Want a successful start up? Nail your Purpose & Values first.

In January 2018 I wrote an article found here detailing how fucking hard it is to start a business and be successful.  Another 3.2m Brits will be embarking on this process in January and after a quite extraordinary year at The Point.1888, I wanted to reflect back on what truly made a difference. 

This is what all those future entrepreneur millionaires should be writing on January 3rd 2019.

Simon Sinek’s Start with Why concept is universally regarded as excellent reading for anyone starting up.  For me the Why splits into two key parts:

– the purpose of your business

– the brand values you’ll follow to deliver that purpose. 

Today to stand out and scale up, be disruptive and unique, attract business through reputation and recommendation and truly make a dent, you must have your brand Purpose & Values nailed first.  It’s the first step in any business plan.  It’s not good enough to start a businessanymore – you need to start a revolution as James Watt of Brewdog said. 

Our success in 2018 is largely due to the fact that in 2014 we had our Purpose & Values clearly established first.  They now form the backbone of our company charter we will be launching and all signing next year.  The legendary team we have hired obviously have made the biggest impact but other than our brand the only thing that hasn’t changed in four years at The Point.1888 is our Purpose & Value.

Our purpose is simple;

  • Change the world through giving #11% of our profits to charity
  • Give the legends that join us a true #lifework balance

Our team are all incredibly lucky to have the jobs we do and live in the world we live in.  Giving back and being a socially progressive company is important to every one of us.  We have already donated to several charities and saved lives.  

An Essex Air Ambulance landed on the M11 a few weeks back – maybe someone’s life was saved – we contributed to that.  That is what is important.  Yeah it’s small donations so far but we are phenomenally ambitious and dedicated to our cause.

We have a successful, growing company and as we grow we can make a bigger impact and change more lives. Support those less fortunate than us. This purpose is more important than just making money. 

If you’re starting a company to make money alone, in my honest opinion you won’t survive. 

On the flip side, if you start a business to make a change, you’ll end up making money.

This commitment is central to everything we do, everything our clients do and gives the team a reason to come to work that’s far more empowering than money and things.  The newer generation coming into the workplace today see making a difference in the world as one of the most important factors in choosing a company to join.  We only recruit people that share our purpose.

Imagine if every company committed to giving 11% of their profits to charity.  When you see what money can do, the impact it can make, it’s worth so much more than just buying another watch or dress.  It’s so obvious.  Imagine if every banker gave 11% of their Christmas bonuses to charity.  Just think about the difference that could make.  We all pay tax and all complain about it but if you commit early in your business plan to be socially progressive, the satisfaction, the joy and the pleasure are so much greater.

The second part of our purpose and I guess our promise to the honest, dedicated and talented legends that join our rollercoaster is a true lifework balance.  I hate the term work life balance – it’s a perfect irony of getting everything wrong. 

We give our team fully flexible working, any hours, any day and anywhere. 

I don’t give a shit when they work, when they are most effective or when they need to get their nails done.  It’s just simply not important.  What is important is trust.  I trust them to get the job done on their terms. 

That level of responsibility either makes people thrive or dive.  It’s not right for everyone but it’s the only way we will operate going forward.   Most people said I was mad to offer unlimited holiday.  I got bored arguing my case so went out and proved it to everyone.  We have grown our team to 18 now and had no more than a couple of issues in the last four years. 

As I said, it’s not right for everyone but we assume that everyone we employ deep down will act responsibly with the power they have and we trust them to deliver.  We do not let one or two rotten apples ruin the apple cart. 

It’s hard.  It takes commitment, focus, honesty and clear communication but it works. 

I find it appalling that main stream employment seems to regard parents – particularly mothers – as completely unemployable because they may want a slightly different set up to their working hours.  Wake up idiots!  Having become a father myself in the last three years, I have so so much respect for any parent who even attempts to hold down a job. 

When you become a parent your entire being changes. Your whole life has been turned upside down and emotionally you are so different.  Being able to offer parents work that fits around their life is a game changer.  More and more businesses are doing it but the uptake seems painfully slow.  I see it as an opportunity – we get access to phenomenal talent purely on a technicality.  Funnily enough we employ a lot of parents, a lot of mothers and a lot of part time roles.

If you give people work that works around their life, what they give you back is awesome – such commitment, such dedication and such loyalty.  Things that no massive salary can replace.  Ultimately, we are giving our team control over their time and that is everyone’s only true currency.  They choose how to spend their time – and boy the level of efficiency that comes with parents as employees is off the scale. 

Our working mothers are quite extraordinary and sometimes I feel like shouting WAKE UP to the world and then I remember that it’s not my problem to fix.  If other employers don’t get it already they may never get it and that’s their problem.  For us it’s working a dream.

So what’s your first action? Nail your purpose. Call it vision, mission, goals or whatever but make sure there is a why.  If not, why fucking bother at all?

The next step – maybe something for Thursday 4th January – is to get your brand values right. 

They provide the entire world with an understanding of how you will do business.  What it will be like to work with you and how they will be treated.  Most big corps have brand values that they’ve paid some agency to invent to make themselves feel better.  Most big corps also think they are socially progressive.  The reality is big companies struggle with change at the best of times.  If your new brand value is Partnership and the one you’ve operated on for 20 years is Ruthless, it’s not going to change overnight.

Our Brand Values are clear;

  • Family
  • Attitude
  • Ambition & Bravery
  • Trust

Oooooo what lovely words. I’m sure many companies have lovely shiny soft words like this stacked into an infographic on their website somewhere or plastered on coffee cups.

However, brand values are a complete waste of time unless they become completely central to everything you do.  If purpose is the brain, brand values are the blood.

The problem with values is that you can’t just say this is who you are or how you will operate.  They may be set internally but they are validated externally by everyone you do business with. 

Constantly. 

You have to prove you believe in your brand values in every transaction your business makes, every conversation your team has and every meeting you go to.  Over time people will start to recognise these values as who you are but by then you will have earned it. 

The growth we have seen in 2018 and the amount of incoming new business I believe is directly down to the companies we’ve worked with in the preceding three years realising and recognising us to be who we say we are. 

The best new business you can get this year is from an external client or customer recommending you to someone they know.  Think about the level of trust, respect and love that takes.  It instantly starts any new relationship six months down the line.  Again, it’s a game changer.

In summary – Purpose & Values are steps one and two in your journey.  As I said in January – good luck to another budding 3.2m Brits who will embark on this craziness in 2019.

Merry Christmas.

Will.

Will Stewart has an extensive retail career and will forever be Managing Director of The Point.1888. Passionate about Retail, Brands, Products and armed with ambition to modernise the industry. He has bought everything from Nappies to Kit Kats, shoes to furniture, having worked at Sainsbury’s, Kingfisher, Woolworths and the John Lewis Partnership.  Today he runs UK’s fastest growing brand licensing agency; The Point.1888, the next generation of brand licensing.

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