Purpose driven growth. Is it really possible? How easy it to achieve? Is becoming a B Corp worth it? At our recent Leadership Gathering we got together an expert panel to give us their take on these questions and more.
Founder and CEO of magneticNorth Lou Cordwell OBE, Former MD of Social Chain Katy Leeson, Co-founder of CIRCA5000 Matt Latham, and Ruth Hartnoll, Founder of Matchstick Creative had some great insight into the challenges and opportunities leading your business with values can bring.
Here are our top 6 takeaways from the discussion:
1) It’s got to be authentic
If you want purposeful growth you’ve got to fully commit. From your funding and recruitment to clients and suppliers – every decision needs to be approached through the lens of your purpose. For Ruth Hartnoll, openly and honestly talking about and sharing the things that are important to you, especially with your team, can really help with this.
2) Don’t expect an easy ride
As Lou Cordwell put it, ‘You’ve still got to stay alive, and you’ve still got to make money’. There’s no sugar coating it – striking the right balance between purpose and profit can be hard, but every member of the panel said it was totally worth it. The bigger and more established your business is, the harder the challenge. When you start a business with foundations in purpose it’s probably easier to embed that in everything you do. If you’ve got a large team, established clients and suppliers it takes time to get the balance right. But as Matt Latham put it, ‘It’s nice when you’ve built a company that you’re proud to talk about at parties’.
3) Listen to your team as you scale
Katy Leeson learnt from her experience at Social Chain that ‘What will work with 30 people, won’t necessarily work with 130’. So how do you keep culture and purpose strong as you scale? Her top tip was to listen to your team. If you’ve employed a team who are the right fit they are the perfect people to consult as you grow. And as Katy puts it: ‘Happy people produce the best work’.
4) B Corps – worth the effort
To B Corp or not to B Corp? That is the question most people are asking. It can be a long and involved journey, but our panel all agreed on the value accreditation brings. There will be some tough moments along the way, but the requirements give you a framework to deal with everyday decision-making. Internally it’s a signal of authenticity and intent to current and future members of the team, and externally it’s become shorthand for identifying purpose-driven and ethical businesses. The B Corp community is also really supportive and makes it easy to find partners and suppliers who share a similar purpose and values.
5) Hire slow / fire fast
A theme that popped up multiple times was the importance of getting your team right. Katy Leeson firmly believes that Social Chain’s rapid growth was ‘down to being led by our values and hiring the right people that fit with our vision and values’. As Matt Latham put it ‘Hire slow and fire fast’, it can take time to find people who are the right fit but better to hire once than to have to fire in a years’ time and start the process again.
6) Don’t go it alone
Purpose driven growth can be a challenging journey, but don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice. Ruth Hartnoll shared the value working with a D&I consultant has brought to the business and the benefit of understanding your own biases. Acknowledging our limitations and getting guidance from experts isn’t a weakness and there’s a community of other purpose-led businesses that are always happy to give advice.