Mission: How the best in business break through
Mission: How the best in business break through – Michael Hayman & Nick Giles
If business as usual is over, what is it about the most successful companies that makes them win?
If photo messaging app Snapchat can reach a $10 billion evaluation within two years, only 30% of the companies that made up the FTSE 100 index when it was founded 30 years ago are still around today, and human attention spans have declined from 12 to 8 seconds in the last 13 years, it is fair to say that businesses need to know the secrets of survival.
No matter the size or age of your organisation, the authors Hayman and Giles, founders of the British campaigning consultancy Seven Hills, believe the best in business are those that can cut through this noise, stand out as campaigners and activists, and be a force for good.
While many are often sceptical about missions, the authors argue that it is hard to name businesses that succeed without a bold vision being hard-wired into their DNA. And without a clear purpose the people that make and sustain an organisation – the founders, the employees, the consumers – can’t survive, thrive or build momentum to power through to the top.
“This is an environment where the ability to explain your proposition is paramount, your narrative matters, and the best story wins.” Michael Hayman & Nick Giles
In Mission, Hayman and Giles have interviewed leaders and pioneers behind breakthrough companies such as Airbnb, retail giant Whole Foods and baby food brand Ella’s Kitchen to try and uncover how they have done it.
Interesting insights include:
- Adopting a daring mentality can pay dividends, like Travis Kalanick, the co-founder of Uber, who says: “We are running a political campaign and the candidate is Uber”. The controversial taxi company that has disrupted traditional models worldwide and been named the world’s most valuable start-up, has a bold and ambitious mission: ‘Transportation as reliable as running water everywhere and for everyone’
- Campaigning ideas can grow as the company grows. Natural fast food company Leon is based on the simple idea of “If God did fast food.” Initially founded by John Vincent and Henry Dimbleby because of a frustration of the lack of healthy eating options when travelling, their campaigning passion has now led them to advise the government on how to improve UK school dinners, and help transform the health of the nation
- The opportunity for entrepreneurship is universal. Airbnb has pioneered the sharing economy, hosting more than 25 million guests since it was founded in 2008, and valued at over $13 billion. Co-founder Joe Gebbia believes the brand is not about accommodation, it’s about belonging. The idea almost accidentally began when the two founders needed to pay the rent on their apartment and knew that local hotels had no space for visitors to an international design exhibition so set up air beds in their own flat while they figured out what the company they wanted to set up would do
- Not all successful companies can or will be about disrupting the world. Ella’s Kitchen, the healthy baby food company is built around a social purpose. Chief Executive Paul Lindley (named on his business card as Ella’s dad) set up the company with the aim of making a meaningful change to children’s diets, and ‘be good in every sense’, long before he had the idea of what products he would sell. And it’s success has been achieved through communicating with parents on a human level, something that its’ larger competitors had lost focus on
- Consumers want to support a business based on authentic beliefs. Successful ethical outdoor clothing company Patagonia’s mission is to ‘make the best products with the least environmental impact and the most social value possible.’ The environmental activist Yvon Chouinard who founded the company has since encouraged more than 1,200 companies to pledge one per cent of sales to environmental organisations
- Business should be about doing good in society. Whole Foods believe that companies who have a higher purpose release far more energy and far more creativity, with the founder John Mackey, believing in, and promoting, conscious capitalism
- As companies grow, the mission can lose focus. Pearson’s Marjorie Scardino spent over ten years simplifying their mission, to become the leading global learning company, trebling profits by the time she stepped down in 2012. On her arrival, the group comprised theme parks, Madame Tussauds and even an avocado farm, but she knew they had to go so that with a clearer vision the company could move faster and more efficiently toward their destination
- The importance of identifying and communicating your mission. Tony Blair’s former communications chief Alistair Campbell now advises large organisations on getting their message right. He often asks the senior team to fill out postcards that read ‘the main objective of our organisation is…’ on one side, and ‘the strategy to meet our objective is…’ on the reverse. Nine times out of ten, he gathers in a stack of different objectives, strategies which are tactics, or strategies which are objectives. The communication of your mission, internal and external, requires careful and constant curation
If Mission demonstrates anything, it is that businesses are changing people’s lives through the power of purpose, culture, communication and campaigning. A clear and defining mission that is believed with conviction and builds momentum, without fear of failure, is critical. And if mission based firms are quickly becoming the ones that people want to buy from and work for, it might be time to write a new chapter for your own organisation.
** About the authors Michael Hayman and Nick Giles are the co-founders of Seven Hills, the campaigning communications firm. Seven Hills was named the Best Corporate Consultancy in the world by the Holmes Report and is also a Santander Breakthrough 50 winner.
Michael is a co-founder of StartUp Britain, the national initiative for early-stage enterprise launched by the Prime Minister. He is Chairman of Entrepreneurs at the private bank Coutts and an Honorary Fellow at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School. He was awarded an MBE for services to enterprise promotion in 2014.
Nick works closely with high growth firms in the UK, US and Asia. He is an ambassador for the Hong Kong government’s venture programme. He is also an advisory board member of Tech London Advocates, and is an advisor to the global youth movement One Young World. Reviews “A whistle-stop tour of some of the world’s most interesting entrepreneurial companies. The book offers a new perspective … read it with a pen and paper – it will ensure you’re on the right mission.” Forbes
“Fascinating – and all the better for being digestible and readable. Business schools should study its pages”. Chris Blackhurst, Evening Standard
Author: Michael Hayman & Nick Giles