One thing businesses need to grow

Jim Stengel recognizes that the most successful businesses are those guided by ideals and by business artists who instill a broader purpose across a company.

I know what you’re thinking. Another hippy love story.

Not quite. Stengel is the former global head of marketing for Procter & Gamble. (So no slouch in the grand capitalist scheme of things.)

Stengel knows that ideals and artistry are now real business mandates because (like all good ex-P&G men) he crunched the data. He conducted a multi-year study of more than 50,000 brands to find how ideals power growth and profit.

His favorite companies have shown significant growth by demonstrating and adhering to ideals. Companies like Discovery Communications, Red Bull, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Louis Vuitton and, of course, Apple. An investment in these companies over the last decade would yield 400 times the return than a bet on the S&P 500.

Businesses that grow faster and grow longer have something special driving them and something attracting people - attracting customers, attracting employees. And that is what Stengel calls an ideal.

Some people call it a mission, some call it a purpose. Stengel likes ideal because it has the word idea in it.

It’s the difference the business is trying to make, the impact, the force that attracts people. That’s what an ideal is. (It’s not a marketing slogan, it’s not cause marketing, it’s not CSR, it’s not any of that.)

It’s the essence of the business that is embraced by everyone including the top, and everything they do in the business is about amplifying that.

Ideal businesses are generally run by people who are very whole-brained. They think long-term, they spend their time in different ways. They really do take time to think and communicate and be with people.

They’re far from the typical CEO. They move with a different set of metrics. They swing to a different tune. (They’re more creative, more inspired. They don’t just sit back and nod to direct reports. They know there’s more to life than numbers.)

They’re the kind of leaders Stengel wants to see more off. They need to think about how they spend their time, they need to think longer term, and they need to understand their role is to ensure the ideal is right and that it’s activated everywhere. That’s a very different kind of activity system than most people who are in senior roles these days.

Someone has to be accountable for the soul of the brand and the ideal of the brand. In too many companies there isn’t a person who is accountable for that. A lot of the stories told over and over about the Apples and the Starbucks of the world are about that person

That person in the company who has continuity, who has understanding, who can trust their intuition and be courageous.

Is that you?

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