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The Clientside Podcast

Strategy and Purpose with Alex Brueckmann

The Clientside Podcast

55 min Alex Brueckmann

Alex Brueckmann is a globally active strategist, board advisor, and executive coach. Originally from Germany and now living in Canada, he works with business leaders so they can crystallise their organisational identity and build a legacy that extends beyond profit, creating value and making a sustainable impact.

Alex is the author of an upcoming book called The Nine Elements of Organizational Identity which will be released late 2021/early 2022.

Contact the show by sending an email to hello@theclientside.show.

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Andrew:
Hello again and welcome everybody, thank you for tuning in to another episode of the Clientside Podcast. This is episode 30...uh, you know, I'm losing count now...33 of the Clientside and I hope you're doing well. I hope you're having a great week. My name is Andrew Armitage and I'm your host. And as usual, I'm joined by a fantastic guest who's given up his time to share his expertise with us today. The podcast is sponsored by the digital agency I founded here in the UK called A Digital. And, you know, I've never talked much about what we do at a digital, but if you're a regular listener here, you probably already have a bit of a feel for the work we do, if not well we solve the problems organisations face with creating, managing and promoting their content online, and we do this with high performing websites and marketing campaigns covering search, email and social media. We're an award winning agency and you can learn more about some of the projects we've worked on by heading across to our website at adigital.agency.

Andrew:
So back to today's guests and we've got a really interesting conversation coming up on strategy. But before you groan and think to yourself, not another person talking about strategy. My guest today says that strategy needs to be guided by purpose, and it's your purpose that guides your strategic thinking to achieve the best results. Alex Brueckmann is a globally active strategist, board advisor and executive coach. Originally from Germany and now living in Canada, he works with business leaders so they can crystallize their organizational identity and build a legacy that extends beyond profit, creating value and making a sustainable impact. He's also the author of an upcoming book called The Nine Elements of Organizational Identity, which will be released around about the end of the year, possibly into early next year. So welcome to the show, Alex. Great to speak with you.

Alex:
Thank you very much, Andrew. Thanks for having me, and thanks for all the great content that you put out there.

Andrew:
So, Alex, just give our listeners a little bit of background information. What do you do? What's your experience? How is it you've ended up from Germany to Vancouver and just give our listeners a bit of background.

Alex:
That's two very interesting questions, right at the start. Let me start with a personal one. Why did I end up in Vancouver? I think there are two reasons why people move continents. One is business and the other is love. I fall in the latter category. So my girlfriend is originally from Vancouver. She wanted to move back and be around her family here. So that's when we packed up things and moved here. March 2020 right in the middle of the pandemic, which was a challenge as such and in itself. But we made it safe and sound, and we've been very happy here since. And your second question around what I do, my background is in strategy development and strategy implementation. I studied Business Administration way back and had kind of a experience that I don't see very often out there. What I mean with that is I worked with those super large corporations, so I started my career in one of those big media corporations, Bertelsmann in Germany and from there developed into management consulting. And from there again developed into entrepreneurship. So I run my own company now. Having those three angles to business and strategy was really, really helpful over the years. And nowadays I shifted my focus slightly. I still work for B2B, but there's a lot of B2C work included as well right now because all the all the experience that I've that I've gathered, I'd like to hand it over to other entrepreneurs. That's where my main focus is right now.

Andrew:
Ok, so so there's obviously that direct interaction that you've had with clients, but also does that mean you're doing some more coaching these days and working with other entrepreneurs to sort of give them that expertise that you've got versus sort of directly advising on on strategic choices

Alex:
For large corporations. I still run these very big and very long strategy projects where they would approach me and ask me, listen, Alex, we get this idea of reshaping our three, four or five year strategy. Can you facilitate the process, please? So I'm of Mckinsey, right? So they don't come to me and ask me what they should do. They ask me to help them through the process to hold the space for them. And based on the experience that I have and that in this area, this is super helpful for them. When it comes to entrepreneurs and smaller companies. Of course, they don't work with me for a year or two, right? So these projects tend to be way, way smaller, and I realized that the biggest value that they can have from working with me is using all those tools that I've seen big companies using successfully and adjust them to their context. There is no need in helping them through a very long winded strategy process. Most of them are small companies. They are fast. They can make decisions directly. I talk to the owners, I talk to senior people. They can just move things very quickly. So most of the time, it's a very short coaching engagement. And then they would, for example, take one of my online courses where they learn how can I use, for example, an intentional strategy toolkit, design my vision, make sure that I make it measurable. That it's not just a fluffy statement and then be very intentional and conscious about what do I need to do in order to move the needle and to reach the vision? So it's a lot of value that I provide for free, for example, on my website toolkits people can download and so on.

Andrew:
So do you think I mean, strategy has been around for years and years and years. I wrote about it in my own book. You've got a book that's coming out about strategy. I'll ask you in a minute why you think the world needs another book on strategy. But but my experience around strategy is it actually doesn't need to be all that complicated. It's probably over complicated by a lot of people. But that real stumbling block is very often not in coming up with a strategy. But actually, how do we get there? How do we actually do that? So we've we've identified, here's our audience, here's what we want to achieve, but I'm really not quite sure how we actually get there, and we certainly see that ourselves when we're talking about, you know, perhaps digital tools, it's the implementation that people really seem to have that gap in in a lot of businesses. How do they actually implement those steps that makes them move the needle, as you say? So that's obviously a common experience that you've had, and it's the implementation more so than actually the recognition of the strategy that perhaps people struggle with.

Alex:
Absolutely. Absolutely. Designing a clear cut strategy is not that difficult, for most people, it is kind of difficult because it's not what they used to. It's not what they do every day. So like everything that you just do once, every two years, maybe it's a bit of a muscle that is not well stretched. If you know what I mean, so I'm not well trained. So it's kind of difficult to get your head around in the first place. But once you've done that once or twice in your career, it's not that difficult because the tools out there that you use, it's not rocket science, it's straight forward planning and execution. So once you've got into the tools and into the thinking and you can let go and your mental space of the operations that you typically have front and center, detach yourself from your role that you have in your day to day business, it becomes way easier to strategize.

Andrew:
I think that's one of the biggest challenges, actually, isn't it? Just to take your head out of the day to day and focus on that different? I really like that analogy that muscle memory that you just don't have unless you're doing it on a regular basis that does seem to present those stumbling blocks.

Alex:
That's totally right. However, if you challenge people in a process or in a workshop and help them to just let go of the day to day, it's a mindset question more than a skill question. And it brings me to why do we need another book on strategy? It's really about implementing it. It's not about designing it. The I always tell my clients the best strategy is useless unless you start implementing it. And I would rather start implementing an 80 percent ready strategy and implement it with everything I got. Then having a beautiful one hundred percent perfect crafted strategy and just missing the mark on implementation. So implementation is basically where the magic happens. This is when you take your strategy and you operationalize it, and there are many ways how you can do that. One of the most important ways is that you make it measurable. You need to understand every individual in a company needs to understand what their part is and implementing it. So as as leaders, as marketing leaders, you need to understand, for example, how do I take a business strategy and adjust it and make it graspable for my area of responsibility? How do we, as a marketing team, contribute to the bigger picture, which are the levers that we can help move? So that's then the departmental area that you take a look at and in your department, you probably have even, even smaller departments or a lot of individual contributors and managers that need to understand what their individual contribution is. So one of the biggest challenges that we see is leading strategy implementation. How do I help my people get their head around their part of the game. And if you manage to do that, it is incredible how much motivation that gives people because they all of a sudden, it's not just a job, it's a contribution to something bigger. And if you're able to load your strategy with, with elements that fuel people's fires that touch their heart, that is not just a numbers game, then the magic happens. It needs to be rooted in purpose in something bigger than just making money or providing job security. That's when people just light up and show up in it with a different mindset and with a different intention. That makes sense. And that's what I describe in my book, basically, which are the elements that you need in order to design strategy and to implement it.

Andrew:
Yeah, so there's there's two things that you you said there, which I think are key and it would be great to talk a little bit more about those. One is getting people involved, you know, that idea of them being told or presented with, here's a strategy, you know, I think people do want to be involved and then they feel not only that contribution, but ownership as well. And there's a bit more of a vested interest in making it work and making it happen because actually they were involved in putting it together. And the second point, which I think is is really interesting is is that contribution to the wider purpose, what is that wider purpose? And I know obviously there's a large element of your book, which is about purpose and be really good to sort of dig into a little bit more around that, really. But it's interesting hearing you say that you'd rather work with a strategy that is sort of 80 percent complete. I've heard a phrase a lot be prolific rather than perfect, and that 80 percent complete is better than being nought percent complete, or it's also better than being 100 percent complete and not doing anything with it. So, yeah, I think sometimes there's this misconception that you can't do anything with a document, with a strategy document until it is perfect. So, you know, are there any particular tips that you think people can sort of look out for to sort of pinch themselves and make sure they're not falling into that trap of of deferring something because it's not quite ready or it's not quite finished? Are they afraid of making mistakes or afraid of getting it wrong? What's sort of the the general view there around people holding off that implementation?

Alex:
The first thing that we need to understand in strategy is there is no such thing as a perfect strategy. There is no such thing as 100 percent. The moment you write it down, it's already outdated. You've got to be aware of that. The world is turning faster than ever, and we need to constantly adjust our strategy to the changes in the world. So I, for example, for my own company, I review our rolling 12 month strategy on a bi monthly basis that takes me about an hour or two. But it's a conscious effort, not just once every two years and then be like, oh, maybe should have done that a year ago. So it's about just staying ahead of the curve when it comes to adjusting a strategy.

Andrew:
That regularity is building in that muscle memory as well, of course, isn't it? So.

Alex:
Absolutely.

Andrew:
Practice makes perfect, even though we can't quite aim for that perfect perfection. But at least it's getting you into that mindset that you talked of earlier that regularity, consistency,

Alex:
And we need to understand that perfection is the enemy of progress. The moment you start implementing the moment you get, you get the company moving, the moment you start talking about your strategy and starting implementing it. Things start to happen. If you only sit in your dark work chamber and refine and refine and refine, the world around, you doesn't know anything about your strategy and it's just a mental construct in the end before you start implementing it. So first thing you need to understand is before you even start designing strategy, you need to be aware that there is no such thing as perfect. So you need to be comfortable to sit with something that will never be perfect and that is difficult for people. It used to be difficult for me. There are so many people that call themselves perfectionists. Get over it. There is no such thing as perfect when it comes to strategy, so get out there, involve other people, ask for their opinion, get their input, you will be amazed by the amount of ideas that are out there that would have never come up in just a boardroom where C-suite people, maybe with some help of consultants design a strategy so you can design that strategy, no problem. You can own it. But it's only top level, as you already said, Andrew. You need to involve people when it comes to implementation because this is where ownership comes into play, when they translate it into their own world and decide this is what I want to contribute when they understand, Wow, I get it. That's the bigger direction, and I see how we as a department make the needle move. And maybe the second thing that you need to have in mind in order not to fall into that perfectionist trap.

Alex:
Just take a look around you how big companies become successful. Just look at those interviews with Mark Zuckerberg, for example, those addresses that he gives when he says goodbye to classes that graduate in university. It's always the theme of there was never a perfect idea in my head before I started doing something. And you see that throughout the ranks, everything that you see out there, that is something great. Something unprecedented. It started with an idea, not with a perfect plan. And that's what we need to have in mind. Plants can be adjusted along the way. Strategy is a living mechanism. It's nothing that you carve in stone and you follow like a slave for five years and hope you get to a good place in the end. No, it's a living document and you are allowed to adjust it. You're encouraged to do so.

Andrew:
Yeah, and it's, you know, you look back at a lot of products or companies that have have grown. You could look at someone like Apple. I mean, Apple are always referenced in examples and things like that. But if if they hadn't released that first version of the iPhone, there were, some will say that it's still not perfect. I would probably say it's still not perfect, but they've had the benefit of, what, 12 years now of that continual refinement, that continual feedback from from customers, from users, their experience in the technology, how to improve the hardware, the software and all those sorts of things. And it's only by putting it out there can they get into that cycle of continual development, continuous improvement and refining their approach. So yeah, as you say, if you if you keep all of these things to yourself pending perfection, then it's never going to get challenged, is it? And that's ultimately what is then going to either validate that strategy or force you to question it even further and perhaps revisit it and refine it.

Alex:
And if you take the example of Apple that you just brought up with the iPhone, there is the antidote of that out there as well. Take BlackBerry and Nokia. They did not adjust their strategy on a regular basis. They had this weird belief that they will rule the market forever. They became complacent, and there is a bunch of research out there, especially around Nokia, would make this giant fail, and it all comes down to not listening anymore to people not listening to the market anymore, becoming complacent because of success. The worst thing that I've seen the biggest issue out there that companies struggle with when it comes to strategy design is past success because they are not ready in their minds. To challenge themselves, and it's about like those famous S-curve leaps that you need to create just because you've had a period of high growth and great success does not mean that it will continue like that forever. Everything is an S-curve. And when you realize there is something happening around you, just closing your eyes and hoping that the storm will pass. It's not necessarily the best tactic.

Andrew:
Hope is not a strategy.

Alex:
No, not at all.

Andrew:
Yeah. And I think, you know, as we've seen with the pandemic, you know, that was one of those life events that none of us would really have imagined would happen. And you know, God forbid, it won't happen again. But you know, there are that there are those risks, you know, there will be those situations, even if they're on a smaller scale, you know, it could be a natural disaster. It could be, you know, it could be flooding and things like that that, you know, are on much more of a micro scale compared to a global pandemic. But nonetheless, they could still have a huge impact on the operational side of the business and therefore being open to adapting and adjusting that strategy on a continual basis, as well as the what if type scenarios is is always going to be a really valuable activity.

Alex:
There are two things that we need to understand here. Strategy is not a crisis management, strategy is something long term. People use the term strategy in all kinds of ways. Very often they use it for instead of the word tactics or instead of some other word. Some use it for vision statement, others use it for purpose. Strategy is something very distinct. It is. Imagine a strategy being your destiny, the destination that you put in your navigation system, in your GPS system, in your car. That's your goal. That's your vision statement. When it comes to terminology and the way to get to that destination, that is your strategy and that can be adjusted on the way because there are traffic jams, for example, things don't go as you expected them to go. So you need to adjust your way to work the destination. And when crises happen, very often, strategy needs to be paused because their crisis management is then the name of the game. And you need to take care of different things than of implementing a strategy just to survive, for example, especially when it comes to major catastrophes like the COVID 19 pandemic. However, those things can exist in parallel. Just because you do, crisis management that does not mean you throw a strategy out of the window. You will have to review it after a major crisis, but it doesn't mean it is the wrong strategy. It might need adjustment here and there, but you don't necessarily need to start from scratch. So the crisis management on the one hand and strategy work, on the other hand, they can exist in parallel, and we should be mindful when to focus on what.

Andrew:
But fundamentally distinct activities. Let's let's move on to talk a little bit more about this idea of purpose and this contribution to something that is much bigger than any one person or even any one entity. Purpose has been a real theme, and I think that's actually been exacerbated through the through the pandemic and and those businesses that have had a clear purpose have actually been able to benefit, you know, perhaps they've had extra resources that they've been able to put into you know, I don't know, supporting the health service or providing meals and things like that for people who might have come on hard times through the pandemic, all sorts of different areas around purpose. I mean, it's very easy to say we have a purpose, we're pursuing this purpose, this is what we're contributing to. I think it's a lot harder to demonstrate the impact of that purpose, and there's lots of companies who are wanting to. I don't want to say they wanted to fly the purpose flag, but but it seems to be something that people have jumped a little bit on the bandwagon with, but they're not necessarily seeing it through to ensuring the impact is being measured and it's having an impact in the right way and people are collectively benefiting beyond profit, for example, talked about. So what is it that companies can do to make sure that they don't fall foul of that purpose where they are just saying, Well, yes, we're going to do this and it looks great from the outside. But if you dig a little bit deeper than skin deep, then it maybe comes a little bit more a little bit less obvious as to what that purpose is. Let's say, because a lot of the time, I think, particularly from a branding perspective, companies are using purposes as an alternative way to reach their audience and attract people towards them. But that in itself can be a little bit risky if particularly if you're only going skin deep. So what is it that your definition of purpose is and how is it that companies can really make sure that they are embracing that in the right way is going to really build value? And I suppose ultimately get people within that company all working to the same values, the same page or that bigger contribution to society or whatever it might be.

Alex:
The first thing that people need to have in mind. Most of the companies out there are for profit companies. We're not out there to be altruistic. From the first moment of the day to the last, we need to make a living right. So the ultimate goal for me is to help my clients balance, purpose and profit because one cannot sustainably exist without the other. Why would I say that? Profit optimization in itself is not a goal, and it's not sustainable, because in the end, what you do is you exploit resources, you exploit your people, you exploit natural resources. And that is not sustainable. As we all know, we are too many on this planet. And if we continue to operate like we do and if businesses continue to operate like they do, we are going to see way worse than we have seen in the past. So fueling your people's passion and energy with purpose is a long game. It's nothing that you just throw out there with a fancy advertising or marketing campaign and be like, Hey, we are all purpose driven now. Guess what, consumers and your people, they work for you. They will very quickly see whether you are all about the talk or whether you are serious. A company that is absolutely amazing when it comes to the long game on purpose is Patagonia, the apparel company they years ago, they pledged one percent of their revenues toward environmental campaigns. And it's not only that they put money on the table putting basically money where their mouth is. They also link activists to existing campaigns so they are involved and they help people to get involved, people like you and I.

Alex:
Purpose is something that. Legitimizes you as a company, as a valuable part of society, the moment you understand purpose as something larger than life, something bigger than yourself, something completely grand and idealistic. Then you are on the right track, if you'd be like, we do this because it helps us make money. You're definitely you should rethink because it will backfire.

Andrew:
It's too shallow, isn't it?

Alex:
People will see it. Consumers will just tell you that's not real and you will face backlashes. And there are examples out there already of companies that try to purpose wash their campaigns, which was consumers just don't buy it. There are so many companies that try to convey an image of being purpose driven, but they actually aren't, it's just marketing and you you can use purpose if it's real purpose. You can use it and you should use it in your marketing campaigns, for example, because it's super, super powerful. But don't step on that bridge if it's too thin, you need to build it over the long run, it needs to be credible. And it needs to be visible, people need to see it. They need to be able to feel it out there, not only in your brand appearance, but actually in your actions. And yeah, way, way more important in your actions than in your words, if that makes sense.

Andrew:
Yeah, absolutely. And I think there's I think there's a real opportunity. Obviously, we're we're a digital agency, so we're working with technology and I think there's a real opportunity to for purpose to sort of really engage people and they they look for other ways to do their job, how can technology support them in their role? And you know, that is not about necessarily automation taking people's jobs or that fear, but it's about giving people that opportunity to make purpose or central part of what their day to day activity is. Nobody wants to be exporting spreadsheets and importing them into something else several times a day. Yeah, it's a bad use of people's time. It's ripe for mistakes. There's all sorts of things that could go wrong as part of that process. And let's be honest, it's pretty boring stuff. So if we can free up people's time for them to concentrate more specifically on what that higher purpose is, then I think technology has a huge role to play in terms of helping businesses to become a little bit more purpose driven.

Andrew:
And you know, we've seen there's been a huge rise in the B-corp movement. Patagonia are a great example and very well known. But yeah, I think there's something like over 3000 eco companies registered in the UK now, and that's grown massively over recent years. So it's it's clearly something that people are more conscious of and thinking of a lot more. But I think it's. I think it's difficult for some companies to sort of think about, well, where do we start? How do we make purpose? Again, it comes back to that idea of your strategy implementation. It's not necessarily of what they want to do, but where do we start with purpose? How do we make this something that people sort of wake up and think, Oh, I'm going to do this today rather than make money for X number of investors or shareholders? Because I think that's where there's often that disconnect.

Alex:
We need to distinguish between two things corporate purpose and individual purpose. Just because you as a company, define a great purpose does not necessarily mean that this purpose will resonate on an individual level. So if your employees cannot find any kind of motivation in that purpose, they will eventually leave. So as a company defining your corporate purpose. Asking yourself, what is the issue out there in the world that we as a company are uniquely positioned to address? That's step number one. Step number two needs to be to help your individuals. Everyone in the company find their own individual purpose. And if you are lucky and very often, you will be, this individual purpose can be linked to the corporate purpose. And this is where the magic happens. You should not try to impose your corporate purpose on every individual. The reason why they work for you is very, very individual. It can be really different from from individual to individual. So just try and and help people get the head around the topic of purpose. I mean, let's be honest, how many people get up in the morning and know what their purpose is? How many people have really thought this through? Unfortunately, not too many. We just we just we get born into this world. We live in those systems, the school system, the health system, the educational system, then we get a job, and most of us just never really think about the issue out there in the world that we are uniquely positioned to address.

Alex:
And then there are those people that are completely fired up because they did think about what their purpose in life is and it provides them with so much energy and passion with everything they do is kind of scary having too many of those around you. It's absolutely amazing, but it's only scary if you have not found your own purpose if you never really thought about that. So this is, this is probably the most important element to think as a company to think about what is the unique issue out there that we can solve, where we can contribute something that probably no one else can. And the second step is to make this graspable. It's not just the purpose statement. This needs to inform your strategy. It needs to be in there in your vision statement, you need to see how your purpose shines through everything you do as a company. So. From this grand and ideal purpose, you design your vision statement, the state of your company, how it should look like if you time travel five years, how, what would you see there? How does the company look like, and this needs to be fueled for the underlying, let's say, atmosphere of that vision needs to be purpose driven. And then you create your way toward that vision, which is your strategy, and you translate it into every aspect of your business. You translate it into accounting, into marketing, into sales, into research and development, you name it.

Alex:
The moment individuals understand how their part of the universe contributes to the bigger picture and why it contributes not only how, but why and what and how it helps to drive the company toward their purpose to fulfilling that purpose. This is just not something you would find in every company out there. And you mentioned the B-corps. If you take a look at those, it is absolutely amazing what they did. Some of those companies managed to they are flour companies, right? They produce flour in order to bake bread. There's this is a commodity. How do you? Inject purpose into a company like that, and it is possible you mentioned pushing excel sheets around. Yeah. You can see your job as I'm someone who pushes excel sheets around. But if you understand that pushing those excel sheets around creates the basis for decision making, for example, and that the companies uses this intelligence to fulfil their purpose. All of a sudden, you're not pushing around excel sheets. All of a sudden you understand what you are that you have a key responsibility in making the big picture work. And this can this can unleash incredible energy. I've seen it myself. I've worked in companies that were really great when it comes to purpose. And I've also experienced the opposite. I would never choose a company to make a living again, just to have a job, to make money. I would always take a look at what is it that they do that motivates me. Because in the long run, this is what keeps me working for the company not to make a living, but to make a difference. And especially when times get tough, those are the companies that do not lose their people. They stick around. They want to help overcome adversity crises because they feel they are a part of it. It's not just a company that pays a salary, it's it's where they find fulfilment in what they do. It's fulfilling for them on a personal level. They feel they are part of something larger.

Andrew:
Having that pride and and being able to look back on on something of a legacy that they were a part of that made that contribution to. And yeah, I think what you're saying is that you can find strategy out of purpose, but you can't find purpose out of strategy. That's the wrong way round. You know, there's lots of ways that you can as you're exploring purpose, you get that start and you know, you can start and build out your recruitment policy because you can start and think about what I'm looking for people with this, these areas of interest or these particular skills. Whereas if you're going that about that the other way round and you're thinking, you're very much about your company's growth without that wider purpose, then you know, I think in this age now where we've got obviously a new generation of millennials and Gen Z and so on that are coming through, you know, they don't look at just a number at the end of the day, they're looking at this much broader opportunity that a company can offer through employment. And the same thing goes for consumers, of course, as well. And we know they vote with their wallets and and that ultimately has an impact on on what sort of goals and strategy companies can pursue and of course, their profitability. And you're clearly, like you said, there has to be that profitability. It's not a bad thing being profitable. Of course, you've got to do that. We've got to pay the taxes and everything that goes with it. And ultimately, that sort of, you're always giving away a part of your productivity to society or that greater good. So you've got to have that profit to support it. And I think that's an important point from a from a buying perspective as well for people to appreciate that they may be paying a little bit more but actually understand that I'm fueling this particular activity or contribution that that company might be making.

Alex:
There are three things that come to mind when I listen to what you just said. First of all, and that's what I also wrote in my book purpose without strategy is nothing but good intention and strategy without purpose becomes merely about profit maximization. If I balance the two, I talk to the people that you mentioned, those new generations that are starting out in their first jobs that are coming into the into the workplaces that have a different focus on how they spend their time. They are more purpose driven. They are more value based in how they operate, which is a great thing. And the third thing is, excuse me, when we talk about. Um. Profit and purpose, we need to understand that. The ideal state that you can reach as a company is doing well while doing good while doing the right thing. If you're able to do that, your company will not just vanish like so many. You will be around for a long time. And very often it's not really about raising prices just because you're sustainability focused, for example, or just because you are like, take ESG, environmental, social and governance topics. I just recently read an article that just blew my mind. It was talking about the sheer numbers of people that are needed in corporations around the world to probably address the topic of ESG, there are not enough people that understand ESG, there are not enough people that understand what sustainability really means. And if you take a look at the US, for example, ESG is still just kind of collecting numbers and reporting them to the capital markets. That's what they understand of ESG in Europe. It's way ahead. It's kind of blended with the entire topic of being sustainable as a company working in sustainable ways. And this is probably one of the highest purposes that you can have to address ESG related topics, be it environmental, social, be the impact that you have. And it's not really about thinking OK. But if I do that, my consumers will be willing. My clients will be willing to pay higher prices. That's not necessarily it. If you are if you credibly can claim that you are purpose driven and that people see it, that it's actually there your actions speak louder than your words. You will open up a new market, you will open up a new pocket of consumers that wouldn't have bought from you before, so it's a market share game rather than a pricing game, and some play both angles. They would add a price premium on top of their product and at the same time would talk to a whole new target group. So, it is visible in your bottom line in the end, if your purpose driven or not. And there are many great examples out there from fast moving consumer goods companies that were able to charge brands with purpose.

Alex:
A famous example is Lipton, the Unilever tea company. They did a fantastic job when it comes to putting their supply chain to the test and asking themselves, what can we do in order to help our tea farmers live a better life? And how does that, in the end, impact the stability of our supply chain? And this helped to raise Lipton above all other tea brands. They did not necessarily charge more for their tea, but all of a sudden they open up this huge target group that was focused on those topics already. And it just paid off for them within, I think within two years, they made the profits to justify doing the right thing. They would have done it anyway, by the way, without having the profit in mind because they saw it's the right thing and because they saw it's the right thing long term businesses are not in there for the short term. Businesses typically operate for years, those who are successful for decades and a few of them for maybe centuries.

Andrew:
Yeah. That no, it's really a really good example. And Unilever seemed to be putting a lot into social purpose and and obviously there's other corporates that we see doing the same thing. Even individuals, obviously you've got a lot of press recently about the Gates Foundation, which obviously stems from from Bill Gates's personal wealth out of Microsoft. And of course, you know, we know ourselves through working with Microsoft that they have not for profit programs where software is available that, you know, free or certainly reduced rates depending on on the type of organization that you're dealing with. So yeah, it's collecting their audience, isn't it, that don't have to target because they hear of the good work they they see the good work that that is being done and they can empathize with that. And you know, that balance of power has shifted vastly, hasn't it, over over recent years. And of course, we know now that people will make those decisions and that will impact people on their bottom line because it's people choosing where to spend their money and where to put their faith and where their loyalty runs.

Andrew:
Some really, really interesting topics that we've we've touched on there. Just mindful of time, we are getting close to time, but your book, which is due out, give or take start of twenty twenty two, something else you talk about within that book is this nine elements of organizational identity, and I just wanted to touch on what those elements of our organizational identity are and we've talked about strategy. We talked about purpose, and we may have covered several in there, but just go into a bit of detail about what that nine is.

Alex:
Those nine are the reason why I decided to write the book because no one needs another book on strategy implementation or strategy design, right? There's enough out there and those nine, they just appeared in front of me. It's not that I sat down and tried to create a framework. I just realized that I've been using them in my work with large organizations, for example, and they are. They are the benign elements they are. You can you can imagine them as a three layer cake if you want. So the base layer of that cake is the foundation. It is the foundation that you need in order to properly operate and the elements that are in there, for example, purpose they help you to to map out the playing field. What is it that it is important to you, for example? So your purpose, your corporate values, your guiding principles, the behaviours that you want to see in your organization that show you that you are living up to those values, that you're bringing your purpose to life, for example, in the middle. And that's what because I like the middle of a cake, mostly the butter, creamy yummy part, the sweet part. That's where you would find strategy. And there are several elements that talk about strategy. For example, your vision statement, your strategy as such, meaning the strategic pillars that you base your company on and goals strategic goals, you need to make it measurable. It needs to be graspable and manageable. So those are the the elements and the yummy middle. And then you have, let's say, the glazing, right? So rounding out the the look and taste of a cake, which are the elements that you need in order to implement strategy. It's first and foremost, do I have the right capabilities in my company from a leadership perspective, but also from an individual contributor perspective? So those famous people skills and those famous hard skills, do we have them in order to drive strategy? And if you already have them, revisit your strategy, it's not worth it. A strategy that does not imply change is not worth the paper it's written on.

Alex:
A strategy would always push you to somewhere where you are not yet in. In order to get there, you need new skills, additional skills, so be mindful about that and hire for those skills, but also train those skills. The second element that you find in this in this outer layer of the cake are management systems. You need to burn bridges when you implement a new strategy and need to burn bridges, you need to change the way your business operates. Otherwise, people tend to revert back to where and how they operated before. That can be changes in your hiring process in a selling process that can be changes in your marketing process. You name it when you need to make sure that the way you operate, manage and lead your business are adjusted to your purpose and your strategy. Management systems are typically created to keep a company stable, strategy rocks the boat strategy does not keep a company stable. So in order to adjust to make the strategy happen, you need to adjust those management systems right.

Andrew:
And that's that's almost having the ballast, isn't it? If if you are thinking of it as a boat and strategies making things unstable because it's changing direction and things like that, having some ballast underneath it at least allows that change to happen in a measured and controlled way.

Alex:
I love that analogy. Absolutely. And the third element of strategy that is on this outer layer are individual targets, and I'm not talking about numbers necessarily only, but it's helping your every single person in the company understand what their contribution to the bigger picture is. And since organizational identity is more than just strategy, it's not only about telling them what their piece and implementing the strategy is, but it's the bigger picture. It's about helping them understand how they contribute to purpose, how they can take corporate values and make them visible in their interactions with clients, in their interactions with each other into interactions with suppliers, for example. And this concept as such, is. It's not theoretical. It's super actionable, I describe how it can bring all those nine elements to life, how I design them and how you bring them to life and how they are interrelated. They are connected. It's just you kind of just say, I work on strategy, but I don't touch the rest. It's not going to happen. And you can't. You can't just go out there and be like, we have this grand purpose right now. And then what? So you need to connect those elements, it's like if you take this three layer cake and you cut it into pieces, you have the base, you have the buttercream and then you scrape off the glaze. You don't do that right. You eat it as one, typically.

Andrew:
Yeah. So it's everything needs to join together, both in people and process and culture. I guess that's, you know, something that I see in what I've written about, which is by and large, digital transformation is about putting a website into making it part of a digital transformation. And I think, you know, digital transformation is often seen as this technological advance. Well, no, it's fundamentally about people process and culture. And I think by the sounds of it, you're saying that strategy is very much about people process and culture and ultimately all of that once you wrap in things like purpose and those those ultimate objectives that you're wanting to achieve. Then you look at how the people process and culture will support that and enable it to happen. And I guess that's where you come in with your implementation that allows companies to take things forward.

Alex:
Totally. Yeah.

Andrew:
Brilliant. Ok, well, Alex, it's been fantastic talking about this, I mean strategy. As I said, I think it can be vastly over complicated and it can be simplified a lot, but there's still a lot of moving parts that sit behind it. Isn't that if you're going to get it right?

Andrew:
So, so tell us a little bit more about where we can find you online and when you're expecting the book to come out.

Alex:
So you will find me on Brueckmann.ca which is, it's a nice ending. I often write my own website wrong and write dot com, but its dot ca and what you will find on there is a lot of help for you. Just free stuff where you can get your head start, start to get your head around strategy. As you say, it's not super complicated. It's very often we just don't know how and where to start, so I provide some help there. Download my free intentional strategy toolkit that will help you get your head around. First of all, the topic of vision, where do I want my company to be? Where do I want my HR department to be? Where do I want my marketing department to be in two to three years, for example?

Alex:
You can use it for your area of responsibility. It's not necessarily only for company owners to talk about the entire company, and you will start to get your head around it and start to familiarize yourself with this type of thinking, the strategic thinking, rather than just approaching strategy from an operational perspective, which you really shouldn't do. Because then your strategy ends up as an operational excellence program and not a strategy as such, right? The book would probably come out at the end of twenty twenty one, but most likely start of twenty twenty two. You can sign up for book news on my website in order to never miss it again when it comes out. And I will not only be radio silence and then tell you, Hey, the book is out, you can buy it now. No, if you sign up for that newsletter, I will provide you with on a monthly basis with a lot of value, with videos, with interviews, anything around the topic of strategy. So it's not a marketing newsletter in the sense that I talk about what I do. I really try to add value to my readers and to help them understand strategy from a different perspective, from a new angle. It's actually a lot of fun, guys. You just need to start and get your head around it.

Andrew:
Make that mindset shift. Lift yourself out of the day to day and and start planning and thinking about where you want to be, how you want to be seen. And and that's ultimately what's going to allow you to move forwards, albeit perhaps slowly to begin with. But you can build momentum. Of course, you get that feedback, you refine your process as you go and build up that muscle memory that we talked about earlier on.

Alex:
Totally, Andrew. Thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure talking to you about this topic.

Andrew:
It's been fantastic. Really enjoyed it, Alex. Wish you all the best with the book launch over the next few months, and thanks again for joining me.

Alex:
Thanks, Andrew. Take care!

Andrew:
So thank you, Alex. There's loads of great points we covered there and lots to think about. I particularly enjoy talking about the relationship between strategy and purpose and how purpose can help to inform and drive your strategy, but it's unlikely to have the same effect if they're the other way round. Of course, purpose goes well beyond that, and while it can add a powerful dimension to your marketing, it needs to translate into every element of your business for it to have the greatest impact. Alex also spoke about how mindset plays such a key role in strategy, and I think for many companies, particularly smaller ones, strategic thinking just isn't something that's given as much time as it should be. So we lose that muscle memory or as we're in pursuit of perfection we become victims to procrastination, combing through ideas again and again, telling ourselves we'll make time to formalize them or build a plan. And that never comes. Yes, I've been guilty of that, too. So do head across to Alex's website to sign up for details of his upcoming book. You can do that on his website at brueckmann.ca and there is a link to that, and his LinkedIn profile in the show notes, which you can find on our website at adigital.agency/podcast. So that's about all for this episode. As usual, if you've enjoyed listening to the show, then please do leave us a rating and review on Apple Podcasts. You can also share the podcast on your social media channels and feel free to reach out if you have any questions or feedback. Drop me an email hello@theclientside.show or @ me on social media. I'll be back in a couple of weeks time with the next episode, where I'll be talking about systems and processes, and I hope you'll be able to join me then have a good week. I'll see you next time.

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