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Updated 28 Sep 2020

The power of purpose and its impact on achievement

The best and biggest businesses, both internationally and at home, are built by leaders who understand that purpose has to come before profit. 

Nadine Todd, 04 February 2017  Share  0 comments  Print

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As a business owner, have you taken the time to determine your true purpose? TED Resident and member of The Oracles, a brain trust of high-level entrepreneurs, Kunal Sood, believes that it’s essential for business leaders to regularly revisit their purpose if they want to build a sustainable and successful organisation.

“Any plan is worthless without execution,” he reminds us. “At times, you’ll feel out of alignment; that’s the human experience – plans and reality often contradict each other. Frequently revisiting your purpose will keep you on track.”

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Margaret and Alan Hirsch, founders of Hirsch’s, Super Group CEO Peter Mumford, and South African entrepreneurs Ran Neu-Ner, Gil Oved and Vusi Thembekwayo are all examples of the power of ‘purpose before profit’. 

An all-encompassing vision

As a leader, the power of focusing and following a purpose is that you’re working for a goal greater than yourself.

“Time and again we see that purpose before profit is the critical deciding factor between a good business and an exceptional one,” says Azim Omar, Africa Growth Markets Leader at EY. “The finalists in the EY World Entrepreneur Awards Southern Africa 2016 all displayed this trait in one form or another.”

The desire to truly make a difference, build a legacy and change your community gives you a passion and driving force that not only influences your employees, but your customers as well. An overriding purpose is something that can be shared and supported.

“Starting with a ‘why’ makes all the difference to success, because you aren’t just chasing profit, but a cause. Passion follows a why, allowing solutions to be found to even the greatest challenges,” Omar continues.

“You’ll never make an impact trying to ‘buy’ success, because it’s a completely self-serving goal. Business leaders who have a desire to be the change they want to see, who focus on making an impact and who look out instead of in, are the individuals who are building businesses greater than themselves.”

Building industry leaders

Elon -Musk -SpaceX

It’s an expansive mindset that we don’t only see at home, but in some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs as well.

Great entrepreneurs do not set out to build a business; they set out to solve a problem. For Elon Musk, that mission is to take humanity to new heights. His aim is to take humans to Mars. To get there, he needs to develop the capabilities to transport people to mars, and be self-sustainable on a largely inhospitable planet.

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That mission and journey has led to SpaceX, and the ability to transport cargo in space. While going to Mars cannot yet be monetised, a range of small steps that will lead to that goal can, and so Musk runs an enormously successful business. But it all started with a mission.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg isn’t trying to land on Mars, but he also understands the concept of looking at the bigger picture, finding a problem that you can solve, and having a purpose.

“I always think that you should start with the problem that you’re trying to solve in the world and not start with deciding that you want to build a company,” he says. “The best companies that get built are things that are trying to drive some kind of social change even if it’s just local in one place.”

Zuckerberg discovered early on how to build a successful business – and it wasn’t by trying to build a successful business. He wanted to solve a problem, and through finding a solution and fine-tuning it, the rest took care of itself.


If you want to be a successful leader and business owner, find your purpose, learn to articulate it, share it, and then strive to achieve it.

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Nadine Todd

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