In the fall of 2008, an executive at Southwest Airlines had a three hundred and fifty million dollar idea – charge $25 for each checked bag. Earlier that year, the legacy carriers (American, United, and Delta) had all started charging for luggage on their flights and Southwest was missing out on the revenue. All of this additional revenue for no additional work is a business dream. To decide if they should follow suit with the industry, they referred to their purpose statement:
Connect people to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, low-cost air travel.
In understanding why the company exists in the first place, they reaffirmed their purpose to low cost travel was more important than the $350 million carrot in front of them. Their purpose meant freedom for people to get to those important in their lives. They declined the executive’s idea. Instead, partnering with their long time marketing agency, they came up with the ‘bags fly free’ campaign. A year later they had added $1.2 billion in revenue that they could directly correlate to not charging for luggage.
Staying true to who they were validated their relationship with their customers and converted others to join them on their purpose driven mission. There are lots of good ideas in business. Be careful not to forget who you are to get where you are going.