PURPOSE: the potential to rejuvenate our businesses and remake our world.

December 30th, 2011

Daniel Pink was Press Secretary and Speechwriter for Al Gore. Now, he’s simply one of the best speakers and authors on the planet.

In his great book, DRIVE, he talks about PURPOSE maximisation. And he puts it like this:

“The move to accompany profit maximisation with purpose maximisation
has the potential to rejuvenate our businesses and remake our world.”

That’s so true.

But it begs the question: how exactly do we do it? How do we make it real? How do we remake or transform?

My answer: by embedding giving. Come let’s explore:
A few months ago someone made this point in a discussion we were having during a meeting at Buy1GIVE1 [B1G1]:

“The ‘Eighties babies’ (those born in the 1980’s) were the first generation to be born with
everything. And then they realised that having everything actually meant having nothing.”

And what he meant was this: they had no sense of meaning. And without that sense of meaning, they had nothing.

Way back in 1946 Viktor Frankl made precisely the same point in his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’. He wrote, “Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.

We are, I’m certain, really starting to understand that now. And that’s one of the reasons why we’ve seen an amazing ‘explosion’ in companies ‘encouraging’ or indeed empowering and sponsoring volunteerism and giving back. People are realising that having ‘things’ doesn’t bring the joy they thought those things might bring.

More and more people are now experiencing that having meaning and purpose truly does bring joy and, as we’ll see in a moment, it actually transforms.

The theory on the volunteering side is that the company organises volunteering ‘trips’ or days and that as a result the employees ‘get’ a greater sense of meaning from that activity and so feel more connected and committed to the company. Certainly for the duration of the trip and hopefully way beyond it too.

Similarly, companies embrace so-called CSR and donate to their favourite causes. They do it with great intent and often with great press, “XYZ Co just gave $$$$$ to ABC Cause.” And you get the sense when that happens that the CEO and the Board certainly feel great. We’re not sure about the team’s feeling. But we’re certain the impact on customers is minimal.

And that’s because in most cases, the giving or the volunteering is not ‘embedded’; it’s not at the very core of why the company does what it does. It’s ‘attached’ as opposed to embedded.

And importantly too, it’s top-down.  It’s not something that the team is involved in choosing or implementing.

Changing that dynamic has huge impacts.

For example, Apple recently (after the resignation and then untimely death of Steve Jobs) reversed what many saw as its ‘no-giving’ policy.

The CEO Tim Cook announced it would match, dollar for dollar, the giving of any of its team members. In the first six weeks of that policy reversal, a staggering $7 Million flowed to charitable causes.

So when the team gets in involved in giving, things change. Dramatically.

Like many Entrepreneurs running great businesses, Rob Nixon, founder and CEO of Australian-based Nixon Advantage has added — no, he’s EMBEDDED — giving through the Buy1GIVE1 [B1G1] platform. And it’s changed things.

The company’s been helping Accountants to improve their financial position through coaching, consulting, seminars, events and industry specific tools since 2005. And they do it very well. And now they’ve added creative B1G1 giving to the mix.

Each quarter the company has a theme—this past quarter it’s been ‘ONE TRIBE’. The office has been decked out appropriately with leaves, trees and even authentic Djembe Drums. They’ve formed 11 cross-functional teams, chosen tribal names and chosen projects from B1G1 that resonate with each team.

In Nixon’s case, the giving is not matched directly to individual items in the company’s wide-ranging services. Rather, 1% of the company’s revenue is allocated across the teams’ projects for giving. The selected project each week is notified to clients, potential clients and spread via social media.

Rob Nixon says that B1G1 giving has inspired and motivated the team far more than in previous quarters where receiving a personal reward was the end goal. “They’ve got an even greater sense of purpose,” he says.

And no wonder! In the first 12 weeks alone, they:

  Gave 165,037 people access to clean water
  Gave 44,233 people medical support
  Gave 42,106 people in need accommodation
  Gave 40,867 people in need agriculture support
  Gave 36,567 people improvement of personal hygiene
  Gave 25,024 square meters of rainforest protection
  Gave 17,090 people access to the toilet
  Gave 12,000 people in need a nourishing meal
  Gave 4,249 children education support for a day
  Gave 3,579 trees maintenance and protection for a year
  Gave 2,966 children computer education for a day
  Gave 2,042 children in need a learning tool
  Gave 1,434 children in need a meal at school
  Gave 780 people occupational training for a day
  Planted 592 trees to nurture the environment
  Gave 522 children a life education program for a day
  Gave 406 disadvantaged people special education for a day
  Gave 395 people in need vitamin supplements for a day
  Gave 120 social entrepreneurs support for a day
  Gave 50 children in need full support for a day
  Gave 42 people in need transportation for a day
  Gave 24 families a domestic animal to provide income
  Gave 16 people in need a health check-up
  Gave 10 children in need a book to read
  Gave 6 elderly people life support for a day

What’s particularly impressive in this (and many other examples) are several specifics:

  1. The totality of the  s p r e a d  of the impact
  2. Customers are involved — in a sense, every sale carries a give-back of some kind
  3. The give-back is never about money — it’s always about impact — in effect, companies are saying “when we sell this, this giving-back happens.” For example, you buy a TV, a person gets sight; you drink a coffee, a child gets access to life-saving water; you sell a book, a tree gets planted.
  4. The giving is ‘controlled’ and importantly celebrated regularly (in Rob Nixon’s car, each week) by the team.

The impact of using the B1G1 platform and structure within the company is profound.

Building Company Owner Giovanni Silanesu at Inspired Constructions described it recently in an email as ‘transforming our business in a week.’

And he describes the impact of one of his customers this way: “We just completed a small project where we did some work for lady whose husband is critically ill. I told her that as a result of us doing the work, 150 needy children in India would be fed and educated for a day. She was speechless, I started to well up, and when I left, I felt that not only had we helped 150 children in India but we had lifted the spirits of someone that deserved it here as well.

When done like this, it allows a company not to track sales; but to track how many kids it’s helping. Now that really is embedding!

Daniel Priestley, UK-based author and developer of the Key Person of Influence program puts it like this. “Giving is, I’m certain, the real cornerstone of entrepreneurship. There’s a point in our lives where we think we’re doing it for ourselves, as in ourselves personally. But then there’s a point where you get that ourselves actually means ‘us’ — us as in the human family.

And let’s go from one Daniel to another; Daniel Pink whom we mentioned earlier.

Remember what he said:

“The move to accompany profit maximisation with purpose maximisation
has the potential to rejuvenate our businesses and remake our world.”

That means it’s important. Starting now.

And B1G1 is, I reckon, THE best place to get started. Clicking here gets you there.

Re-Thinking Remarkable

October 12th, 2011

For some time now, I’ve been ‘preaching’ the message of what it takes — and actually how simple it really is — to become a remarkable business.


The original push for the insight came from Robert Johnson, the Founder of the now ubiquitous Geek Squad — a computer ‘fix-it’ business he started in 1994 with a bicycle that now has 27,000 team-members worldwide and annual revenues of US$1.5 Billion.

It was Robert who originally gave us this marvellously simple quote: ‘Advertising is the fee you pay for being UNremarkable.’

I love the simplicity of that — at one level it explains why Apple (more about them soon) don’t have salespeople and at the most important level of all, it simply is the truth.

Geek SquadNow of course, it doesn’t mean that remarkable companies don’t EVER advertise — it means that they have a choice to do it or not because there’s so much ‘buzz’ about them everywhere. Indeed, in Apple’s case, the only ads I ever see for Apple here in Singapore are ads for letting people know that they’re expanding so fast they need more people!

So … how do you become a remarkable business? And how do you do it simply?

There are just 2 key steps:

  1. You break your business down into a series of small PROCESSES — for example, one small process might be the way you answer the phone; another might be the way you guide people through your website; another might be the way you package your goods; another might be the way you thank people for their business OR for paying their bills on time (and of course, you do have a process for that don’t you?)
  1. As you look at that simple process, you just ask, “Is this the way a remarkable enterprise would do this?”

It’s seriously that simple.

customer serviceAnd then you set about changing the things to make that simple process a remarkable one. For example, is it remarkable to hear stuff like “Press 1 for service, press 2 for accounts, if you know the extension press that number followed by a hash, for order follow up press 3 and to hear all these options again, press star”? Seriously, is that what you’d call remarkable? If not, then change it now.

And in terms of packaging, have you ever opened a package from Apple? You say ‘WOW’ even before you see the product inside. Is that what happens when people open your packaging. If not, change it now.

And Russian billionaire Yuri Milner speaking at the G8 meeting in Deauville in July this year gave us a whole host of reasons why this is so important. Be blown away by these stats:

  • As much information was created every 48 hours in 2010 as was created between the dawn of time and 2003.
  • That will be down to 40 minutes by 2020.
  • 140 million pieces of content shared on Facebook in 2009 — increases to 4 billion in 2011
  • 50 billion emails in 2006, 300 billion in 2010.

Or to put it another way, we are in the age of the acceleration of everything.

So if your website doesn’t grab me in less than 30 seconds, if it’s not remarkable — game over.

If I get the usual phone message, same thing — at the very least I’m not in the best frame of mind when I finally get through.

And if I pay your bill on time and you don’t thank me, I probably won’t keep on doing that because clearly, you’re giving your attention to the people who don’t pay their bills on time (I bet you’ve got a process for that!)

You get the point.

But just go back to the title of this piece again — RE-thinking Remarkable. Why RE-thinking, isn’t just being ‘remarkable’ enough?

Well, I’m thinking maybe not if you want REAL leadership.

You see, years ago, when people first ‘got’ the importance of customer service, people spoke about ‘satisfying’ the customer. But the really great companies didn’t satisfy their clients- they full-on delighted them.

And then those who REALLY understood went further; they said (and they are right), “It’s not about customer service, it’s about customer experience.”

Steve JobsAnd then when Steve Jobs died, it caused me to re-think. What you begin to realise when you think of the remarkable way Jobs did things is this: truly remarkable companies aren’t just remarkable, they inspire.

And so the key question simply becomes this: Do we inspire? Do we inspire enough so that team members are flocking to join us; do we inspire potential customers enough so that we don’t really need salespeople; do we inspire our current customers enough so that they become raving fans?

Being remarkable is a step on that road.

But it’s not just any step. It’s the first step that any of us needs to take if we want to become truly inspiring.

And if we’re not here for that, what are we here for? Business really does have the power to change our lives.

And check out B1G1 to see how they’re doing it.

Paul Dunn


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