I recently took part in a business speed dating event where we were given three minutes to say what our business is, what we are most proud of and what kept us up at night.
No problems with the last two, but my response to the question ‘what is Claremont?’ didn’t work at all. More often than not my attempts to convey what Claremont is about were being met with blank looks and crushing indifference.
Bruised and smarting, I went back to the office and declared a huge WTF.
Discussing it with the team, the underlying causes became clear: we aren’t a startup any more. A challenger? Sure. But we needed to grow up and stand out.
In his typically understated way, the superb Peter Mills introduced us to the notion of the ‘vanguard company’, a way of working pioneered by Harvard Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter in her book Supercorp, in which she says:
- An enterprise has to be defined in terms of how it serves society; it must integrate all employees and stakeholders around this purpose.
- Innovation is both the way you make money and how you serve society. The more you innovate to solve social problems, the more profitable and sustainable you will be. This is your innovation advantage.
- The ecosystem around a company is key to its success. This is what Kanter calls the partnership advantage. No company can succeed without being part of a network of other companies and organisations.
- It’s about people. A key dimension of the social and business changes we see today concerns the value shift. The most talented young people want to act on their values, their desire to make the world a better place. They want to feel that they are contributing to something that makes a difference for their community, not just for them.
- Enabling employees to progress on an issue close to their hearts is the best way to transform them into leaders of tomorrow. Businesses need to give their people the chance to take on an issue that’s relevant to the company’s purpose and to the local or global community, whether it’s climate change or education.
It struck me between the eyes because THIS IS US: Claremont is a vanguard company. What’s more, Kanter’s analysis is a continuation of the approach pioneered by one of my all time heroes, Anita Roddick. The Body Shop showed that business can be a way for employees to earn an honourable livelihood whilst effecting positive social change.
It set the scene for a process of re-examination of how we articulate Claremont’s purpose. We wanted to arrive at a form of words that worked both internally and externally at the same time. Honesty and quality were the two words that came up time and time again. These are our core values. As such, ‘Do The Right Thing Right’ became our statement of purpose.
The final task was to give Claremont greater definition. We are specialists at working with social issues using social technologies to effect social change. These are the things that we excel at, these are what fire us up. ‘Social Communications’ is the definition that we were looking for.
So where are we now? I think we’ve taken a risk. Increased definition and a bold statement of purpose means we won’t be a perfect fit for everyone. But – I think – that’s okay because we’re not a huge company that needs to be all things to all people, whether it be clients, partner organisations or indeed talented people who are thinking about joining us.
What we are doing is making a meaningful contribution to society whilst, as Anita Roddick said, earning an honourable livelihood. That definitely works for us.
And for those people and organisations that do choose to work with us, we make a simple promise: total honesty + extraordinary, effective communications done right.
If you have comments or questions or would like to work with us please contact me directly via firstname.lastname@example.org or 07738 195 625.