By John Cinquina, an EO Perth member and managing director of Red Meets Blue Design
Growing a business is a journey, and my experience has been that there are a handful of milestone moments that can change the course of the business in significant ways. They don’t happen regularly. In fact, they are rare, but you remember them because they always bring about change.
I encountered what I refer to as the milestone moment for our business a few years ago. I had been reading “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, and had seen Simon Sinek’s “Start with the Why” video on TED. Both had left me feeling somewhat disoriented. I knew what we did (we were a design and web agency), but I wasn’t sure we had a purpose. What’s more, it felt uncomfortable when someone asked me where I saw the business going. Beyond just “we want to grow,” I didn’t feel a deeper calling that drove us.
We started our business as a creative agency, and had become good at making things look great. But that’s all it was. I worried that the business wasn’t sustainable or unique enough, and when a prospective client in a sales meeting asked, “What makes you different?”, I struggled to answer the question with real conviction. “Why do we exist?” is a question I’ve avoided in the past, but for the first time, I decided to stare it in the face and answer it. I began by visiting and speaking with clients. I also ran a number of internal culture workshops with our team, and I took time out to reflect. The questions I hoped to answer included:
- Who are we and why do we exist?
- What real value can we provide to our clients?
- What do we want to be the best in the world at?
- What is our purpose? Why are we here?
- How will we make the world a better place?
It took me six months of staring these questions in the face every week until I had finally arrived at a statement that changed our business from that moment on: “Build great brands.” It was a wake-up call. It dawned on me for the first time. This was our calling— to build great brands. We say “build” because great brands don’t just happen. We say “great” because good enough isn’t good enough. We say “brands” because a brand is far more than just a logo or brochure. It’s the entirety of the way a company communicates to the market, and when done well, it propels organizations toward their goals.
As Jim Collins articulates in his book, I had finally found something that we could be passionate about, could be the best at and that could drive our economic engine. From this milestone moment onward, things became clearer for us. Making things look good (designing) was still important, but we decided that great brands must be meaningful. The design and content must resonate with the story, values and purpose of an organization. The brand must connect with audiences, and there had to be alignment across every touch point. We uncovered that great brands were human, authentic and values-focused, so we built a process on how to achieve this from the ground up. It started with strategy instead of design, and it was game-changing for our business because our work got better. More importantly, we felt proud of what we were becoming as a team.
I now feel excited about our business, and not just what we do but why we exist. It gives me confidence to create a vision that aligns with who we are and what we stand for. There was, however, a follow-up effect I didn’t anticipate. This discovery experience helped our team understand and articulate who we are, and in turn, that afforded them the focus and confidence to contribute to the conversation on improving our company. Their initiative for improving our process and product in ways that aligned with our purpose has, to date, led to invaluable and innovative improvements to our business. I trace this back to the moment we discovered our purpose, and for that, I am thankful.
John Cinquina (pictured) is an EO Perth member and the managing director of Red Meets Blue Design, an international, award-winning branding firm. Contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org.