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Purposeful: business can be profitable and still have heart

Mike Davis, Founder - Purposeful

Mike Davis, Founder - Purposeful

At The Business Experiment, we believe that business can have heart and still be profitable. More and more, people care where their products and services are coming from and are looking for businesses who live their purpose and values every day.  We love connecting with entrepreneurs who are using their skills and expertise to start brands that empower and help both businesses and people. One such entrepreneur is Mike Davis, Founding Director of Purposeful. 

Purposeful is a 'Social Impact Advisory', B Corp and startup that aims to create social value by connecting business with social, ethical and environmental causes and initiatives. Mike helps businesses integrate these into their business strategy to achieve improved performance, employee engagement and job satisfaction. He also works closely with not for profits and social enterprises, helping them to improve their strategic focus, communications and to develop purposeful partnerships.

Mike has a strong social and health policy background, having worked as a Senior Advisor in Government and having advised large member based organisations on how to engage with Government to achieve the best outcomes. He is passionate about the role that organisations can play in creating social value and developing more connected and prosperous communities. He has strong public, private, social enterprise and not for profit experience.

He has been kind enough to share his business REAL with us below. You can find more information about Purposeful here

1. Please tell us a bit about your company and your background

I started Purposeful after moonlighting as a consultant to social and ethical organisations for a number of years. I did this while working full time in the health and social policy + strategy space for leading health organisations and Government. I was also completing a Masters of Law (Human Rights) at the same time. I noticed that social enterprise founders, not for profits and small business leaders often had so many things they wanted to achieve, that they weren't focusing on stepping back and tackling the higher value tasks around strategy, advocacy, people, partnerships and policy. I helped them to widen their perspective, refine and start to tick off objectives on their higher order to do list.   

During this time, I noticed a possible connection between the problem of the lack of funding for not for profits and social enterprise to solve societal issues, and the failing of business to properly engage with and meaningfully communicate corporate social responsibility offerings. I felt that purpose and developing a way to apply a practical system to embed social impact and purpose into businesses was a way to achieve solutions to both problems. 

2. What are some epic achievement highlights in your career?

Gaining B Corp certification was a huge achievement as it took about 6 months of hard work given that we don't look or operate as a conventional organisation. It also opened so many opportunities to collaborate and connect with a like minded community. Putting together a great advisory board was also hard but so worthwhile. We are lucky enough to have founders of major global brands, a former state premier and some emerging young star change-makers on our board. We are also about to finalise a partnership with a big purpose driven creative agency to launch our podcast - 'Humans of Purpose'. This was a thrilling unexpected development as I was preparing to self-fund this! 

3. Who do you look up to in the business world?

I have great admiration for founders and managers of not for profits and social enterprises that are having a great impact in society, with minimal funding and support most of the time. The fact that they are operating on a shoestring budget means they must be savvy and work much harder than most! I am a huge fan of the teams at Pollinate and Who Gives a Crap! for the work they do in reporting on social impact. They have also built very successful organisations on the back of this. 

I'm also a big fan of Grill'd and Founder Simon Crowe, who has weaved community and purpose throughout his massively successfully business. They also make delicious, ethical and healthy burgers. Also John Mackey of Whole Foods, for the amazing work they have done in creating whole of system stakeholder value and community focus, largely via a conscious capitalism approach to business. 

Simon Sinek and Adam Grant, both professors, academics, writers and organisational theory thought leaders would be my biggest influences in terms of how I behave in the business world. Putting relationships, giving back and putting community at the centre of everything and always remembering to ask 'our why' and not just our 'what' and 'how' as to the things we do and decision we make in business.   

4. What is your business REAL moment?

I was recently asked at a presentation to university business students and aspiring social entrepreneurs about this. I have taken the decision to run a lean startup and as such my team is literally just me and a volunteer that joins me for 4 hours a week to lend a hand. So the challenge is having to always admit to big groups and clients that it's just me! People are usually shocked but eventually we move on to the matters at hand. We will grow soon when our message is more established in the business community, but for now the challenge is doing literally everything in a week. This can range from legal and IP issues to running our social media accounts, to writing proposals and presentations. 

5. What is the best advice you’ve ever received and how do you apply this every day, month or year?

My dad taught me to treat everyone well, as thought they are a close friend. I apply this everyday by choosing to see the best in people and treating them as such. This has led to some great opportunities and relationships, collaborations and partnerships. 

6. What is the one mobile app you can’t live without?

As a podcaster and podcast lover, the "Casts" app is my go to for managing podcasts and planning my listening. It's got great functionality in terms of auto-downloading, sorting and managing my content for me. 

7. What is your best tip for time management?

My best tip would be to use checklists, I use Evernote on my phone and will try to plan what I will do in my days and tick them off as I go. It's hard to explain the satisfaction from such a simple thing like ticking off a to do list task. Having a running idea of what I need to do centres me and helps me shape my day.   

8. What are your favourite things on your work desk RIGHT now and WHY?

I like to keep an insulated cup on my desk and some good quality tea to keep hydrated. I recommend white tea as it has a more delicate taste than green and is also super healthy, packed with anti-oxidants. I'll also make sure I have my laptop hoisted up on a docking station so it's a bit more ergonomic and better for my posture. One day I'll get that standing desk... one day. In the meantime I'll take regular breaks and walks.  

9. What are your growth plans for your business?

We are taking a "slow growth" approach to developing Purposeful. This means concentrating on thought leadership and spreading our message first and in our second phase, we will shift our focus toward building the right client base. As we are working with a fairly innovative approach and set of concepts we are treating this as a "new product or service to market" starting with client education. 

10. How do you ‘work-life balance’?

Not very well at this stage! But I do have a strong commitment to only doing things I enjoy, which means I get our a fair bit to walk, run, play soccer and do some reformer bed pilates. I find sport balances me and allows me to do my best work. I also try and make time for friends and family a few times a week for meals and social occasions. 

11. Let’s future gaze – if you could see yourself in the next 10 years, what would your life look like?

In 10 years, I hope to have a team of about 6-8 people and to have carved out a space as the main provider of social impact and purpose advice in Australia. I hope to have a few kids, be fit and healthy and to be doing more of what I love everyday. 

12. Lastly, what is your favourite thing to do in your downtime?

I love watching documentaries on just about anything and learning as much as I can. I also get a lot of pleasure from playing soccer with friends.