From profit to purpose: Simon Griffiths shares his advice on marketing, technology and leadership

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Simon Griffiths, CEO and co-founder of Who Gives a Crap. Origin: Supplied.

Simon Griffiths spent 50 hours sitting on a toilet in a cold store to fund his business idea, Jehan Ratnatunga and Danny Alexander – an e-commerce toilet paper business that invests its profits in building toilets in poor communities.

Since 2012, it has made more than $20 million in profits, half of which has been donated to nonprofit partners working on clean water and sanitation projects.

Griffiths sat down for an interview, sharing his marketing tips, how he created technology solutions as the company grew, and how he adapted his leadership as the company grew.

Take shots to hit homeruns

In 2018, Who Gives A Crap launched a marketing campaign offering a free trial pack to customers who signed up for a toilet paper subscription, launching it on Earth Day.

They converted 10,000 new customers in the first two days. Prior to this campaign, the team was converting 20,000 customers per month.

But “home runs” like that only happen because they take so many hits, according to Griffiths.

“We have marketing campaigns that fall flat every week and campaigns that exceed goals every month,” he says.

“Successful companies have just enough hits to hit enough home runs to get them where they need to go.”

But you can’t keep swinging forever, notes Griffiths. The company has the ability to text and email around the clock, “but that would be a horrible customer experience,” he says.

The litmus test for him is whether it’s content he’d want to read himself, and whether he’d be happy to receive an email and open it.

“We’re trying to get to a place where if someone sees us in the inbox, they know it’s going to make them smile,” says Griffiths.

Gaffa tape technology solutions

As one of Australia’s first e-commerce companies on Shopify, Griffiths says they’ve had to make do with many of their technology choices as they grow.

“We always felt like we were about six to 12 months ahead of the ongoing platform development plans,” says Griffiths.

To manage, Griffiths and the team had to settle for options that gave them 70% of the capacity they needed, and find a way to “gaffa tape” the final third.

An example is WGAC’s decision to offer free delivery to Australian customers in their first few years, although it can only really offer it to seven out of 10 customers.

Because there was no plugin available to calculate shipping costs from zip code, the team had to manually check every order that came in, and if free shipping was not possible for them, send the customer an email asking for $8 to ship their order.

The only alternative option was to build his own full tech stack.

Even if Griffiths had a background in computers, it just wasn’t going to be a good use of his time, he decided.

“We had bigger fish to fry,” he says.

How his leadership style changed

When Griffiths started, he says he felt he had to solve all the company’s problems himself. The business started lacked capital and new recruits had to be trained – it was not possible to hire very experienced people.

But as the company grew, the problems became too big for him to even think about solving, he says.

“You have to move from that kind of very problem-focused mindset to now figuring out how you inspire the team to solve those problems,” says Griffiths.

For him, it was about evolving from being near problems, and giving his team the agency to solve them.

Instead of being in the weeds, he sees his role as inspiring and leading them to tackle problems in the best way possible.

Griffiths says it achieves this by explicitly tying everyone’s day-to-day work to the company’s overall goal – to make sure everyone in the world has access to toilets and clean water by 2050.

This is the 30-year goal, which is further broken down into five-year goals, then one-year strategies, down to an individual or team’s quarterly goal.

While not all small businesses are explicitly purpose-driven like the WGAC is, every organization has a purpose, says Griffiths.

“Understanding how to find that purpose and articulate it in a way that people can easily remember and connect to it is the biggest challenge.”

You can watch the full webinar, Nailing down growth: Ambitious leaders reflect on their journey from goal to impactfor even more information.

Read now: Jessica Box, Head of Growth at Linktree, shares her journey from growth to impact

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