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  • markmccuen


The Power of Purpose, one of the most powerful forces in the Universe, is the fuel behind every accomplishment in human history.

Discovering fire. Roman roads and aqueducts. The success of Facebook. The ingenuity of Apple. All were driven by purpose.

It is the objective behind the mission that empowers change, and all who believe in the mission are drawn in. Even when they don’t know what it’s about. Like the pull of a magnet, just being in the vicinity of purpose will attract you.

Throughout my career, I have seen the power of purpose ignite and flip upside-down multiple businesses and industries, including the technology revolution that of the late 1980s that forever changed the print and imaging trade.

I was just coming out of a low spot in my career and trying to figure out my next steps. Through a set of fortuitous circumstances, I landed a job at one of the top three typography-equipment companies as a territorial sales representative.

Well, there I was, a young 20-something kid with no formal education, selling some of the most technically advanced equipment on the planet to an industry that was fighting an inevitable change. Skilled typography and make-ready personnel were now becoming obsolete, instead of creating magazines, books, and newspapers by a traditional process that started with the Gutenberg Press, these artisans were being replaced with typesetting technology that a trained operator could use to produce higher quality output in a fraction of the time. Like watching the Beatles overturn the music business, I had a front-row seat to the desktop publishing revolution that replaced the multibillion-dollar typesetting industry.

My first encounter with desktop publishing was through one of my best customers. Sam and his wife Barb ran a typesetting business out of their basement. Sam worked during the day as a typographer for a major publisher and would set type at night for his own business.

He was a hero for me. We both had small families, and to see him put in 16-20 hours a day was inspirational while most people complained about their eight-hour days.

Sam had recently purchased our top-of-the-line digital typesetter, and his business was growing so fast that he was going to buy a second. Hard work was paying off.

On the day that he was to sign the order, Sam told me he was putting things on hold so he could investigate software from a small company on the East coast. One thing led to another, and we found ourselves in the offices of the software company.

I had convinced Sam to let me come along so I could help with the evaluation. In all candor, I was there to talk Sam out of the purchase so he would sign my order.

That afternoon, however, we were infected by the Power of Purpose.

The company helped invent desktop publishing with simple-to-use software that ran on the new IBM personal computer. My company had a similar system that sold for $40K. The software was priced at a mere $5k, was more user friendly than our proprietary system and would work on any PC with 256k RAM and a graphics card.

Sam and I couldn’t believe our eyes. Instead of leaving after our demonstration, we stayed and watched every demonstration they did that day. Before we left, we had signed up to be dealers.

They gave us a seven-state territory in the heart of the Midwest. We were under the influence of the Power of Purpose, and it changed our lives and an entire industry.

The company’s purpose was simple. They wanted to make the life of a typographer more productive. By using a What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) system, almost anyone could create ads and set type.

It took a couple of years and some new innovations, but the little software company produced a system used by most of the top publishers in the world, including Conde Nast, TV Guide, the Sears Catalog, Playboy, and dominated the magazine- and database-publishing industries.

But the focus of the company remained on the users of the software. The goal was to make complex work simple through technology, helping users to be more productive.

In the few short years that I sold for the company, I saw the Power of Purpose spread throughout an industry, creating a disruptive frenzy that changed the world.

In my experience, it is rarely the overworked, overthought plans that change the world. It seems to me that during the planning and strategy process, most teams lose sight of their purpose. If there is no purpose, the energy is gone, and all you are left with is a detailed plan that no one wants to execute.

Sure, planning, scheduling and assessment are critical to any successful venture. But if there is no purpose, there is no point to what you’re doing. And if there is no point to what you’re doing, no one cares.

Like the author Simon Sinek says in his groundbreaking book Start with Why, “People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”

Define your purpose first. With a clear statement of purpose, your goals are contagious. And your dreams can explode into reality.


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