MarkLives is running five extracts from Joe Public United founding partner Pepe Marais‘s first book, “Growing Greatness — A Journey Towards Personal and Business Mastery”, over the next few weeks. Here’s the last, “A business is a being too.”

Growing Greatness book coverby Pepe Marais (@pepemaraisThe famous primatologist and anthropologist, Jane Goodall. stated that, just as we are Human Beings, so too are cats Cat Beings, cows Cow Beings and monkeys Monkey Beings. This statement rang true to such a degree that I could not help but wonder whether it would also stand to reason that a business could be classified as a Business Being too — living organisms that grow organically through life with all the challenges that it throws at them.

It is my deepest belief that, just like every human being on this planet has a greater reason for being here, so too does every single business. But since most people are not aware of their own greater purpose, few business leaders would ever find the authentic and fundamental reason for the existence of their business. Yet many businesses manage to grow to spectacular heights, creating immense shareholder value. But how many manage to create real value for the world at large? How many leaders will become household names outside the confines of their own corporations? How many businesses succeed in changing the world?

Back in 2009, I was invited to give a talk in Lesotho at a conference of one of our then-largest clients. It had also invited a second guest, a well-known motivational speaker. I remember the evening after the conference, standing around the fire in the boma with the board of directors, when the motivational speaker suddenly leaned over to the CEO and asked, “So, tell me, what does your company stand for? What is its greater reason for being?”

The CEO thought about this strange question for a while and, with a slight touch of embarrassment, replied, “I don’t actually know.” I was completely taken aback. Here was one of the best leaders I have ever dealt with lacking clarity as to why his business existed — what his business stood for. And if he had no clarity, how would any of the close-to-900 staff in his employ have any idea why they went to work?

This chance question around a fire in a boma far from home would bring the point home to me. None of the businesses we engage with daily have any idea why they exist as a business, other than to deliver a product or a service in order to create revenue, and thus profit, for its shareholders. What’s the real benefit to the world in that?

Having been on a personal two-year journey of self-discovery at that stage, this little experience was a business turning point for me because I realised that we, too, had no idea what Joe Public stood for. We had no clear strategy, nothing to hang our proverbial hat on. There was no deeper point of view that we could base any communication on, if we ever had to do an advertising campaign for our own business. What was our unique and distinctive selling proposition? The only aspect we were clear on was that we were making advertising.

I was quite astounded that something so basic could be so blatantly absent.

Within a year after that defining ‘boma moment’, we had defined what Joe Public stood for in one word: Growth. The starting point, as always, was one word. Yes, that tiny little one-word purpose at the core of each person on this planet is seemingly also present at the core of each business. And, once uncovered, it has the power to better our world irrevocably. Like a little pebble thrown into the sea on one side of an ocean, it will create a ripple effect that could wash ashore on the other side of the world. All you need to do is find the pebble of your business from which will spring the key strategy for its future.

See also


Pepe Marais August 2018Pepe Marais (@pepemarais), founding partner of Joe Public United, officially launched his first book, “Growing Greatness — A Journey Towards Personal and Business Mastery”, on 27 August 2018 in Cape Town and on 29 August in Johannesburg. Filled with scribbles from the mind of an adman, the book inspires innovation, creativity and showcases the entrepreneurial spirit. Through his growing awareness of what purpose means in both business and personal terms, Pepe points the way to growing your own greatness. Published by Tracey McDonald Publishers, “Growing Greatness” is available in print and electronic format from leading bookstores.

“Motive” is a by-invitation-only column on Contributors are picked by the editors but generally don’t form part of our regular columnist lineup, unless the topic is off-column.

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