“Why Do We Exist?”: Discovering Our Core Purpose

I am a firm believer that we have a divine purpose, and we are not just here by accident. I never thought I would become Funeral Director, even though it has been a part of our family for generations. Actually most people assume this would be a likely path I would go down. Funny thing, I never saw it coming even though I enjoyed hospitality work from my earlier years with my first jobs being in restaurants  & hotels.

Photo Courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/yogesh_more

Photo Courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/yogesh_more

In 1989 I joined our family’s profession, I started at an entry-level position; washing cars, transferring those who have died into our care, driving the limousine, cleaning the funeral home, etc.  I did this for two years and I really enjoyed it but I had a different dream in me and I decided to pursue it.

I enlisted in the US Navy to become a Navy SEAL. This was one of the best experiences of my life AND one of the biggest disappointments all in the same breath. Needless to say I never became a Navy SEAL, I got close but couldn’t finish due to an injury. It took me years to let go of all my heartache of failing this goal. I recently saw the new movie, “Lone Survivor” – it is such a powerful film and it made me think over what my life would’ve been like had I become a SEAL. Standing where I am today, I feel like I can see clearly why I didn’t make it, I was meant for a different purpose: the purpose of helping families in their darkest hours.

Our company is about to embark on a journey to determine what our Core Purpose is as an organization. It’s going to be an interesting journey and I invite you to stay tuned.

Photo Courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/marekuliaszLet me tell you a little bit about what a Core Purpose actually is:

A Core Purpose is our fundamental reason for being. A guideline that will influence every decision our company makes. It’s a pillar that supports our vision, creates clarity and keeps us focused on our mission.

If I was you I might be thinking “Wow, your company started in 1898 and you are just now defining your core purpose?”  Well, while our business is wrapped in a wonderful history, the people I work with are a very real part of our present and our future. Together, we’ve found reason to change the future of our profession and that means discovering together what our core purpose as an organization is. Our contemporary purpose is evolving and the way we see it, the purpose of yesterday’s funeral homes just aren’t meeting the needs of today’s families.

Beyond just my company having a core value, I believe I individually have a core purpose within my role as President & CEO. My purpose is to help create a healthy work environment where our organizational health is the top priority.

 

I cannot help but think about our work lives, we end up spending more time with our work families than we do with our own families. Day in and day out we can either, enjoy and support our coworkers or we can put up walls of fear. Have you ever worked at a place you hated? Have you ever felt better when you called in sick? If you’ve ever felt that way, I would guess it was because that work environment was been ruled by bad attitudes and bad behaviors. Who is to blame? Do we have to participate in a toxic work environment? No, we can shape our lives into what ever we want them to be.

lencioni_the_advantage_3d_coOur management team has been going through the book, The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni, here’s one of the keys resonating with me right now:

“Within the context of making an organization healthy, alignment is about creating so much clarity that there is as little room as possible for confusion, disorder, and infighting to set in.”

With clarity comes accountability and, in a healthy work environ, accountability leads to vulnerability-based trust. This is what happens when members get to a point where they are completely comfortable being transparent and honest with one another. Where they can say and genuinely mean things like “Hey, I screwed up,” “Neil, I need help,” “Molly, your idea is WAY better than mine,” “Joe, I wish I could learn to do that as well as you do,” and even, “I’m sorry.”

At the heart of vulnerability lies the willingness of people to abandon their pride and their fear, to sacrifice their egos for the benefit of relationship and the collective good of their work family.

“How do we contribute to a better world?” (The Advantage)

The answer: Our Core Purpose.

So we’re going to find out what that purpose is and yes, we’ll share it with you once we’ve met together as a company and discovered together what our new purpose is. I’m so excited about this and I hope you are too!

 || what do YOU think?

So, my question to you is, for what core purpose do you exist?

 

If you’re a business owner or employee, what is the purpose of your organization?

 

 

Neil

About Neil

I was born into a large Irish Catholic family in 1967 as the youngest of seven children. My Grandfathers were best friends & coincidentally, both owners of funeral homes. John Cox (Oakland) had Joseph A. O’Connor (Los Angeles)or “Johnny” as his best man at his wedding. My parents, Joe & Jane O’Connor, met through the friendships of my grandparents. I moved to Laguna Niguel as a child & graduated from Dana Hills High School in 1986. I served in the Navy before finally joining the family business in 1989 and establishing the 4th generation of our family-owned & operated business. In 2000, after the retirement of my father, I became the President & CEO of O’Connor Mortuary. I met my wife, Lisa, in Maui while on a yoga retreat in 2003 and we now have a son - Jesse Joseph O’Connor – the pride & joy of my life. I still actively play Beach Volleyball at Victoria Beach in Laguna Beach and practice Ashtanga Yoga, I’m extremely passionate about these practices, about staying healthy and balanced in my body, mind & soul. As CEO I am privileged to be involved with partners in our community such as Saddleback Hospital, Mission Hospital, Age Well Senior Services, San Juan Capistrano Chamber of Commerce, TIP Trauma Intervention Program, and many others. My driving passion is to provide education, care & support to my family, friends & community. I love helping others when they need it the most.
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  • Fitz

    Neil,
    Great blog! It’s been an amazing ride and an exhilarating transition of our industry and our company. You’ve been instrumental in our push forward to remain relevant and differentiate ourselves. I look forward to our upcoming meeting as our team collectively will determine our core company purpose. We are one to serve and inspire!
    Fitz

    • neil

      Fitz –
      When does this ride stop? I guess when we fully commit and become our own customer. This has been a great journey for all of us. I am grateful to have such a great friend, brother in law & partner in my life as you are. This up coming meeting will be key for generations to come. Thank you for your leadership and friendship!

  • Carrie Bayer

    Wow, Neil. Just…. wow. This is the best blog ever! I’m so glad to be a part of your team & I’m grateful for your example & leadership. When I became a mortician, my goal was to change the world one family at a time. With your help, I’m doing just that. Thank you for building the foundation I stand upon & for always striving to be the best. Love, Carrie

    • neil

      HI Carrie –

      Thank you for your support and kind words. I am proud to see you grow over the years. You have overcome many challenges that could have stopped your personal grow. I do believe the latest and greatest growth gain was you recognizing thew love Steve has for you. You could have easily stuck to your past and stayed in fear mode. Your choice to accept Steve’s proposal in marriage is profound. I hope this can be the turning point for you to continue to be bold and let any of your past go and live for the NOW! Life is way to short to not love, laugh and live in harmony with joy. You have so many gifts, you are kind, thoughtful, compassionate, you care for the needy, the homeless, you have been a great leader of many worthy causes. Your love without conditions is a powerful testament of your core being. I am grateful to be in your company on a daily basis. I appreciate YOU for the perfect person you are! XOXO

  • Tom

    I’ve found the quote, “Wherever you go, There you are,” to be a guiding core value for me, because it is based on attitude. That is, an attitude to trust my team completely to continue forward with the same beliefs.

    • neil

      Hi Tom –
      You are right, where ever you go, there you are. We really cannot hide from your selves or others. I am thankful that you can completely trust your team. I like to say 1# is attitude #2 is action, we need both a stellar attitude and proactive actions to help us go anywhere. I am thankful that you live your life with both.

  • Ruby, I think this is your best blog yet. I love the fact that you are so transparent as a CEO & business owner. To admit that you don’t have all the answers and to be such a flexible and idea-driven leader is so admirable! Thank you for leading so well, for being such a fun person to work with, and for being someone that I really can come to saying I need help. Phenomenal.

    I’m so excited to see where we go as a company, thank you for caring enough about us to challenge us.

    – Molly

    • Neil

      HI Molly –

      Thank you for your kind words. This is an amazing time in our lives. I love the fact that you are with us full time. Your giftedness is so incredible, who would have thought either of us would enter into the great profession. I love working with you on a daily basis. It is so fun to see you take charge and shape our company. You are a force within our company that is making a huge impact on now and in the future. Thank you for all your support and friendship!!!

  • Joe Lavoie

    Great Blog , my purpose is to be a guiding light to my family , friends and teammates and to stay focused on keeping my eye on the prize. By that I mean to set daily , weekly and monthly goals to help not only myself but to help others succeed . I do appreciate you for being a guiding light also to help me succeed as a husband, father and friend. Thank You for all you do.
    Sincerely
    Joe Lavoie

    • neil

      Joe – You know it is my pleasure to be with you on a daily basis! I really appreciate the commitment and passion you bring day in and day out to our firm and families. You have been a warrior in helping families heal!!! I am forever grateful to you for all the wonderful acts of kindness you have given.

  • Becky Finch Lomaka

    Hi Neil,
    Your blog truly reflects the direction we are heading as a company. What a wild and crazy ride we are on. We are moving forward as a company where many others get stuck – we dare to dream and truly believe we can change the world for the better! What an exciting time this is for all of us; I am so blessed to be a part of this amazing group of people. I thank you for your inspirational leadership and drive and for daring to dream big!! The sky is the limit and I am excited to see what the future holds.

  • Michael Anderson

    Neil-
    I just wanted to say “thank you”. This was a very thoughtful, well-written article and I am excited to watch you lead your organization to identify its core purpose. We are on a similar journey ourselves and I am confident both organizations will emerge better and stronger as a result. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

    • neil

      Hi Michael –
      You are welcome, and thank you for all the support and friendship you have given me. You have been a key influence to me and our firm, I am grateful to YOU!

  • Anne Anderson Collins

    HI Neil,
    I, too strongly believe in a divine purpose. Not just one thing either. Just as we interact daily with many people on many levels, so we can have meaningful encounters throughout each and every day. There is a scripture which says “a three-fold cord is not easily broken”. The opposite of that is when one stands alone, the cord is weak. And if it is hanging over a proverbial cliff, it is better to have a cohesive team up top, all pulling together, having thrown over a strong cord in the first place. We need common goals, goals with substance and purpose, and the entire team, intertwined for strength in order to save the day, the situation, the floundering family who needs us.
    xoxo
    Annie

    • neil

      Hi Anne –

      That is a beautiful quote! I am glad we share the same common goals and purpose. You have been a big influence in my life, our friendship is so dear to me! I am so grateful that I am in your life. XOXO

  • Bill Hoy

    What a great post, Neil. Thanks for letting me help you and your team fulfill just a little piece of your unfolding purpose. It is a joy to be connected to all of you!

    • neil

      HI Bill –

      You have been a driving force in our firm and profession. I truly appreciate your friendship and support. I have learned more from you than anyone in my career, so thank you to YOU!

  • Kim Stacey

    Brilliant post, Neil! I truly look forward to watching this inspired effort unfold. This statement resonated with me very deeply: “At the heart of vulnerability lies the willingness of people to abandon their pride and their fear, to sacrifice their egos for the benefit of relationship and the collective good of their work family.” Personally, I would substitute “of their work family” with a more inclusive phrase: “of all sentient beings”. But that’s just me. 😉

    • neil

      HI Kim –

      Your support is had been so uplifting to me! I am forever thankful to you. We all need to become vulnerable to be able to grow into deep relationships. Only in a deep relationship can true commitment begin to transform us.

      • Kim Stacey

        Neil; dear friend and esteemed colleague – and fine writer, I take great pleasure in being able to call you “friend” – and have so enjoyed watching you “evolve”. I remember that fine day when your son was born, and upon seeing his picture, thinking to myself, “That’s one lucky boy”. Why? Because you approach life with deep forethought and positive intention. Keep writing; keep informing us of the “evolution” of O’Connor Mortuary…and know this I (and a whole bunch of other folks) eagerly await your next post.

  • Elsa

    Neil,
    Thank you for posting on this topic. I look forward to hearing what our company has created as far as Ideas on our core purpose. I think on the surface of our core purpose, it is safe to say that we are all here to assist others and walk through a difficult time with them, but I think the deeper question is why? Why do we do what we do and what is it that contributes to our constant evolution. I think that one of the most important core purposes in any company is to have and create an organization that is healthy and willing to grow and learn together and from one another. I don’t think one single person can contribute to a company any more than the next. I believe it is what we contribute as a whole, that makes the core purpose of a company.
    Thank You Boss Man:)

    • neil

      Hi Elsa –
      Our core purpose will define and align everything we do and say, from our families to our teammates. The deeper we go the farther we will be able to go in serving our community. We all have to be aware of our giftedness and talents to strengthen our bonds. Please remember that I work for you and the rest of the team. I am honored to be in your company on a daily basis!!!

  • Jenn

    Neil, I am lucky to work here at O’Connor Mortuary. Before coming here, I was fortunate to work with a family own construction engineering firm for 6 years that shared the same values and attitudes I have found here. I knew during my first interview that this is the place I needed to be based on that alone. I am sad when friends and family complain about how much they hate their job when over the last 7 years and presently, I have never been able to say that. Thank you for keeping this place humble and always embracing new ideals and strategies to keep everyone happy, clients and employees alike.

    • neil

      Hi Jenn –

      You are very lucky to work at to jobs that understand the value of organizational
      health. It makes the world of difference for you/us to live there and the impact on the client/families is so dramatic. I am glad you understand the impact of a great attitude and positive behaviors has on the organization. You have been a stellar teammate, I really enjoy being in your company. Thank you for your hard work and amazing commitment you bring to our firm.

  • Lori

    Neil,
    In a year that has been filled with much personal evolution within the company, I can’t wait to hear what common, core purpose we will all be striving for as a team.
    I am looking forward to our brainstorming session and hearing all of the great ideas.
    I’m grateful you took a chance on me and I get to be part of this incredible team.
    Thank you for the opportunities.
    With gratitude,
    Lori

    • neil

      Hi Lori –

      I am grateful that you are so bold in you own style! You get no where in life being shy and timid. I am still curious what you believe your core purpose is?

      • Lori

        Neil,
        I believe my core purpose is comforting others through their darkest times by extending to them the comfort I have been fortunate to receive when I have needed it. When you have experienced loss, it’s easier to “feel” with a family and know what they are going through. The experiences are not the same, but I can relate to the feelings of loss. I have been equipped for this role with the ability to “hear” people in their darkest hours. Whatever faith system you rely on, for me it is my Heavenly Father, we are equipped with the tools to thrive in areas where we are passionate.
        Over the phone or in person, I don’t even know what I am going to say, the words just come to me in perfect timing. It feels really good to know I have made a family member feel better during their most difficult times.

        Additionally, I feel my core purpose is to maintain a healthy relationship with the team as a whole. I’m obligated to “go there” and have difficult conversations to get to where I want to be relationally.

        Finally, another core purpose is to share with the newer team members what I have learned. Even when I am busy, I need to remind myself to stop and take advantage of the teachable moments. I guess that is where my education background comes into play. I enjoy sharing what has worked and what hasn’t worked for me to help them succeed in their roles……

        Any further questions?? 🙂

        • Neil

          Hi Lori –

          You have come a long way in the last three years! It is great to see you grow in many different roles in the company. I am glad that you where so bold on the first day I met you, that day I will never forget. 1st impressions are branding!!! I believe you understand your core purpose more now than ever. I have no further questions…………………?

          • Lori

            Neil,
            I have one further question….did you know I have worked at O’Connor four years? Maybe I was sleeping the first year?
            Thank you for all of the opportunities! I am glad I was so bold and that you put up with me! If I could afford it, I would do my job for free. How many people can say that?
            LB

  • Kari Lyn Leslie

    Neil,
    Thank you for the encouraging and uplifting post. You know that you’re loved and admired as an employer when your employee comes back to work for you after a 10 year hiatus. Being here allows me to not only use my education, but to care for those who need me in a critical time. I am so thankful for our team, our work, and our leaders. I really feel as if O’Connor’s is part of a grass roots endeavor to change the view of the American Mortuary, to provide meaningful and healing services for those that need us. And face it, we will all need a mortician at some time in our lives. Growing a strong, honest, dependable, trustworthy, valuable and dedicated team is our goal. Thank you for paving the way for us all to be proud of the work we have chosen!!

    oxoxoxo
    kari

    • neil

      Hi Kari Lyn –

      Thank you for your kind words! I am glad you finally came back to us. You have nailed our core purpose! Good job of living it, teach it and give it back to your friends and family. You make me proud of how you are moving to the light!!!

  • neil

    Hi Colleen –

    Thank you for you kind words & support! I am glad you have become such a huge fan of OCM. As you can appreciate it takes a true TEAM effort to become a great organization. We aspire to be the best of the best in our profession, and we do it one family at a time. Our goal is to help our families heal their hearts with flawless services. We are truly honored to be here for our community.

  • neil

    Hi Kristen –
    I am thankful that you took the time to read this post. I appreciate your support and friendship. We are two days away from our team meeting, and I could not be anymore excited. This meeting will set us on course for an even greater alignment of our team. Watch out and mark this day!

  • neil

    Hi Mark –

    I appreciate your your comments and support. I firmly believe the more I know the lesson I have learned. After 20 plus years of being involved with our company the more I see the value of letting others shape our future.

  • neil

    Hi Chris –

    You have been a true leader in our company!! You have been able lead and follow all on the same path. I am grateful for your willingness to put others first and let the team move forward without and slowing down. I am excited for us now and in the near future, we have greatness built into our DNA!!

  • neil

    Shasta –

    You have been an amazing leader in our company and profession! You have always led with a perfect attitude and beautiful smile. I am always happy to see you in action, your actions are stronger than any words. You have been a perfect example of a true professional.

  • Jeff Turner

    Neil,
    I so appreciate your guidance and “whole hearted” desire to be the best, and to find ways to drag as many people with you as you possibly can. I am so grateful to you for the improved life I have because of your understanding that we don’t have to “settle”. We can shape our lives the way we want them to be to a great degree.

    You are an inspiration to me and to everyone in the company. Thank you for being willing to be “vulnerable” first. For being willing to say “I messed up” first. You lead by example and by leading the charge. Thank you for carrying on the family business and for creating opportunity to take so many with you.

    Blessings,

    Jeff

    • neil

      Hi Jeff –

      Thank you for your never ending support and friendship! I have enjoyed our 20 plus years together, you have been a key mentor to me. I love being the guy who has made the biggest and most mistakes in the company, I love being CD!!!

      I have seen you grow leaps and bounds in these last years, you have become a fearless leader in our company and profession. You have been gifted the talents of a great teacher, your impact will have ripple effects that fro generations to come. I am grateful to YOU!!!!

  • Chuck Ricciardi

    Neil,
    I love the excitement and uncertainty this journey involves. There is something about not knowing the destination while being on a journey as a company, executive and person that appeals to me. I appreciate your leadership and desire to seek the best for our company and our team and that that best includes creating healthy relationships at it’s core. The art of being vulnerable to create that needed trust in a relationship is so counter intuitive to our society, our egos almost always get in the way. The reality is that it shows strength to be vulnerable not weakness. Again, thanks for leading the charge and making this journey exciting, challenging, demanding and fun! The best is yet to come.
    Love,
    Chuck

    • neil

      HI Chuck –

      The fun is just starting, we are shaping our company & profession for future generations. I know we are on the right path, and I am thankful you are helping in leading the charge. Your positive attitude has carried many challenging days for me and many others. I love the fact that I can tell you anything good, bad or indifferent and you will listen with an open ear. Lets keep having fun with the pedal to the metal. I love to see you shine!!!

  • Joanna Ramirez

    Neil,

    Very good blog! Thank you for sharing your journey and our journey as a management team with the rest of the team; and, the community for that matter. It has been interesting and chellenging searching for the Core of why we exist? Not because it is difficult to think of the many reasons we exist but because I cannot seem to put in a nutshell. May be it shouldn’t be in a nutshell, I suppose. Thank you again, Sir.

    • neil

      H Joanna –

      I appreciate your willingness to lead with an open heart & open mind. Your ability to become vulnerable with our team is the key to our success. I am grateful that you are such a great leader.

  • neil

    Hi Amy –

    Thank you for your kind words! You have been a huge part of our success, your leadership, hard work, commitment and passion is amazing! I am very grateful that you are so willing to become open, vulnerable, uncomfortable to develop into a fearless leader. I truly enjoy being in your company on a daily basis!!

  • Sharon Watkins

    Neil
    Thank you for explaining this concept of core values. I am also a huge believer in establishing what an organization, a family or an individual feel are their core values that govern their lives. I’m excited for the O’Connor team and the bright future that lies ahead with all the positive changes that continue to drive this organization and work family. I’m sad to be leaving but look forward to seeing the growth when I return. Thank you Neil for your support and leadership. I’m happy you came into my life.
    Sincerely, Sharon

    • neil

      Hi Sharon –

      I am grateful that our lives have shared the same core purpose. I am excited for your future and I am sad that you are leaving too. I realize your mission is huge part of who you are and it calls you from a higher power that speaks to your core.
      I pray that you have a great adventure and your life keeps growing in an upward direction.

  • Lauren

    Thank you for sharing this Neil!
    I am truly amazed how much time and effort the management team puts into the growth of the rest of the team. Your energy and creativity combined with your honesty creates a workplace that allows us to focus on our families and feel that we are making a difference in people’s lives. We can be stagnate and get locked into routine or continue to thrive and find ways that will better each other and ourselves. I’m excited to see what we all come up with!
    Namaste.

  • Patricia Kolstad

    Neil,
    I am so very fortunate to have been privileged to walk with you on this journey of greatness for our company. It has been quite an evolution for all of us. As I have said many times, I am so very proud of you and the leadership team, for all of the time, energy, training and support you have given all of us. The life lessons I have learned here have helped me to become a better woman, mother, sister, friend, and last but certainly not least, professional. I know there are other companies out there that are just as passionate about their employees, but none that I know of in our profession. You have taken us to another level, and invited all of us to be part of the process. That doesn’t always happen. Most often it is the “do as I say, not as I do” approach. This is such an exciting time and I’m so thankful that I am still here to watch our Next Gen team take us forward. Thank you for being an inspiration to me, for your friendship, mentorship, and your willingness to speak the truth. You are truly a testament to what vulnerability means. Your fearless approach to self awareness is refreshing!
    Lovingly,
    Pat

    • neil

      Hi Pat –

      Thank you for your kinds words. I have told your story several times this past week. A great American story of what success looks like when someone lets their past not hold them back. You have given me hope to keep encouraging others to become the best they can become. I am thankful that we have become such great friends thru our profession.

      Love Always,
      Neil

  • Erin Fodor

    Neil,
    I feel as though I was brought to THIS company “O’Connor’s” for the core purpose of giving back and helping the family in there immense time of need. I feel because I
    have a first hand knowledge of what the family is feeling when they enter through our doors, that I can be a shoulder for them to rely on. My number one goal/purpose is to care for that family to the best of my abilities. I strive everyday to learn, the more knowledge I have, the better I can relate to the family. I can honestly say that I love my job with a passion and I look forward to every rewarding day.

    • neil

      Hi Erin –

      You are a great role model for all of us. You are proof that death can be a transformer and guide to us. I have been so moved by your actions & inspiration.
      You have been so instrumental in helping others heal their hearts. I can see the passion you bring everyday to our firm and community.

  • Shayna Mallik

    Neil,
    First off I am so sorry for my late response. I really enjoyed reading your blog. I feel that I was brought to this company for the purpose of being able to help families and friends in a difficult time. I am so blessed to be a part of this family and company. We do so much for our families we are serving and I am so proud to part of this amazing team and family.

    Shayna 🙂

    • neil

      Hi Shayna –

      Thank you for your reply! I truly enjoy your positive and caring spirt that you bring to our company and community every single day. You are a joy to be with and I am grateful that you understand the meaning of team and community.

  • Michael Thomas

    Nice work Neil. My heart aches everyday I am away from the theatre, but I too believe I have been lead here. The joy I find here is different from the joy I find on stage, but any joy you find in life I believe is worth pursuing. I can’t wait to dive even further into this topic.

  • neil

    Hi Diana –

    Thank you for your reply! Our journey will take us only as far as the team will allow. We all have to be willing to stretch our selves and get our of comfort zones to be able to make the company move forward. It takes 110% of every team member to completely commit to the process. We have to be willing to turn on a dime and say YES to each other and our client families in order to become the best of the best. A positive attitude and a willingness to support our team will make a better life for all to share. I am grateful that you are willing to be a team that is committed to putting others first. Let’s enjoy the time we have together.