‘I’m True To What I Believe’

Richard Shrapnel's ‘I’m True To What I Believe’.

Founders of businesses often have a great advantage. Their business is seeded with an authenticity, a personal passion they hold for what they are creating through their business. It allows them to remain true to their vision of what their business can and should become.


Active Knowledge Question:

If you were to ask your leadership team and employees what they hold true to in your business, what do you think they might say?


It’s All In The Chocolate

I was scanning one of the local newspapers and an article on a business called Pana Chocolate caught my eye. It was a story about its founder Pana Barbounis, who was a vegetarian moving towards becoming vegan and starting up a chocolate business which would cater for his needs – an organic vegan chocolate. The business now has turnover of over $10m and its products are sold in 25 countries, so clearly it was a successful idea.

The story’s journalist, Cara Waters, captured some of Pana’s reflections (which I believe hit the mark) on the missing ingredient in many businesses today and that is authenticity.  This quote, from the article, captured this sentiment well: ‘I did feel there was something happening there, but it was really more about my personal lifestyle and I’m true to what I believe. I think l needed to create something that was going to be true to what I believe and who I am.’

There is a podcast of the interview with Pana Barbounis on ‘Bold Business’ if you are interested in hearing this story.

The point that resounded with me most was the expression ‘true to what I believe’ and its impact when applied in a business sense.


Authenticity Sustains Value

If you remain true to what you believe, you are being authentic and that builds trust and allows the impact of real growth through compounding to occur when it exists in a business.

In today’s markets, we compete around value, the value we are able to deliver to our customers and a value that is aligned with their needs. The greater the alignment and the more value you are able to deliver into their need, the stronger your ability to compete and out-compete all others in your chosen market.

Again, picking up a quote from Pana in the article. ‘To me, because I play in that organic space and I’m really passionate about mother nature, it was also about not mixing it with anything that’s going to adulterate that or not allow it to be in its natural form.’

If you are going to try and create and sell an organic vegan chocolate to a community of customers – vegans, real and aspirational – then there is not a lot of space to move the goal posts when it comes to product authenticity. It either is or isn’t and what has clearly underpinned Pana’s success is that his personal authenticity has been seeded into and maintained in the business.

But you don’t have to be in the organic vegan chocolate business for authenticity to be critical to the enduring success of your business.   

When any business goes into a market and competes for a customer’s dollars they are promising that they will deliver a specific outcome. What the outcome is obviously varies across every product and service, but there is a promise inherent in every business’s product/service. And that goes well beyond the expectation that, as a customer, you will actually get what you paid for.

In fact, your ability to out-compete others in your chosen market really rests on your business’s ability to carve out a promise so clear and matched to your customers’ needs that no one else can deliver it.

Now you need to ‘be true to what you believe in’ and deliver on that promise. You need authenticity throughout every aspect of your business consistent with and supporting that promise.

Pana, despite their growth, still handmake and hand wrap their chocolate. Why? Because it’s part of what they believe in.


How Can You Find Authenticity In Your Business?

Authenticity exists in every business, sometimes it has just lost its voice.

Authenticity is found in the promises you make to your customers about the value you are going to deliver to them. You could say it’s what your brand stands for, but I would say that brand is more of an outcome of your promises, rather than the promise itself.

You must consider authenticity, and its associated promises, with great care as often the real customer expectations are inherent, deep and not directly stated. Some examples of this may be:

  • ‘I expect a bank to help me build my personal wealth, first and foremost.’
  • ‘I expect food manufacturers to only sell me products which are healthy for me.’
  • ‘I expect my social media companies to protect my personal information and privacy above their profit.’

Your promise is reflected in how you have chosen to compete in your market and positioned the value you intend to deliver to your customers. It’s your competitive posture, the way you compete to win, that draws your strengths to the surface each and every day.

What you must do is to make sure that you give a voice to those promises and that they do not get lost in the everyday rush of business. The larger your business grows, the more risk that authenticity will disappear. You must ensure that you achieve a relentless focus on the customer.

The greatest challenge, of course, is the profit-first motive that permeates so many businesses. If you consider profit to be the purpose of your business, rather than an outcome, then it is likely that authenticity, and any promises you have made, will be compromised at the first chance possible.

If not putting profit-first in a business just doesn’t make sense to you, then read one of my earlier articles for guidance. It’s titled ‘Why A Profit-First Motive Is Just Bad Business’.


Supporting Authenticity In Your Business

The following anchors will help ensure authenticity remains a vocal voice in your business:

  • Purpose: Businesses are created to meet a need in the community: your customers. Establish this need as the cornerstone of your business and it will seed your future growth.
  • Motive: Businesses are made to compete and profit is an outcome. Yes, it is an important outcome to ensure you can continue to meet your customers’ needs, but it is an outcome of your business’s ability to compete.
  • Customer focus: The right purpose and motive should ensure that customers are always first. You should always make every decision on the basis of how it impacts the value you deliver.
  • Simple guiding principlesThese are the basic commands in your business that affirm and uplift your business strategy. They will ensure the value you promise is always at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
  • Design: The way your business functions should be designed to focus everyone’s efforts on the value you deliver to your customers. Forget about organisational charts, think functional design.


Being authentic and building your competitiveness upon the promises inherent in the value you compete on will allow you to compound and to build an enduring business. But it requires that your motive for being in business is to compete. Always remember businesses are made to compete.


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All the best in the success of your business,

Richard Shrapnel