A story of personal purpose: Jesse Boot

According to Simon Sinek, knowing your ‘why’ (Simon Sinek, Start with Why) is vital if you want to have a successful business which is sustainable in the long term. This is true whether the business is your own or if you work in someone else’s business. No-one feels motivated to achieve goals when they don’t believe in what they are doing and why they are doing it.

I’ve written about purpose here.

If you are responsible for managing people at work, communicating the organisational purpose and how your own purpose relates to it, will help you motivate them. Emotions like drive and enthusiasm are catching and, providing your team members have a personal purpose congruent with the purpose of the business, motivation will soar.

Today I’m looking at Boots the Chemist and how the personal purpose of one man created a business that grew beyond his dreams.

Jesse Boot gained a strong sense of purpose whilst he spent his childhood in Nottingham during the mid nineteenth century with his devout Wesleyan parents.

Wesleyan Methodism was originally part of the Church of England. It was founded by John Wesley (1703 – 1791). John Wesley believed in equality. He supported the abolition of the slave trade and encouraged women to become preachers. He was a poet, he composed hymns and he wrote books on physics and medicine. It is no surprise that during his lifetime and after his death he influenced and inspired a great many people.

Inspired by the Wesleyan movement John Boot, Jesse’s father, strived to improve living conditions for all people. He did this principally through healthcare. He learnt about botanical medicine through remedies passed down through the generations and from John Wesley’s book Primitive Physic or An Easy and Natural Method of Curing Most Diseases.

Jesse Boot spent his early childhood helping his father by foraging for herbs and plants that could be used in his medicines. From the age of thirteen he helped his mother in the family store selling botanical soaps, herbal remedies and other household items. Jesse studied as much as possible until he became proficient in plant based medicine. In his late twenties he took over the running of the shop.

Jesse’s sole purpose was to enable affordable healthcare solutions for the whole community. He used this purpose as the driving force for every business decision he made.

Jesse decided to expand his products by making patented medicines available to the community. He hired a qualified chemist, E S Waring. The next obstacle to overcome was the banning of cut price drug stores selling patented medicines. Jesse successfully fought the case.

Jesse knew that the only way to sell his products at the best price possible was to start buying in bulk. By this time he had a loyal customer base and the business had become cash rich and this enabled him to fulfil his dream of providing affordable healthcare solutions.

The business grew exponentially. By 1914 there were 540 shops throughout the UK. He called them Boots Cash Chemist.

Boots the Chemist still exists today, more than one hundred years later. Their mission is ‘To be the first choice for pharmacy, health and beauty – caring for people, customers and communities everywhere’ In 2012 they were ranked in The Sunday Times Top 25 big companies to work for.

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