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Thoughts on Professor Colin Mayer’s talk
‘Why Business needs Purpose’
at Saïd Business School.

Colin Mayer CBE FBA is an acknowledged expert on all aspects of corporate finance, governance and taxation, the regulation of financial institutions and the role of the corporation in contemporary society.
He is the Peter Moores Professor of Management Studies at the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford.

If you’re anything like us, hearing a leading an expert on all aspects of corporate finance, governance and taxation, the regulation of financial institutions and the role of the corporation in contemporary society talk about why business needs purpose other than profit makes you exhale in relief. It gets you excited. Because you realise that you’re not alone. Why Business needs Purpose. ‘Why’ – not ‘if’.

Last night, we were privileged to attend Professor Colin Mayer’s talk at Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford. Thank you to Saïd Business School, Entrepreneurial Giving and Maurice Ostro OBE KFO for organising and hosting this talk, and to Professor Mayer for his thought leadership on the topic. Thank you also to the many attendees in Oxford, London, Cape Town and Frankfurt for their insights. Hearing your view points has given us much food for thought!

We introduced ourselves as an ethical and inclusive creative consultancy, with in-house design agency and a strong focus on coaching. We want to make the world a brighter, kinder, more authentic place. I can tell you we were very glad to see our message being received with genuine interest and support.

‘It must be hard to navigate business with a strong ethical stance at the forefront.’ Yes, it is. It’s a daily choice to follow our purpose. But it’s one we are glad to make. It’s one we have pushed away for too long. We are not prepared any longer to ignore our purpose for the sake of fitting in, and making profit as a result. Profit has to come as a result of what we do, as much as it has to come as a result of why and how we do it.

One of the questions Professor Mayer discussed last night: Is purpose a luxury in business?

Before you read on… What do you think? How do you feel about this? Is this something you have asked yourself before?

Here is our take on it:

Purpose is not a luxury. It’s not even a choice. Purpose just is. We all have it, whether we’re aware of it or not. The question is whether we are brave enough to open our eyes and hearts to it. And whether we are then daring enough to act on it.

This is where purpose can feel like a luxury few can afford. But like so often, there is an element of shortsightedness in weighing up the pros and cons. One of ‘me against the world’, as opposed to ‘me for the world’ or ‘me with the world’.

As Professor Mayer pointed out, there is enough evidence that purpose driven business is a powerful instrument which aligns people with a shared interest in the common good to pull in the same direction. It creates mutual trust and increases competitive advantage, as opposed to limiting it. He spoke about business ownership as a responsibility as much as it is a privilege. As business owners we have a responsibility to people and planet, to use what we have in the pursuit of solving problems, as opposed to creating issues to profit from. We think this is a message that needs to be heard by every business owner, every decision maker – everywhere.

We spoke to bright young minds who have worked with organisations finding creative ways to fight some real, gut wrenching issues such as global warming and how to help survivors of human trafficking. This is some truly humbling stuff to discuss on a Wednesday evening. We want more of it. And we want you to talk about it too.

What is your purpose, in life and in business? How can you combine them? We would love to help you find the answers.

The big take away from last nights discussion was this: the purpose of business is not profit. Dig deeper. Embed purpose. Connect with those who fight for common good.

We're here. We're ready. Let's get started.

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