Long before Apple launched the iPhone and changed the world forever, it was a mission driven company. Every product that left its doors, while Steve Jobs was in charge, was the result of his mission to combine technology with beautiful design.
Clearly defining his mission and executing it was an obsession. It even guided the way he recruited.
When trying to lure former Pepsi executive, John Sculley, Jobs famously asked him: "Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?"
Born out of a strong founder-led culture, a mission-driven organization is not something leaders can fake or architect. Look at how Jobs turned Apple around and changed the way the world consumed content and bought software. In the same vein, Tesla founder Elon Musk hasn't just built a global automotive company, he's building a company that will help wean the world off its addiction to fossil fuels. These innovators are very successful at delivering on their vision. It wasn't just tacked on at the end of a presentation.
As a result, mission-driven companies are forces to be wary of. A company driven by its mission is really hard to stop. Marc Benioff's Salesforce is another really clear example where he's managed to build an ecosystem that drives his philanthropic and business values forward.
The passion that's involved in Apple, Tesla and Salesforce goes beyond sales cycles and day-to-day business operations because they're fundamentally built around the why.
You can feel the power and hustle of a naturally-led mission company. Back in Adobe's early days, we released Acrobat, a program that went on to completely transform how we dealt with documents through establishing PDFs as a universal file format.
There are businesses that do not exist anymore because Adobe dislocated their entire business. It's a company that changed the way photography, images and publishing were looked at, forever. They changed the way documents were designed and sent around the world.
Adobe founders John Warnock and Charles Geschke never really had to talk about culture or the mission, we all just felt it.
It's extremely rare for companies that aren't mission-led to change industries and, as a result, they've never been able to recruit the talent needed to make these sort of advances.
Take Apple in the days before Jobs was brought back into the fold. Without the strong founder influence or clear purpose, companies often lose their way. They're not driven by a mission, instead, you often see them throwing as much as they can at the wall and hoping something will stick.
It all comes back to the why. If you don't have a company that's founded on the why, these mission companies are really hard to beat, especially when you add really strong operations and management.
Take my company Xero, with the founders still heavily involved in the company direction and management, it's built a solid foundation as a cloud accounting company that is striving to help small businesses around the world thrive. By boosting the success of small businesses around the world you can lift entire economies. It's not only very powerful, it's our company mission which guides hiring, development and customer acquisition.
Being driven by a mission keeps us heading in the right direction, and challenging what we're working on so we can do beautiful work. A true mission gives you a reason to wake up in the morning, it's empowering.
Musk, Jobs and Benioff are passionate, change the world kind of guys and as a result, their companies are doing an amazing job of transforming the industries in which they play in. But most importantly, they're driven by their mission.