Consultants help business clients see their purpose clearly.

Consultants help business clients see their purpose clearly.

A lot of interesting ideas have come across Aslyne Rodriguez's desk since she co-founded her business.

Saying "no" to many of them has been good for Yokel, a business that's designed to help newcomers to Columbus connect to the city, says Rodriguez-who serves as the company's CEO.

Working with Storyforge-a local company that helps businesses identify their purpose and align their operations to it-has empowered Rodriguez to remain on track. She has found herself telling would-be partners: "It's a great opportunity, but it's not a right fit," she says. "Their expertise helped us stay focused and not lose our way."

Storyforge founders Barry Chandler and Haley Boehning believe a company's success is tied to its ability to know its purpose and act accordingly.

Companies that operate this way will enjoy greater employee engagement, better customer relations and greater profits, the partners say. Research backs them up. A study of 50,000 global brands, conducted by a former P&G marketing executive, found that the top 50 financially performing brands pursued purpose over profit and outperformed the S&P 500 by 400 percent. Other studies show that employees who feel they work for a good cause are more productive.

"Companies always focus on the 'what' and the 'how,'" Chandler says. "The real opportunity for growth comes when you focus on 'why.'"

Increasingly, consumers and employees want to do business with companies that have a purpose and articulate it, says Boehning, who spent 16 years working at L Brands, where she most recently served as the vice president of internal communications. It's a mindset that has been perpetuated by millennials.

The growth of social enterprises also has made companies look more closely at the philanthropic work that they do. "For a very long time they were two categories-business and philanthropy. They were kept very separate from each other," Boehning says. "The lines between business and social responsibility are blurring."

The partners have developed a process-they call it "Brandforging"-to help companies discover and articulate their purpose, develop a brand position and create a lasting legacy for stakeholders. It's about much more than branding, says Chandler, who has started and sold three strategic consulting businesses during the last 13 years. "We're very cautious about the word 'branding,'" he says. "We're not a branding company. We don't invent their purpose, it comes from them."

Brandforging, which can take weeks or months, involves dozens of interviews with stakeholders and consumer and competitor research. The partners, who typically work on a half dozen projects at a time, dive deep to understand the company and determine what people's perceptions of it are, Chandler says. The insights gained during the process help Storyforge work with companies to articulate their purpose and find appropriate ways to share it with internal and external audiences, Chandler says. "Our work informs branding, hiring and all other areas of business," he says. "Our work helps them achieve their goals because of alignment. Once you uncover your purpose, you can never unsee it."

The process often leads to people within the company developing greater role clarity, Boehning says. When the purpose is clear to everyone, employees can see how their position relates to their team and department, she says.

Past projects have included helping a client-whose company had grown so large that he no longer knew the names of all of his employees-articulate his goals and philosophies in such a way that it rallied everyone behind him. The partners aided a tech company that formed to find new growth opportunities when the market for its initial business no longer existed.

Storyforge helped Rodriguez and her co-founder, Christian Coughlan, develop Yokel. Rodriguez says she felt confident that Storyforge would deliver what it promised. "When you're entrusting your brand-your company-to someone, it's a big deal," she says. "When you meet Barry and Haley, you know you're entrusting your brand to people who will care for it."

Melissa Kossler Dutton is a freelance writer.