Kees Kruythoff is CEO and Chairman of LIVEKINDLY Collective.
I was inspired recently when reading the book Net Positive, by my friend and business partner Paul Polman, which is a practical guide to building a company that profits by confronting and mitigating the problems that plague our planet. It’s a powerful message, not only to those leading multinational organizations but also to all private-sector company owners, new entrepreneurs and leaders out there.
With sector leadership becoming more pivotal to help solve societal challenges, I started thinking about the great entrepreneurs who have a purpose as their North Star but still struggle to create impact. There are many businesses around the world working to do good for our planet and its inhabitants, but they often lack knowledge, awareness and accessible options.
After my 30-year tenure at Unilever, I started LIVEKINDLY Collective with a mission to make plant-based living the new norm. Today, we have a Collective of food brands and a growing media platform as the voice of the movement, and we sell in more than 40 markets around the globe. The secret to this exponential growth started with our mission and purpose at heart but has been supported by strategies that I would like to share with you today.
Firstly, before you start growing your business, be clear about the baseline for its existence — establish the key drivers of success. Research and agree on the attractiveness of the market and settle on what your unique differentiation and contribution will be. Are you uniquely placed to be the best in the world? Do you have a forward-thinking purpose that’s hardwired into the DNA of your business? Is the world better off because your business is in it? For purpose-driven leaders, answering these questions is essential.
Then, to grow your business fast, keep this trifecta of attitude toward your business model top of mind: start small, think big and act fast. It will make it easier to take on challenges, help you keep the razor-sharp focus on the business you’re building and enable you to fail forward. Growing and leading a brand new business comes with agility, which is a huge enabler for change. It’s also a huge advantage over legacy companies in the same industry, for example. Using that agility to your advantage is key. You can experiment and adjust on the go to fuel that desired growth.
One of the most inspiring people I have had the honor of working with is Mark Kulsdom, the founder of one of our brands, The Dutch Weed Burger. Mark is a stunning example of a leader driven by purpose and started his business because he cared so deeply about animal welfare. He created his plant-based food company after realizing that activism is about building new things and not about fighting conventions.
Mark came to us with the ambition to grow his purpose-driven brand, and we have been working together on further building the brand. This example brings me to a third critical lever of growth for brands: solid partnerships. Thriving entrepreneurs are surrounded by like-minded and purpose-aligned partners. Having your mission as the starting point of all you do and the ambition to contribute to a better world requires advisors, mentors, investors and strategic partners aligned with your purpose, understanding your mission and offering support.
I agree with Paul Polman that in order to transform systems (in our case, it’s the food system), the world needs an inspiring new wave of leaders. This is how we truly transform the notion of leadership — what it is, what it entails, how it can actually change the world around us. So surround yourself with a community of supporters, define your uniqueness, and start small, think big and act fast, keeping your mission at the heart of all you do.
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