope and equity for people like the McMullins is a noble cause. Our company provides our team the opportunity to contribute to this cause while at the same time generating financial security and stability for our own families. This is the definite major purpose of our company.
Since we started the business in 2006, GWG Life has given seniors over $436 million for their life insurance that they can use in their post-retirement financial planning. Our definite major purpose is to bring our products and services to couples like the McMullins. Meeting them face-to-face brought home the fact that very few seniors know they have an asset that can help them with their post-retirement finances, and our products and services have the power to make a difference in the lives of these deserving people.
There is a lesson in this for anyone in business. By defining your business’s greater purpose, you can find the unique, high-quality motivating factors that are able to lift your team to achieve greater results that no balance sheet or strategy memorandum can ever truly reflect.
Jon Sabes is Chief Executive Officer of GWG Life.