Purpose: the 'Secret' Ingredient of Success

03/05/2015 03:09 pm ET | Updated May 05, 2015

Ask any entrepreneur about the ingredients of success and their answer is likely to include the words "hard work," "determination," "self-belief," "taking risks" and maybe even "luck."

But there is usually another ingredient of success that is evident among the world's most inspirational entrepreneurs: purpose.

Purpose is not just about social purpose, although a desire to improve the wellbeing of others is a characteristic of many entrepreneurial businesses. It means having a clear reason to exist that is above and beyond the pursuit of profit. It might be a desire to change how people live their lives or carry out their work; a desire to tackle a social ill or perceived inequality; or simply a desire to entertain, amuse and bring joy.

So what can be learned from other entrepreneurs who have -- both knowingly and unknowingly -- put purpose at the heart of their business models?

1. Be positive about your purpose
Purpose is clear and simple, not convoluted and woolly. And it needs to be obvious to the other people involved in your business, whether they are your employees, your customers, your suppliers or other stakeholders. Your success will ultimately be linked to how effectively you can explain what you believe in, and why you believe in it. French recycling entrepreneur Jean-Luc Petithuguenin has built a billion-dollar business, Paprec, with the unassuming philosophy that today's waste is tomorrow's raw material. For him, conserving global resources is a personal passion, but it is also a practical necessity.

2. Harness your purpose
Your sense of purpose is a powerful force that can be harnessed to achieve great things for your business. But you need to ensure that your business is aligned to your purpose, rather than the other way round. In business, it is important to guard your integrity and to be true to yourself. So steer clear of any activities that don't feel "natural" or "right." The most successful entrepreneurs have businesses that fit with their values. Take Dr. Richard E Caruso, a US entrepreneur who became wealthy working for project finance company LFC Financial Corporation, but ultimately sought more than just financial success. He harnessed his purpose and founded Integra LifeSciences, which pioneered a skin replacement system for burn victims.

3. Use purpose to overcome adversity
Inevitably there are hard times in business -- as there are in life. But your sense of purpose will help you to get through the tough times and come out on the other side. At the same time, adversity can help to inspire and inform your purpose. Olivia Lum, the first woman to win EY's World Entrepreneur Of The Year title, grew up in a shack without running water. She went on to found Singapore's largest publicly traded water-treatment company, who are committed to producing clean, safe, affordable and accessible water.

Businesses that have a genuine sense of purpose draw customers to them and have guiding principles that see them through good times and bad. Therefore, they tend to grow sustainably and achieve long-lasting financial success. That's why purpose and the desire to leave a legacy is a potent ingredient in the recipe for entrepreneurial success.

The role of purpose-driven entrepreneurs in reshaping our world will be explored at EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2015 - 3-7 June 2015. Find out more

The views reflected in this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the global EY organization or its member firms.