Finding your Purpose, Passion and Profit

June 30, 2021 | Posted By [dot]GOOD

Michael Baretta shares his personal story of how he found his WHY and built a business from it.

Purpose, Passion and Profit

Hello, my name is Michael Baretta and today I am going to share with you why I believe that it is critical for organisations to be clear about the WHY behind WHAT they do. In the next 15 minutes or so I will share with you my personal story of how I found my WHY and how I built a business from it. I will also give you a couple of tools as to how your organisation can also find yours.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Simon Sinek and his book Start With Why I’d highly recommend that you watch his TED talk on how leaders inspire action – It is a really thought-provoking clip and is the 3rd most-watched TED talk of all time.

Simply put, Sinek argues that people don’t buy what you do – they buy why you do it.  The theory behind this idea is that our emotional brain (which is called our limbic brain) makes all our purchasing decisions for us and drives our behaviour – this part of our brain doesn’t understand any language at all and operates purely on feeling.

Most companies communicate by telling their customers (with words) exactly what they sell and what makes their product or service different from its competitors. Truly inspired organisations show them WHY they do it.

  • Have you ever given it any thought – How does your organisation make your customers FEEL?
  • What does it stand for?
  • What is your companies’ purpose – Why does it exist beyond just making money?

Woolworths does this well; In a time when consumers are tightening their belts, this retailer continues to show steady growth. It could be because they turned around their clothing division or because of the niche that they’ve carved for themselves in foods but I believe there is much more to it: People don’t just buy what you do – they buy why you do it.

Why do we have such an emotional connection with Woolies? You almost look forward to a Woolies shop; you feel good after you’ve done it (Except for maybe the amount of money that you’ve spent but we do it anyway); you feel like you are making a healthier and more considered choice for yourself and your family. We love them so much, that we’ve even created a pet name for them.

Why do Woolies do what they do? To make money, obviously. But also, to make a difference. They do this by providing quality products that don’t compromise people or the planet.  This philosophy is rooted in their good business journey, which is key to everything that they do.

On a political front the ANC previously had a very clear, and unapologetic purpose; To create a free and equal South Africa for all. Today, if you look at ANC. What are that they are selling? By the sounds of things, a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  And what do they believe now?  The answer? I’m not sure.  And as a result, they are steadily losing votes when should technically be growing with the population.  The reason the decline is so slow is that the organisation has such an immense legacy based on its previous purpose.

Here are some examples of Tech organisations that have a strongly defined WHY:

  • Google: To educate people on what they don’t know
  • Apple: To challenge the way things are done – To think differently
  • 3M: To solve unsolved problems innovatively
  • HP: To make technical contributions for the advancement and welfare of humanity

I have made it my job to understand the purpose behind organisations because I run a start-up called [dot]GOOD and we are South Africa’s foremost cause marketing agency. We work exclusively with brands wanting to make a difference, sustainable brands, and large not-for-profit organisations.

In this day and age, we believe that doing things well simply isn’t enough, we have to do the thing right too. We believe that socially conscious communication leads to, better relationships, better business, and ultimately, a better world.

Now in our third year, we are working with brands like Coca-Cola, Nampak, Energizer, Woolworths, and Tiger Brands to promote the good that these organisations do and to help them to do better, whilst driving sales and building brand.

Before I started [dot]GOOD, I worked with a number of media and marketing companies for over ten years.

Through experience, I realised the potential that brands had to make a difference – not only with the billions of Rands spent on advertising each year but also with the real connections and influence that these brands have on people.

Until now for-good or social cause marketing was a relatively unknown concept in South Africa so I couldn’t just claim to talk the talk until I had actually walked the walk.

I needed to define what I was passionate about and do something about it; I had recently moved from Cape Town to Johannesburg and was struck by how much litter went unnoticed in the city and became increasingly aware of our litter problem and how it actually represented our national psyche. My cause was to clean up South Africa.

I combined this passion with the skills I had learned and created a campaign called Trekking for Trash. The campaign was centered around a 3 000 km trek on foot along the country’s coastline collecting litter – we hosted community beach clean-ups and educated communities and schools along the way.  I sold the sponsorship to Nampak’s metal division and promoted their sustainability message as part of ours to pay for the hard cost of the campaign.

I am not sure how but I had also managed to convince a very good friend of mine, Camilla Howard, to join me on this journey so I least I didn’t have to do it alone.

We walked from border to border and from west to east, for between 10 and 42km a day depending on the weather, the tides, and the terrain – some days were pretty tough:

  • We started in Alexander Bay on the West Coast, in October, when the snakes were just coming out of hibernation. Most days we saw more snakes than people. My extreme phobia of snakes made this a very anxious time for me.
  • There were days when we had to bundu bash our way through thick forest and bush without even an animal track to guide us
  • We battled strong currents and there was always the threat of sharks and sometimes even crocodiles; hippos and stone fish during our river crossing
  • The many hours of walking in soft sand also strained the ligaments in both my feet which resulted in me being in pain a lot of the time

Despite these difficulties, the journey was the most amazing thing I have ever done and it radically changed the course of my life forever. We met the most amazing people; saw the most incredible things and passed through places where only a handful of people had ever been. I feel truly privileged to have made the journey.

Here is a short clip giving you a bit more insight into the campaign

Through this journey I truly realised that it is possible to build brand and do good at the same time and this is how my purpose was born.

So I suppose that you can say that I found my WHY through 1 680 hours of quiet reflection and 10 pairs of shoes…

But I’m pretty sure that not many of you have seven months to spare so I have summarized what I had learned about finding your WHY through the 5 million steps that we took into two methods that I believe will help you to define your organisations WHY.

Method 1:

  • Think about the problem that your business solves. You can do this with me as I go…
  • Understand how the solution impacts people.
  • Ask yourself why this really matters. Repeat until you get to the core.
  • Sit down with your team and find out if it resonates with them.
  • Refine and brainstorm the wording until feels right and it can be communicated through how you conduct yourselves to all your stakeholders.

Here’s and example:

  • UBER is an online transportation network that provides a private driver almost anywhere in the world
  • What problem do they solve? Do they provide a private driver almost anywhere in the world?
  • How does this impact people’s lives? It allows riders to get from A to B quickly, safely, and conveniently and provides drivers with a source of income.
  • Why does this matter? Because it provides possibilities for riders as well as drivers.

Method 2:

Defining purpose can be a very personal thing so this applies more to founders and business owners:

  • Imagine your last day of work before your retire.
  • Look back at your life and think about what you have achieved. You’re feeling content and happy about what you see. You know that others will continue building what you started.
  • Describe what you see and what stands out to you and what you hope people will remember you for.
  • Use this as a roadmap to define your purpose.

And finally, your limbic brain (the emotional one) also makes a lot of business decisions and if something just FEELS right (or wrong), it is trying to tell you something. Trust that feeling!

Thank you taking the time to listen to me – I hope you enjoy the rest of the speakers.