With many of us recovering from an extended period of home-schooling and spring, well, springing, there’s a feeling of increased optimism in the air. But there are also the recurring, nagging questions of ‘where on earth is all this heading’ and ‘what’s next’? Whilst we can’t know when lockdowns will end or what shape the economic recovery will take – we can think about what’s next for our businesses.

This Beautiful Business edition is focussed on purpose and planning…the foundations of any effective strategy.

Your strategy can never be bigger than your desire 
Luke Burgis, author of Wanting

What’s making us wonder….

One year ago, we had just undertaken the most comprehensive and inclusive planning process for Wow. We had goals and plans looking out into the future. We’d gone all-in on Shannon Susko’s 3HAG approach. We formed a cross-functional strategy group, we had BHAGs and 36-month goals. Then COVID hit and how we did ‘strategy’ changed overnight. Added to this, we suddenly and tragically lost one of our team. We were dealing with the COVID crisis, completely heart-broken.

In this episode of the High Performance podcast, there’s this quote: ‘from adversity comes blessings’. Quite possibly, the toughest times we’ve ever operated in gave us a blessing to re-connect us with our core purpose of empowering people to build beautiful businesses. We had no idea what the next year would look like, so we centred on our ‘why’ our ‘north star’. I’m confident the progress we have made in developing our client experience, our people experience, and our products and services wouldn’t have been possible without the adversity of COVID.

By focussing on ‘purpose’ first and measuring impact (as a leading indicator of success) over revenue or profit (lagging indicators), you break the cycle of incremental growth. As Jennifer Riel, IDEO’s global director of strategy says in her article on thinking about long-term strategy: “We need a far richer, more aspirational understanding of what it can really mean to win. To connect strategic goals to a larger sense of purpose and give ourselves room to dream big.”

This article from Corporate Rebels suggests taking an ‘investment’ approach to planning instead of budgeting. “By using principles from venture investing, companies can make smarter resource allocation decisions and help their teams become more nimble, aligned, collaborative, and accountable.” This parallels what James Kerr noticed in his study of the All Blacks, and Tom Tunguz, a venture investor himself, blogged on: “Plant trees you’ll never see. Said in another way, invest in long-term projects whose success you won’t see realized because they are the right thing for the organization.”

Living your purpose every day energises you and your team, engaging a broader group in the building of the business.
from the Manifesto for Beautiful Business

On our minds….

When forecasting or thinking about the future, what we previously ‘knew’ as true has been questioned. This has been challenging for many of us, but there’s a big opportunity here as well. In his new book, Think Again, Adam Grant explores the advantages that come from recognising mistakes, acknowledging when we’re wrong, unlearning, and rethinking. According to Grant, some of the world’s best forecasters excel and even enjoy discovering they were wrong.

Saying “I was wrong” isn’t an admission of incompetence. It’s a sign that you have the humility to recognise your mistakes and the integrity to learn from them. The faster you acknowledge when you’re wrong, the faster you can move toward being right.
Adam Grant, Think Again


Thinking about the future, check out this wide-ranging interview with Patrick Collison, co-founder of Stripe. He’s someone who’s intellectual approach to the world comes over in everything he does (such as this a16z podcast from 2018). As well as discussing what he thinks will be the major trends influencing our lives (way beyond COVID, remote work, Clubhouse, etc), Collison makes an insightful observation that technology is both advancing rapidly – and receding – at the same time.

Finally (for now!) on post-pandemic planning, Steve Parks from Convivio shares his thoughts on creating your recovery narrative. Steve presents three questions to create your recovery narrative:

  • What do you think is the best route out of crisis and into recovery for your clients or customers?
  • What do you want them to do to achieve that?
  • How can your business help them get there?

What’s making us smile….

To mark International Women’s Day, Wow’s Head of Marketing, Gayatri Wood wrote a thoughtful piece on the women that inspire her. It’s well worth a read.
This Beautiful Business thing seems to be catching on! I was pleased to see that a £700m investment fund has been set up to invest in beautiful businesses by Blue Whale Capital. Stephen Yiu, chief investment officer explains, “a truly beautiful company must not only have a compelling narrative but also the fundamentals to back it up. We look for exceptional businesses that are well managed, operating in attractive industries, and that can grow sustainably.”

What we’re watching…

I couldn’t write about purpose without referencing Simon Sinek’s ‘Start With Why’. This clip was transformational for me when I first watched it. You’ve probably already seen it, but it’s always worth re-watching and sharing with others who might not have seen it yet. This more recent clip from Simon Sinek on the truth about being the ‘stupidest’ person in the room is also fun to watch.

Tom Vey, our Head of Data at Wow, recommends Adam Curtis’ docu-series Can’t Get You Out Of My Head if you’re looking for something that will challenge your current worldview, your assumptions, and the forces that will influence where we’re heading.

Get involved

If there’s anything you’d like to see in our next round-up please let me know. If you’d like to join over 11,000 people receiving our Beautiful Business monthly’s in your inbox each month, you can sign up below.


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