goBeyondProfit CEO Interviews: Jeff Hilimire, Co-Founder and CEO of Purpose Group


Friday, April 19th, 2024

Uncovering the Driving Force behind Company Culture 

Is purpose just a motivating tag line or can it be a playbook for industry-beating financial success?  In our conversation with Jeff Hilimire, Co-Founder and CEO of Purpose Group, we focused on how purpose drives exponential returns for business and people alike.

Jeff offers concrete examples of how a purpose-driven strategy helps people feel excited about their work, connected by something greater than themselves and supported to live their best lives.

Whether you are running a start-up or a decades old profitable business, Jeff details purpose as the key ingredient for any business interested in achieving outsized business results while operating as a force for good in the world.

To get us started, tell us about your latest venture Purpose Group?

We call ourselves a purpose driven holding company. Basically, we’re like private equity in that we acquire companies but unlike private equity in that we want to hold them forever. What’s also different from typical private equity is we have an operating model that’s centered around purpose as the lifeblood of the company.

The shared vision of the advisory board and the founding perspective is that we all believe that business should be a force for good in the world, and that a way to do that is to create more purpose-driven companies that achieve outsized success. And if we prove companies can achieve this success mostly because of our purpose playbook, that might show other business leaders the value in this approach.

Why get everyone involved in “uncovering” a company’s purpose?

Here’s an example, we bought our first company in May. Gerald Printing is a print, apparel and signs company out of Kentucky with ninety great hardworking people. What we liked about the business was the strength of the business itself, but the company has never had any sort of defined purpose.

The first part of our process is to make sure that there’s trust within the leadership team. Trust and purpose are things that I think must become part of your standard operating procedure.

Next, we’ll get the entire company together for a workshop that will help everybody contribute and find why they think this company is important to the world, and why they think their work can make a positive impact on the world.

Purpose is a company’s reason for being. You want to create a purpose that is approachable from every aspect of the company, from every level of the company. It’s not just leadership. You want everybody to feel like they can impact the purpose otherwise, what’s the point? Otherwise, it becomes something in your lobby or on your annual report, and less part of the company.

We’re not putting their purpose in; we’re helping people who know the company uncover the true purpose of a company.

So, purpose isn’t an inspiring statement or a tagline?

No, not at all. Now, we do work hard to get the phrasing right. We want the purpose to be memorable. It’s not like long value statements that nobody can remember. The world is full of companies that have done the work to uncover a purpose and six months later, nobody remembers it. It was just a sign on a wall. That’s the worst thing.

I tell leaders that it will be worse if we go through this process, and then you do nothing with it. I’d rather you just don’t do it at all. You must execute on this.

You must find ways to continually reinforce it. Starting with a trusting leadership team and then, how do you make this an authentic part of your standard operating procedure and bring everybody in the company together with goals that we’re all going after. You create alignment so that you can’t walk down the hall and grab any random employee and they know their role in the goals for the year.

I think when you have a true purpose that is woven throughout the company, and the team believes in it that will drive a certain type of culture, and you’ll begin to build more empathy, camaraderie when everyone feels like you’re moving towards something significant.

Purpose becomes the driving force behind the culture.