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Finding your ‘why’ – the importance of having business purpose beyond rands and cents

Article provided by Discovery Business Insurance.

Nando’s co-founder, Robbie Brozin, is all about aligning with a bigger purpose – “beyond chicken”– as he puts it. Over the years, the fast-food business has found purpose in a youth employment accelerator, a textile initiative and an art program which boasts the biggest collection of African art in the world.

 “We knew early on, that Nando’s is not just about selling chicken,” says Robbie Brozin, co-founder of Nando’s, which 30-odd years later is one of the most successful South African businesses out there.

“When Fernando and I started the business, we were both not from the fast food industry at all. We quickly realised how hard it was to work in restaurants, but also that it is quite transactional. We knew that ultimately, we also wanted to inspire people,” says Brozin.

“It wasn’t called purpose at that stage. It was just something that we just instinctively felt that we wanted to do. I’ve got a document from 30 years ago, where we said Nando’s is not about chicken. It has never been just about chicken. It is about pride, passion, courage, integrity, and family,” he says.

Brozin says that despite start-ups being cash-strapped, giving back can be part of the extended business plan. This can help to make the core business successful, depending on how the program aligns, and it also gives it purpose beyond making a profit.

“As the years have gone on, I have now made the purpose-driven initiatives my main dealings in the business,” he says.

Nando’s started an art program, with unknown but talented South African street artists, who then kitted out restaurants in the United Kingdom and in South Africa. It is now the biggest collection of African art in the world. “You know, the art is making our chicken taste better. It really is. That’s a crazy thing. And also,  you’re actually putting an asset on your wall, as opposed to a cost from infrastructure and designers, because it will appreciate in time.”

“We’ve been doing this, probably for about 15 years,” he says.

Purpose can help a business grow in an indirect way

Brozin says business can enjoy offshoots such as these, to inspire growth in other areas of the business. “The impact is just so enormous. It spoke to our soul, which was an important element. So, there was a deep commitment for good. It’s not charity. This is a deeply embedded into the soul of the brand, where you’ve got shared common value between us and the artists.”

He adds that the key is to start at home, or in the business itself. When grillers wanted to become restaurant managers, the groups started an education and skills program to facilitate this.

“Harambee is another program we invested in, which was kick-started with the people around us. It is a youth incubator, to train and help youth get into the workforce by connecting with corporates. That makes it efficient for corporate, so  there’s a bit of a saving for corporates to join. We also were one of the very first to employ youth from Harambee. What makes it special are the people who really thrive from the experience,” he says.

And then there are other programs, like fighting malaria in Africa, which were not aligned but which were important to the Nando family.

It isn’t about PR

To make purpose and values work, Brozin adds, business must detach from the brand gaining public relations from its work in social good.

“It shouldn’t be for the instant gratification for the brand, or if you do things because it’s going to get you press,” says Brozin. “Often then, it’s not connected. Also handing over a cheque for a photo means you haven’t really impacted that organisation. You haven’t really sorted out their sustainable model.”

Brozin says it is important to find “the link that you are personally passionate about, so you’ve got your own personal purpose.”


Finding solutions that have an impact long after the founders have left, is the key.  

“You just got to do it, and then the impact will talk for itself,” he adds.

Creating deeper meaning for the country

“It is essential, critical today in South Africa, to do business in the right way. There’s so many problems but if you put your mind to it and find a creative solution around it,” says Brozin.

“I think the old style of business, where you’re running a business just for profit is gone. Yes, business must make a profit but you also have to be working with the constituents around you. And it’s around society. You’ve got to leave society in a better place.”

The 15-episode Healthy Business Show is brought to you by Discovery Business Insurance. Listen to the full podcast episode, ‘Find your why’ with Robbie Brozin below.

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