How to build a business that people adore

I like the start of “Cult Status: How to Build a Business People Adore”. Right now, as you’re reading this, someone in the world is throwing an idea around their head that will overhaul an industry that’s been dominated by multinational companies for generations.

Rewrite the rules

All the old ways of thinking are being rewritten in real-time. Clever ideas travel around the world in days, entire industries are getting disrupted by accelerating trends, and an emerging group of people are grabbing onto these opportunities to create businesses that will have a meaningful impact in the future.

Focus on meaningful

The focus on meaningful is because of the changing attitude of young people (read” Technosocialism“). They care about these big issues, and they are demanding that decision-makers within any company they buy from not only care about them but be vocal, active and genuine in their concern.

Aim for something higher

The other good news is that the oldest tranche of millennials are turning or about to turn forty. The time people become CEOs and part of management teams. And then the question is; do you want it to be a run-of-the-mill business that just exists, or do you want to aim for something higher?

The statistics

  • 42% of millennials said they have begun or deepened a business relationship because they perceive a company’s products or services to have a positive impact on society and/or the environment.
  • 36% started/deepened a relationship because they believed a company was ethical.
  • 94% of young people said they want to buy from companies whose representatives tell them the truth
  • 68% share to give people a better sense of who they are and what they really care about.
  • 69% share information because it allows them to feel more involved in the world.
  • 73% share information because it helps them connect with others with similar interests.
  • 84% share because it is a way to support causes or issues they care about.
  • The 28 Unilever brands they count as ‘purposeful’ contribute almost two-thirds of their revenue and drove 75% of sales growth in the first half of 2019


Business has been kind of the evil empire that has got us to all these terrible places in the first place, whether it’s environmental or social impact. It is the emergence of a new type of emerging business leader, the entrepreneur, who’s taking the old rules of business and undoing them for a new world. With new rules. Where the size of the audience is not the determining factor, it’s the depth of your passion.

The steps

Step 1: Think impact first. Know exactly what success looks like before you begin, and measure, recalibrate and celebrate as you reach it. 

Step 2: Question all the small things

Step 3: Refine Your Superpower. We’ve all got something that makes us unique, a small ‘superpower’ that gives us an edge.

Step 4: Define your altar. For a business, your altar could be somewhere physical, like a store or a real-world event, or it could be a digital place where people congregate.

Step 5: Drop the bullshit. Stand up proudly for what you believe in, even if that means some people won’t like it.

Step 6: Lead From the Middle. Develop a strong and passionate community around your business.

Step 7: Strap Yourself In. It will be a roller coaster.

Think impact

If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito. Cult business leaders clearly define their intention before they do anything else, and make specific, achievable targets that they refine as they grow. Concentrating on the human impact first helps to focus your decision-making. Where revenue is a by-product of impact. Where business is used as a force for good in the world.

Write an impact statement

Most companies already have a mission statement. In many cases, a simple, so what, explanation of what they’re aiming to do. But few companies have an impact statement that lays out exactly the effect they want to have on the people who use their service or product. Think Ikigai. 

Question all the small things

Imagine you could rebuild your business from the ground up. If you would start again, what would be different? Read and in particular reveres attribute listing. Map the touchpoints or talk triggers.

Refine Your superpower

One of the ways they become experts is by learning how to say no to things that distract them from their missions. The other is a deceptively simple way of deciding if you really want to do something. If anyone wants you to do something, give it a number out of ten based on how enthusiastic you feel about it. The only rule is that it can’t be a seven. A six is a no, and an eight is a hell-yeah. And if it’s not a hell-yeah, then it’s a no.’

Some questions to ask

  • What were you obsessed with as a teenager?
  • How would someone describe you in three words? 
  • What do people come to you for? 
  • What are you naturally good at? Finish this sentence: I’m at my best when…
  • What would your business (or friends/family) miss if you weren’t there? 
  • What would the first three sentences of your obituary be?

Define your altar

To build a cult business, you need to have an altar. This is somewhere all the people who love your product, service or mission can come together with other followers and focus their energy at the same time. It means creating your own language and rituals. Is there an existing ritual people do with your product or service that you can help amplify?

Define your enemy

Every business needs an ‘enemy’ to fight to fire up your followers. By defining what you don’t stand for, you can show what it is that you do. Take a large piece of white paper and create two columns: ‘Us’ and ‘Them’. Define and name your enemy.

Drop the bullshit 

Drop the bullshit stand for something honestly, and you’ll be respected. Most of us can smell bullshit from miles away. That’s why the desire for people and businesses that straight up tell you the truth, cut through the bullshit and deliver it without fanfare is winning new audiences. Millennials want a brand that tells them the honest, unvarnished truth, even when it’s unpleasant. 

Fake no longer works

They understand the fakeness of influencer culture; we all know they’re being paid to use the products, and the high gloss and heavily constructed side of social media are waning, being replaced by an authentic aesthetic that champions real people with real problems over lies. With instant access to information comes accountability, fact-checking and the ability for groups of people who question the authenticity of something to get together and call businesses out. You can no longer tell false stories without coming unstuck.

Everything is storytelling

Millennials want to associate with companies that stand for something their management and employees believe in and are not afraid to talk about. Customers want to understand your business, and why you exist, so you need to find the right story that will best resonate with them. They want to know the ‘origin story of your business. The story of your product and craftsmanship The stories of the people who work with you The story behind the impact you have. The story about the quality of your work. The story of what you stand for as a business.

Everything is emotion

Every good story has a beginning, middle and an end, and it is told with emotion. Empathy is one of the clearest paths we have to connect with others. Sharing our emotional journeys allows others to get closer to us and understand our motivations. This is the most overlooked part of the process and is actually the most important.


There are five main reasons we share: 

1. To bring valuable and entertaining content to others

2. To define ourselves to others

3. To grow and nourish our relationships

4. For self-fulfilment

5. To get the word out about causes and brands

Lead from the middle

Do you lead from the front or behind? Do you follow the principles of ‘servant leadership? Are you the team ‘cheerleader’? A lot of books say you need to be the type of leader who runs ahead of everyone else to forge the path for the people behind you. The new generation of business leaders view themselves as one of a series of concentric circles, with each layer around them just as engaged with the company purpose as each other. Leading from the middle doesn’t mean you shirk responsibility or just stand back and create a leadership vacuum for others to fill. It means you set the direction for where you want to go, communicate it clearly for everyone to understand, and then walk alongside other people who believe in the same vision.

Strap yourself in

Try not to ride the highs and the lows like a rollercoaster. There will be good days, and there are going to be bad days. You have to find a way not to let those emotions get the best of you. Otherwise, you’ll waste a lot of time and energy on things you definitely can’t control, and that, in the end, probably doesn’t matter all that much. You will need the ability to adapt to change as the ground underneath you shifts if you’re going to have any chance of surviving business. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask questions. You’re only naive once, so make the most of it. 

Entrepreneurship is hard

Compared to others, entrepreneurs had:

  • two times higher rates of depression 
  • two times higher rates of suicide attempts
  • two times higher rates of psychiatric hospitalisation 
  • three times higher rates of substance abuse 
  • six times higher rates of ADHD 
  • ten times higher rates of bipolar disorder

Take care of yourself

Therefore it’s important to take care of yourself:

  • Starting with family and friends, the unsung heroes in every entrepreneurial journey are the partners, families and close friends of founders.  
  • Having co-founders on the same journey as you allows you to share the responsibility and lean on them when times are hard. 
  • As an entrepreneur, you choose the proper to work with you, which can make or break your business. 
  • Every good leader needs mentors who can gently guide you down the path that’s right for you, even if you don’t know it yet.
  • Meditate 
  • Look after your health

I would study Ayurveda as the operating system.

You are not alone

The book uses lots of examples. Allbirds, Ugly Drinks, Who Gives A Crap, Take 3 For The Sea, The Body Shop, Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia, The Responsible Company, Unyoked, Jarin Street, etc. They are doing it, and you should too.

It is OK

Finally, the book ends with an important statement. It’s OK to fuck up. It is much worse not to have tried. Read “Courage is calling“. If not you, who?

sensemaking cover


Sense making; morality, humanity, leadership and slow flow. A book about the 14 books about the impact and implications of technology on business and humanity.

Ron Immink

I help companies by developing an inspiring and clear future perspective, which creates better business models, higher productivity, more profit and a higher valuation. Best-selling author, speaker, writer.

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