A question that has hounded many business owners since COVID started is how they can differentiate themselves from the competition in a cutthroat business environment. Through The New P&L podcast, Paul Spiers teaches individuals and organizations to go back to their purpose, find some alignment with it and redefine their business along those lines. In this conversation with Jen Du Plessis, he explains why a company or business owner’s alignment to their purpose and core values should resonate with their clients and drive more profit to their business. He emphasizes the need to not just declare that purpose and core values, but to embody them in every aspect of their business. Paul also talks about the importance of curating ideas as the foundational element of business innovation.
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The New P&L: Helping People Redefine Their Business By Finding Their Purpose With Paul Spiers
I have a colleague of mine. We hit it off so well that we wanted to do a little podcast swap, which we’re going to be doing. Paul has a great message so I want to introduce Paul Spiers to everybody. Paul, welcome to the show.
Thank you for inviting me.
Of course, happy to have you. Let me quickly run through a synopsis of your bio so that everyone understands who you are. We’ll dig in on finding out about your glass ceilings and what you’ve been able to break through. He is, first of all, the host of The New P&L. We all know that as Profit & Loss, but it’s principles and leadership in business. It’s a great podcast. I’ve been listening to a few of the episodes. This is a series on stepping up on leadership.
He interviews a lot of entrepreneurs, principals of companies, and marketing people as well. He is a speaker, presenter, and panel moderator on topics and trends around principles and leadership in business as well as the growing field of commercial creativity and business innovation. We’re going to talk about that because I want to make sure everybody understands what commercial creativity and business innovation is.
After a career as a senior executive and entrepreneur in the creative services, marketing, communications, and reputation management sectors, he had a career-defining and life-changing series of events that led Paul to reevaluate where he was heading professionally. I can’t wait to get to that as well his core principles and leadership characteristics that underpin a lot of businesses. I know we’re experiencing it in COVID so we’re going to talk about that as well.
He launched this new podcast. This is his mission to help people rebrand and create that reputation management. As a speaker, reputation management is a huge thing for me. Our passion is something that we want to get out there and we want to share with people. That’s the success to significance or our mess. We want to share that with the world and we’re condemned for sharing it. It’s a risk to stick yourself out there and be visible like that because you’re trying to help people so much.
It hurts sometimes when people come back and say, “I didn’t like the way you said that.” I’ll give you an example of one of my podcasts. I was talking about mobile homes with an investor and I made the comment about trailer trash. I said, “A lot of people call it that and I am one of those because I came from that.” I was calling myself that. I got a post from somebody saying, “I was disappointed in you.” It’s hard because that’s not what you want to hear. It was taken out of context but I didn’t want to get into an argument so I let it go.
Thank you for getting on here. Where I want to go with this is I want to know your story and I want to talk about what we need to do to have that reputation management. In the context of this show, there are several people who are underneath that glass ceiling and thinking, “Do I want to do what I’ve been doing for so long? I might want to do something new,” and a little afraid to take that leap. Those that are in it and saying, “Is this the right thing?” “I’m having great success.” Those that have come through it. I want to talk about leadership, marketing piece, and reputation as you’re going through all of those steps. Tell us about your story. What were these career-defining and life-changing series of events that made you step back? It might be where others are now saying, “There’s something better for me out there.”There's nothing wrong with profit. It's how you generate it and what you do with it that makes the difference. Click To Tweet
I’ve had a career in marketing in the creative services industry. I’ve built a few agencies like design agencies and marketing agencies. Years ago, I had a marketing agency and we had been growing since 2005. We’re established and doing well. Without going into too much detail, I experienced what could be perceived and seen as an unethical series of events. Someone had an impact on the business that took the business and my personal life to its knees at that point.
I had the concept for The New P&L then and I thought, “There’s got to be a better and more principled way of doing business in a way that both sides win,” because I don’t believe in the win-lose mantra business. There has to be a balance and we both want to move forward but I don’t believe necessarily in the adversarial side of the business. I held on to The New P&L as a concept for that moment. I touch on this a little light with the beauty, the benefit of ideas, curiosity that you must hold on to the ideas you have, and find a way to curate those ideas.
An idea may not be right but it will be at some point in the future. You have to revisit it, give an idea, air to breathe, and let it ferment and grow. I hung on to that idea for a little while and revisited it from time-to-time but nothing seemed to fit the New P&L concept in terms of a vehicle to take it to market. Somewhere in the back blocks of my dusty brain, The New P&L came together, and I thought this is a great concept for a podcast to start.
I was starting to do a lot more work around purpose within reputation management, the importance of that, how that needs to be redefined, how it defines businesses moving forward, and their relationship with customers and other stakeholders. I thought, “I’d start and see how The New P&L went as a podcast.” The response was quite overwhelming. Nearly everyone I invited on as a guest jumped at the opportunity. The listening figures and the guests grew and the type of topics we tried to address as well.
We’ve touched on an incredible number in the first twelve months from AI, technology for good, marketing, mental health, and many other things as well. As that grew, I thought there’s an opportunity here to develop that into a business as well in terms of The New P&L Brand Purpose Institute. We’ve started working with businesses to redefine and align their purpose and principles. More importantly because of the way I’m wired, and it’s important for creativity as well, how that purpose fits into the business’s ambition, how it demonstrates its commercial worth, and how it contributes rather than takes away from profitability.
I want to backtrack a little bit and address the win-win that you were talking about. I remember when COVID first came out. A lot of our businesses are doing better than they ever have, while at the same time, others are struggling tremendously. Not just businesses, but individuals. There’s no money coming in and no job. I can go down 1,000 roads with this because it’s not also guilt. It’s what COVID can do to you versus what COVID has done for you. It’s not that I don’t have any empathy for that but we have to step up to that. If someone is reading and saying, “I want to make this shift but I don’t want to be perceived as being someone who’s taking advantage of people,” what do you tell them to get them over that hump or break through that glass ceiling?
I’ll say, “What is your motivation for trying to make that next step?” With anything in business and life, you can look at yourself in the mirror each morning and know that you’re acting with integrity, you’re bringing your best game to that day, and there are honesty and kindness in the way you go about your business, then that’s the right way to approach things. The first thing I would be suggesting they think about is, what is their motivation? To use that famous Simon Sinek book, what is their why? If they want full of integrity and honesty then make and start that next step but always come back to that central premise. What is your purpose? What is your why? What is the background behind the delivery of this?
It’s funny you’re mentioning that because James Dentley who has been on this show and spoke at my retreat virtually, he made a comment that in 2021, his focus in all the speaking that he’s doing and what he’s sharing with everyone is purpose and path. That’s important. It’s knowing your why and your purpose, but then also what’s the path that you’re going to take to be able to deliver that. I’ll add because of you, in a way that is full of integrity, honesty, and the heart of giving rather than taking. That creates a wonderful reputation.
I gave a presentation on social innovation and how businesses can link social innovation as well as traditional innovation into the business. One of the central tenets of the argument there is, “There’s nothing wrong with profit. It’s how you generate profit and what you do with that profit.” The world doesn’t survive without profitable companies. It’s the path as you say, the way you generate that profit, and then what you choose to do with that profit once it’s been earned. Profit is not a bad word. It’s how it’s aligned to the purpose that generates it.
Let’s talk about the shift that you’re seeing in your space. You and I have talked about this before. It’s interesting because you’re a marketing company but you work with other marketing companies that have lost their way, so to speak, during COVID. You’re helping them but you also help mid-sized businesses and corporations reset and come up with that commercial creativity and business innovation.
If someone is reading and they’re a business owner, this might be something they don’t even know that they don’t know. You’re going to bring this to the forefront and help them understand that one of the worst things in the world is to find out, “I wish I had known that 6 or 8 months ago and now, I’m behind the wave and not in front of the wave.” Let’s talk about the wave and the shift that you’re seeing in medium-sized and small because a lot of our readers are entrepreneurs. What is the shift you’re seeing in marketing and being creative in your marketing?
Whether it’s marketing or any other business SME or otherwise, when the business is launched, it starts with the purpose and the founder starts it for a reason. As that business grows, sometimes through changes of staff, new CEOs, even the CEO who found it drifts further away from their core passion and their core purpose. When you drift from that, you lose a bit of the rudder in the boat, so to speak, then you start focusing on the product and the absence of purpose. The product and the deliverable should be the outcome of that purpose. You should always have that purpose of the central focus.
What COVID has done, and it was on this route prior to COVID, is spun it up and accentuated it. People are trying to redefine their business in a highly competitive environment. One of the few ways you can redefine yourself truly in a highly competitive environment is to redefine or define your purpose because that is the essence of who you are as an individual and as a business. Most of us sell products that are there or thereabouts the kind of same services or products as someone else on the market.
We may have some benefits to ours that others don’t, and vice versa, but what defines the differential is the purpose that sits behind that motivation for the delivery of their product, the way you deliver, the service that you’ve wrapped around it, and the intangible value that big brands and small brands offer that people will stay because they’re loyal and they feel an emotional attachment to their brand. Most of that emotional attachment is because people understand that there’s a purpose that sits behind it.
It’s interesting because I’m thinking about Amazon and Microsoft, the big guys like Walmart and that type of thing. As they have grown, the stickiness of loyalty has got better, not worse. I’m thinking about a marketing person locally in my community. Everybody loved this company, and then she decided to sell it. After she sold it, it went away because that purpose didn’t transcend into the new company. It was more about, “Thanks for letting me buy your company because it’s profitable. Now I’m going to make a whole bunch of money.”
The flashlight shifted or the rudder shifted, so that’s an interesting concept about that. I know one of the things you talk about is reevaluating the values, principles, and purpose. A big word for me is alignment. That talked about aligning your core values with every decision you make in your business. I talk about that at a low level for the one-to-one entrepreneur, but you’re saying the same thing. What are those core values?Most of the emotional attachment that people have with a brand is because they understand that there’s a purpose behind it. Click To Tweet
I want to ask this question for a corporation. If the leadership of the corporation changes, does the core value change with that leadership because those people have different values? They always come in and assess what’s going on, and then they make shifts. Are those shifts coming from them personally as their core values or is it a better way to fulfill, deliver, or execute on the core values that already existed? What’s your opinion on that? Should they shift?
They can shift. Every business is an organic creature, isn’t it? It needs to grow and change. If you have companies that are 50 years old, then the values that they held true 50 years ago may not all be relevant for today’s business. There are core values and there is the way you communicate and deliver values that sit on top of that. The core values of integrity, innovation, decency, and the place that that business has in society, you may change the way you communicate them, but I don’t think they should fundamentally change the business.
If you take a business like Patagonia, it evolved over time but its core values of giving back and maintaining that integrity of the relationship with the customer are always set there. You can see that in the way it demonstrates its values through its commitment to sustainability and various other causes around the world. That would be the other thing I would add to that. We can come up with it as a business, any values we want to, any principles, or anything we like. We can communicate. We live in an ultra-transparent world now where brands have largely lost control of the message.
If we don’t walk the talk in terms of our purpose and values, then those stakeholders that we communicate to can quickly see the imbalance between what we’re saying and what we’re doing. It’s great to have values but you have to be able to demonstrate those values day-in and day-out and live by those values. You’ll be familiar with them. They’ll sit on a wall somewhere and the employees will walk past them every day. They won’t mean anything to anyone because the impression has only been made on the wall. The impression has not been made in the hearts and minds of the employees, the brand, and those the brand has a relationship with. We have to be able to demonstrate it every day.
What I’ve said to my clients is defining those core values and then making decisions based on those core values. It’s like looking to your mentor or as your little good angel, bad angel on your shoulder that every decision should be made based on those. It’s funny how people don’t look at core values. It’s a loose thing. It’s like, “I have core values.” Even when I ask people, “What are your core values?” this is the business owner, I get responses like, “Family?” I go, “I don’t know. Is that a question or is that a true core value that you have?” “Integrity? Is that a core value?” “I don’t know. Is it?”
Every single decision has to go back to, am I hurting my family? Am I hurting my integrity and principles? What you’re telling us is that principles remain the same and tactics change over time. I want to ask you about tactics I do want to ask you something else, too. One of the things that I’ve been participating with is in the branding piece of things. I was presented with and watched a YouTube video that Harley Davidson put out. It was a commercial that they did and it’s beautiful. The entire commercial is we believe. “We believe that you can do this and do that.”
It pulls me in and draws me in. I’m not a Harley person and I don’t ride bikes or any. I don’t ride motorcycles, but it draws me into, “That’s a company I want to be associated with.” There’s 40 or 50 we believe in that one commercial of we believe. That means there are 40 or 50 purposes and core values that they have in their business. Bear with me as I’m explaining this. We were shown a construction company that a gentleman had owned for 30 years. When you go to his website, it’s like, “We’re a construction company and we can help you with this.” It was all words.
You could read between the lines. It was a wonderful company. His son took over the company and put this huge picture of that big bulldozer. A man only stands in the middle of a wheel. All it said was, “We believe that big boys should have big toys.” It was like, “We get it. It’s still a great construction company.” When I talk about that in the belief system, my question then leads to, what is the resistance, struggles, or avoidance that entrepreneurs and business owners have in going to that soft side, making these changes, or sharing those beliefs and core values? What is the resistance they have in taking them out in the marketplace?
If you use the Harley Davidson example, which is a great one, they’ve invested a lot in their marketing campaign and it’s a fantastic strategy. If that isn’t represented in the way the customer service represents to their customer or where employees are treated, or whatever it happens to be, then all of that investment means nothing because those that are experiencing the brand firsthand don’t believe rather than do believe. The challenge is not convincing because my view is if you have to convince an SME or a manager that they need to have a purpose at the core of their organization, they’re not the right client for us.
Some of the resistance comes because it can be hard work to ensure that every week, you ask the question about what you’re doing with relation to your core values. How is what you’re doing this week related to your core values? How are you communicating? How are you walking the talk? What is the customer thinking as a result of that? Sometimes it can be hard work and commitment but the other side of it is you have a business with a limited lifecycle because, at some point, that business without purpose completely loses its rudder and drifts off. The competition takes over because the competition is a more purposely-led business. They know where they’re going and why they’re going there.
It may be a bit of short-term pain to realign and redesign your purpose. Ultimately, it’s got to be more beneficial because you have staff members that understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. They feel like they’re part of a team and they’re collaborating. Their creative ideas are open because it’s a more collaborative culture. You have an audience that understands what the core purpose of the business is, but also sees that this business is demonstrating its core values, core purpose, and market. Either the way it develops its product, the way it relates to its communities and its stakeholders, or what it does with its profitability. It’s hard at the front end, but the long-term benefits are great.
It is both sides too. Trying to be like everybody else and not in alignment with you can be seen a mile away. It’s fake. The flip side of that is having the alignment and not delivering that piece. It is yin yang in this. When we talk about life after breaking through glass ceilings or just breaking through glass ceilings, and not always going from success to significance. When we’re talking about the core values, it is making sure that we’re significant out in the marketplace.
What are some of the results that people can expect? It’s like, “You can do this. You can get in alignment and you can deliver on that.” What are some of the results that some of your clients see? I’m not asking if they went up 300% profit or anything like that. When someone wants to break through and say, “This is a tough ceiling to breakthrough,” when I want to break through that, what’s on the other side for people? What experiences can you share?
The key to that is, and this is what we do, we set the expectation of what the client hopes to achieve from this right from the outset. We’re talking about alignment. Their alignment and my alignment of what can be achieved with this are in sync. In terms of what can be achieved, we set the ambition. For example, we had a business that had high staff turnover and the business owner couldn’t get to the bottom of why people were leaving. We conducted surveys, looked at what the challenges were within the business, and uncovered various issues that the MD wasn’t aware of because he was perhaps one step removed from the day-to-day operating of the business.
People were becoming disengaged and disenfranchised early in the pace. They treated it as a job because you need the money and you pay the mortgage, but there was no personal investment in their job for many of the staff. We worked with them to implement the program over a period of time and they’ve seen a definitive decrease in their turnover. There are a number of costs with a decrease and the turnover of staff. You don’t pay recruitment costs to bring the next people in.
You don’t have a dip in productivity as experts and learners, and so on. That’s a good example that may lead to profitability. You may not be able to put a line in that balance sheet in the bottom right-hand corner about how it is immediately contributed but it’s contributed to retention. The staff is happier and they feel more motivated. They feel like they’ve come into work for a reason rather than just for the paycheck.Ideas are the essence of all innovation and innovation is the essence of all business. Click To Tweet
The culture changes. I am horrible with phrases because I always mess them up. “A rising tide lifts all boats.” We’ll see in the rudder and drifting but everybody rises. Those of you that are reading are like, “Jen, get your act together if you’re going to use a phrase.” It then becomes a joy to come into work and everyone helps everyone. That’s a key piece of that, too. As we close up here, Paul, I know that you have a little offer that you want to give everybody or give someone here. You offer three 30-minute brand purpose consults every month. How are we going to be able to get that from you? Tell us a little bit about that.
I’m offering three 30-minute consultations. I’d like to listen rather than talk in that 30 minutes. I’d like to understand a little bit about their business, where they think they sit in relation to purpose, what they do, and what their ambitions are for the business over the next five years. We can make some recommendations on the back of that and they will be informed at that point. We can look at whether they would like to expand the conversation if you’d like from there. Anyone who is interested in that, you can go to PrinciplesAndLeadership.com. Go to the Contact Us page, fill in the form, and put in three 30 minute consultation at the top of that header. I will draw three from the readers at random and get in contact with them from there.
That sounds wonderful. I appreciate that. This is just the tip of this. I would say if you’re an entrepreneur and you’re reading, there’s this vacancy or the disconnect in your ability to attract clients. I always call it pushing a rope. Sometimes it feels like you’re pushing a rope rather than drawing clients in. We want to be able to draw that line in and attract people into this. Head over to his podcast and start listening in, and catch up on some of the other episodes to see what else you might be missing and get in touch with Paul. Paul, let me ask you this. Is there a quote or a book that is a mantra that you live by that is in alignment with what we’ve been talking about that you’d like to share?
There’s no specific book or mantra. Keep curious is my mantra. I touched on it with The New P&L. You’ve got to let ideas breathe, curate them, keep them, and revisit them. Ideas are the essence of all innovation and innovation is the essence of all business. We need to get back, whatever stage we are in business, to thinking about ideas, but particularly, keeping those ideas and looking at them in the future. Some ideas might not be right, as I said earlier, but they will be right at some point. I gave an explanation to a friend of mine about The New P&L. I’ve always felt I’ve been in the right field in my business. That’s a literal and figurative field.
It’s a Rugby field or NFL field, and I’ve always felt I’ve been looking the wrong way. At some point with the podcast and The New P&L, I turned around and I saw the goal that I was supposed to be running towards. In my early 50s, I’m going to be running a lot slower than I was at 25. At least I know where I’m running now. There’s always a better tomorrow. We’ve got to keep pushing towards that goal but that goal will come from ideas and creativity, and you need curiosity to keep that going.
I always call those parking lots. When you have the ideas, put it in a parking lot. Go back to it every year, twice a year, once a quarter, or whatever is comfortable for you to say, “Are there any other ideas that I had in here that now I can pull out of my rabbit hat, so to speak?” You’re going to get to your goals faster because you’re wiser. I want to say thank you, Paul, for taking the time with us. I know that we’re going to continue. I owe you some emails, some introductions, and things like that. I’m excited to have met you and our relationship is continuing to blossom over time.
My hope is that many people who have read this blog want to go to your podcast and listen in and want to engage with you to bring on this new way of thinking about our businesses and not going the old way through here but saying, “We may need to slow things down a little bit, take a step back, reset, and deliver in a new way than we ever have before.” I’m excited that you’re bringing this to the world. Thank you for joining me.
Thank you for the opportunity.
I want to thank everyone for taking time from your day to read on something that I hope I brought value to you as well. Please take a few minutes to write a review for us. Give us a five-star rating and we will see you next time.
- Paul Spiers
- The New P&L
- The New P&L Brand Purpose Institute
- James Dentley – previous episode
- https://www.PrinciplesAndLeadership.com/contact – Gift
- @TheNewPandL – Twitter
- https://bit.ly/2Tbv2qE – BrightTALK
- https://spoti.fi/37ciO7d – Spotify The New P&L
- https://apple.co/2NPefrC – iTunes The New P&L
- https://bit.ly/2CMgN3u – Google Podcast The New P&L
About Paul Spiers
Host of ‘The New P&L – Principles & Leadership in Business’ podcast series, and founder of The New P&L Institute and applied creative thinking consultancy, Amplifier Group, Paul is a speaker, presenter and panel moderator on topics and trends around Principles & Leadership in Business as well as the growing field of commercial creativity and business innovation.
After a career as senior executive and entrepreneur in the creative services, marketing communications and reputation management sectors; a career-defining and life-changing series of events led Paul to re-evaluate where he was heading professionally as well as the core principles and leadership characteristics that underpin businesses today. As a result, in 2019, Paul launched ‘The New P&L – Principles & Leadership in Business’ podcast series and The New P&L Brand Purpose Institute in 2020.
Paul and his team believe business needs a ‘New P&L’: one that is as much focused on ‘Principles & Leadership’ as it is on ‘Profit & Loss’ as they believe that if a business’s Principles are right and aligned with its purpose, and its Leadership has clarity of vision & is strong, focused & empathetic, then a business will be in profit and not in loss in many ways.
In ‘The New P&L podcasts, roundtables, events and panel discussions he hosts and moderates and through The New P&L Brand Purpose Institute, Paul works with a diverse range of entrepreneurs, business executives and social impact investors.
He challenges them to think deeply on the issues and opportunities around principles and leadership in business and how they, as leaders and influencers, can works towards building more principled, productive, collaborative and ultimately, successful businesses – ones that encourage great, inspirational leaders and passionate, motivated teams.
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