Purpose at work
Purpose is a person’s sense of resolve or determination; it’s the reason for which something exists or is done. As purpose is our theme this month, I thought I’d share the below excerpt I wrote ten years ago in Danny Smith’s book ‘I made a promise – 50 inspirational Australian stories’:
Your chances of success are directly proportional to the degree of pleasure you derive from what you do ~ Michael Korda.
Anyone who thinks about starting a business starts with a dream and they wonder if the dream is possible. They test out the idea on their friends or family; ‘Do you think that I’m crazy?’ ‘Do you think it is a good idea?’ ‘Do you think people will buy it?’ All of these questions are based on fear of failure and it is this fear that ultimately stops many ideas coming to fruition.
I remember sitting at a dinner party with five others. Everyone present was running their own show, except for me and I was curious to know what the freedom would be like to be your own boss, but I was very comfortable in corporate life.
Soon my circumstances changed. I often remark that I never would have started a business if I had not become a mother. I was looking for a hobby business that I could run part time from home. I launched RedBalloon on 1 October 2001, three weeks after September 11. There were many reasons why we shouldn’t have been successful. The Dot Com crash hit and no one was particularly interested in our ‘new concept’ for gifting. In face it was a very long two months and five days before we made our first sale. After five years I have a team of 40 and RedBalloon Days is the number one gift website in Australia and New Zealand.
From day one (well actually two months and five days) we sent a ‘How was it for you?’ email. Every single one that is returned is read and from them we get to listen to our customers’ stories. Like the woman who said ‘I really loved your rally driving day – but I was wearing a white outfit and I got filthy.’ Now you will see in the ‘what to wear’ section a warning – you may get hot and dusty!
The reality is that it took about two years before I clearly saw my purpose. This came from people so generously sharing the impact we were having, in comments like this – ‘It was one of the best experiences of my life. It has fuelled my hopes and dreams to obtain a helicopter license both privately and commercially. I always thought it would be out of my reach but after this experience I learned that it is achievable.’ It is such a privilege to do what we do. To give people a good time, to allow them to so something they have always wanted to do.
I had never thought the broad appeal that we would have, of different ages, and locations; nor did I know how generous people would be with sharing their stories, like this one:
‘As a kid I lived in a town where there was an absolutely crazy old man (about 44 years old I later found) who would fly about the district in an old Tiger Moth. From time to time he would perform loops, etc above the wheat fields and I would watch him in awe. ‘Baldy Old Fuzz’ was always smiling whenever I saw him in the street. “You’re the smiliest man I’ve seen for a long time” he said. Yes, a Tiger Moth aerobatic flight does affect your core self indeed. Spiralling towards the ocean in an open cockpit plane gives a whole new meaning to the importance of time and motion. The entire event was a hoot. You know I reckon next time I’m back in my childhood town I’ll find ‘Baldy Old Fuzz’ and I bet he still has that smile’ – Regards, Rick Harris.
Some of the stories have brought tears to my eyes. I spoke to a client recently (I love to pick up the phones). He said ‘I want to speak to somebody responsible’ in a gruff voice – I thought ‘Oh I guess that would be me’. He continued “I was given one of YOUR experiences as a retirement gift from my company and quite frankly I was not happy. I found myself driving to the experience and I was uncomfortable, in fact so uncomfortable that I decided to turn the car around and go home. Then I realised that what I was experiencing was something I had not felt since I was a four year old going to a birthday party, I was ‘excited’. Because ever since I was a little boy I had wanted to fly an airplane. And now I had been given a hands-on training flight. So I turned the car around and I got to take off, fly and land an aircraft. I don’t know why in my 65 years I had never got around to it… but I wanted to say thank you to someone who was responsible.”
I humbly told him “it was my pleasure”.
Quite simply, I want to change gifting in Australia forever, for people to get to experience things they have always wanted to do. This business may have started as a hobby or as an experiment, but what it has ended up is truly my pleasure.
Living in alignment with your purpose, in your business, means you experience life at a whole new level and in doing so, you thrive, flourish and excel. I’ve found that part of my purpose is sharing what I’ve learned. With that in mind I created a new course titled “Building Your Business Brand” which takes you through the strategies I used to turn RedBalloon into a household name — click through for details below.
I have found that when we embrace our purpose, and infuse it in our business, our context changes and so too does our perspective of the world.