Russ: Hi I’m Russ Capper and this is BusinessMakers USA brought to you by Insperity, inspiring business performance. Coming to you today from Kansas City where my guest is Mark O’Renick, Co-founder and CEO of Will & Grail. Mark welcome to the show.
Mark: Welcome. Thank you.
Russ: You bet. Tell us about Will & Grail.
Mark: So Will & Grail is a brand innovation company and we help companies align, amplify and optimize core purpose to drive both brand and business performance.
Russ: Core purpose, give us an example of best case scenario there.
Mark: Why do we exist? We define purpose as having a profound, positive impact on lives, communities and the world. There’s some really key words in that; profound, like we can have an impact but do we have a profound impact? And really we’ve seen the alignment of people and purpose and positioning driving a good brand foundation, but then engagement and experiences can be built on.
Russ: Okay. So I would imagine your ideal client is a mature company that needs help in branding and I guess they come to you knowing that purpose has to be a key player if you guys are going to…
Mark: It can be. So we work with nonprofits, we work with for profits of all sizes. Some companies are founded based on purpose and then how do we help amplify that? We see three forces that ultimately can change the world and that’s entrepreneurial innovation, enterprise scale and an egalitarian sense of good. So we have resources that are scaled and corporations and how can we use those in innovative ways to benefit lives and the communities?
It’s really a deeper integration of purpose across all segments, all audiences; so customers, employees, the community, shareholders. And if you think about the word service we don’t think about companies there to serve but it’s embedded in the language; we have customer service and shareholder services and corporate social responsibility and all these programs. So we find that connecting thread and really work it throughout the brand experience so it’s authentic and real and powerful.
Russ: And how old is Will & Gail?
Mark: Will & Grail started on April Fool’s Day in 2016 which was 20 years to the day that we started a predecessor agency Salva O’Renick and we did marketing and sales alignment. And we’re getting a little longer in the tooth my co-founder and I, Dan Salva – and Brad Lang joined us, he had another firm – and we said if we’re going to work let’s do work that matters. And we saw this incredible trend and data toward purpose; people think it’s a Millennial thing, that they want to work for companies that they believe in, but it’s also with Baby Boomers and we all seek to make money and meaning in our lives and have deeper relationships with organizations and with each other.
Russ: So do you think this helps you even be competitive in the branding service world?
Mark: Sure. I think we have to differentiate like any business and we also think it makes for more effective branding. The stories that you can tell of having impact really lines up with customers and everyone so it’s good business but it’s also good work and that’s the key driver. We have passion when we get up every morning.
Russ: All right, sounds cool. Do you have corporations maybe approach you now that like what you’re all about but have not found their purpose and engage you maybe to help them?
Mark: Yeah I think everybody has a sense of it. They’ll do corporate social responsibility programs, they may donate money but it’s really disconnected; they make money over here and then they do these things over here that’s the good part. So we’re trying to align those and connect them, people are coming to us because of this. We’re not very good at it; purpose and profitability don’t fluidly align because they kind of fight each other and so we as an agency are getting better and better at helping companies figure out how to do that. And I think the world is waking up to tons of data from big consulting firms about the power of this and how it can drive transformational change.
Russ: So does Will & Grail envision your company’s purpose just bringing purpose to other companies or do you have an extra purpose also?
Mark: At the core of why we do what we do is to be a catalyst for intentional change that makes this profound positive impact on lives, communities and the world. And because of that we’ve invested in initiatives, one we started in March of this year here in Kansas City is called Conquer for Good. It’s an event series, and the experience is developing, but we saw the need to bring people together to really showcase those folks that are social entrepreneurs and social innovators and purpose-driven companies and share their stories of what they’re doing and how they’re doing it and how it’s making an impact on lives, and then connections and collaborations around that. We’ve had really good success for that and we’re expanding that in 2018.
Russ: As you know our show here is that we’ll bring in very, very early stage entrepreneurs and tell their story and stuff and I put that in the context of your comment about sometimes profit and purpose can be at odds, so do you suggest an early startup find purpose early or is it more important to…
Mark: I think most of them have it. If the purpose is just making money the passion and the grind is going to get to you, so Will is the determination to pursue this Grail. Plus you don’t build connections with customers and employees and talent and everything if you’re not in it for something greater than just making money. It’s Simon Cynic to start with why we’ve had this conversation in our society, it’s good. But purpose is what gets you up in the morning. There’s a Japanese concept called Ikigai and it’s what your sense of purpose is; it’s your reason for getting up. When your feet hit the ground what are you doing? They did a survey of 16,000 people in Japan and the United States and those who had a strong sense for purpose had a 20% decrease in mortality rates.
Russ: So it’s good for you.
Mark: It’s good for you us, absolutely.
Russ: Really cool. Well I really appreciate you sharing that story but before I let you go tell us what you think about Kansas City.
Mark: Kansas City is a great community with a lot of heart. We love being here because we have Midwest values. We have enough innovation and enough things going on that it is really building itself up as kind of a place that people want to be. And I think it has tons of potential but we need to have the potential to be the best that Kansas City needs to be and not try to replicate what’s happening in other parts of the country and around the world. Every community is different and we have a good vibe here, it’s a great place.
Russ: Mark I really appreciate you sharing your story with us.
Mark: Thank you, take care.
Russ: You bet. And that wraps up my discussion with Mark O’Renick, Co-founder and CEO of Will & Grail and this is BusinessMakers USA.
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