“If you are interested in building a profound and sustainable business, it has to start on the foundation of purpose, beyond its profit and product,” Pepe Marais, the co-founder and Group Chief Creative Officer of Joe Public, tells me. He should know – he’s built one of South Africa’s largest independent agencies and believes in the power of purpose. I asked him about how purpose helped him achieve this.
Marais says that the purpose of Joe Public is to “be the fertile soil that serves the growth of our people, our clients, and our country.”
“To become the key success factor in any company, the purpose of any business must be well considered and firmly entrenched, not least among its leadership.”
See the bigger message? Creative delivery, the agency’s output, is not the why of this business — it is the how. Marais’ view is that the company’s reason for existence comes from the greatness of its product, which generates the capital that enables the agency to live its purpose.
Meaning through contribution
Marais draws my attention to Apple as an excellent example of the role of purpose and describes himself as a brand fan. When Steve Jobs started the company, Jobs said its mission was “to make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.”
Back then, it was unusual for a business leader to be so touchy-feely about business. This clarity became Apple’s strategy for doing less and doing it better. Apple was at ease with making fewer computers or phones but making these the world’s most magnificent machines.
Marais believes that the world is too occupied with ‘busyness’ – the multitude of small, unnoticed things that keep us busy but leave us unable to make as huge a difference as Apple did with its iconic products.
Considering the global technology company’s success, you’d be forgiven for thinking the company’s purpose was to make money. But it was actually about making great tools to advance humankind. Jobs’ powerful statement of this purpose translated into the company’s success.
But that was then, and this is now. Jobs was the original marketing evangelist, but it has become challenging to centre this purpose within Apple since his passing. The business mission now is all about the product. “To bring the best user experience to customers through innovative hardware, software, and services.”
Purpose is a team sport
To become the critical success factor in any company, the purpose of any business must be well considered and firmly entrenched, not least among its leadership. This is why communicating about purpose continually is essential. But it’s not good enough to talk about purpose – you must also walk the talk. This isn’t easy to do.
Marais’ purposeful journey goes back to 2007. When he saw the difference it made in his personal life, he decided that if he could do it for himself, he could do it for his business.
“A decade later it’s made a significant contribution to our performance and sustainability, as well as to the output of the business. Even now, we are probably delivering only about 30% of our purpose. It is a constant journey,” Marais tells me.
What I like about putting purpose front and centre is that it doesn’t matter whether your business is big or small, what line of business you’re in, or where in the world you are. Purpose is relevant for every business everywhere and will serve you regardless of the sector you occupy.
This article was published in Inc Africa