Corporate purpose in startups and established companies
: the effect of company maturity and leadership on purpose enactment

  • Nick Hellenkamp (Student)

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


This study examines how purpose enactment varies in start-ups compared to established and growth-stage companies, and the extent to which leadership is involved in this process. It em ploys a mixed methods approach that entails extensive literature research and case studies on the current state of research, two qualitative expert interviews and an employee survey as the primary instrument. Interviewees noted that start-ups tend to establish purpose more easily than established companies, mainly due to their less complex structures and lack of extensive histories. According to quantitative data, start-ups exhibit a higher perception of purpose than established or growth-stage firms, with founder-led companies showing also significantly higher levels of purpose than those led by external CEOs. The literature and expert interviews empha size the agility and less rigid structures of start-ups as advantageous for purpose enactment, an observation confirmed by the survey data. The research consistently highlights the struggle of aligning purpose with practical implementation, particularly in larger, hierarchical organizations, pointing to the need for clear communication, the breaking down of silos, and a real commitment from senior management to effectively embed purpose in day-to-day operations. In conclusion, although organizational purpose – when implemented correctly – would have the potential to navigate organizations through stages of growth and serve as a unifying and guiding force, purpose enactment tends to diminish with increasing company maturity.
Date of Award25 Jan 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Universidade Católica Portuguesa
SupervisorAndrea Cavicchini (Supervisor)


  • Corporate purpose
  • Purpose enactment
  • Purpose development
  • Firm maturity
  • Maturity characteristics
  • Leadership
  • Employee perception
  • Organizational culture


  • Mestrado em Gestão e Administração de Empresas

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