Purpose Matters in Business

“Lean in to Purpose”  – Jonathan Mildenhall

I was recently at a conference where Jonathan Mildenhall was a key note speaker. For those of you who don’t know Jonathan (and I don’t expect you to), he was previously the Chief Marketing Officer at Coca Cola and is now the Chief Marketing Officer at AirBnB. His marketing pedigree is not the topic of this message, but his passion for building “purpose driven companies” is.

His presentation was fantastic. In fact, as he took us through a journey of his career and some of the hallmark marketing campaigns he has overseen with Coca Cola and AirBnB, you could clearly see the impact that purpose has on those two organizations. And its not that these two companies are charities – far from that. But their commitment to purpose helped drive both to notable growth and brand success. Consider the following elements of Purpose from each of these companies:

• Coca Cola: To refresh the world…To inspire moments of optimism and happiness…
• AirBnB: Creating real connections/friendships between likeminded people

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The Meaning of Life

“To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.”  – Friedrich Nietzsche

I’ve always thought Nietzsche was an interesting study. A German (Prussian) philosopher born in the mid 1800s, his writings are both profound and controversial. His beliefs centered around the concept of good and evil, struggle and survival, an assessment of humanity as incomplete, and its need to evolve to a new set of values (as knowledge destabilizes old values). And to be clear, I don’t necessarily agree with all his writings or his beliefs. But taken in parts, his writings can often be very thought provoking.

Such is the case with this quote. I heard it recited by an American veteran recently in a documentary on the causes and outcomes of the Vietnam war. For those of you who are students of history, you know that war was one of tremendous suffering – for all sides involved. And the trauma it left for those involved has taken decades to heal (if at all). But this is not a story on the lessons of Vietnam. Rather, it’s a testament to the profound nature of the words of Nietzsche. Continue reading

Persist and Overcome

“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it” – Margaret Thatcher

How does that saying go? “Two steps forward and one step back”, or something like that. If only it were true. Problem is, the adage implies a measure of progress. Two forward, one back – that means you have at least seen a net movement forward of one step, right? For most of us this just isn’t true. “Two steps forward, two steps back” is more appropriate. Or maybe even “One step forward, two steps back”. Either way, we all face this challenge from time to time, where every measure of progress forward seems to be met with setbacks, and we find ourselves back to square one working to regain ground we previously held, then lost.

I recall a humorous story I’ve told before about my time building a global contingent workforce management (otherwise known as MSP) business at TAPFIN. At the time, we had developed a fantastic business model in North America and in key countries in Northern Europe, and the mandate was to expand in to other key markets – in this case, France. The growth of the MSP model was just beginning to take shape, and Europe was the new frontier. We had a base of business in the UK, Belgium, and The Netherlands, but France was by far the largest staffing market in Europe. And we wanted our piece of the pie. Continue reading

Actions Speak More Loudly Than Words

“What you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Think about that quote for a moment – “What you do speaks SO LOUDLY I cannot hear what you say”. Simple yet prophetic. Truer words have never been spoken.

While researching quotes specifically for this leadership message, I thumbed through dozens, but this one struck a chord. An artist with a pen, Ralph Waldo Emerson was a master at communicating thought. A poet, lecturer, and essayist – his writings often centered around key ideas such as individuality, self-determination, self-reliance, and the capacity of the individual.

That’s why this quote caught my eye. I, too, believe in the capacity of the individual & our ability to achieve great things, when we put our mind to it. I believe both in the importance of self-determination and self-reliance. But, I also believe in something more – our ability to influence the action and behavior of others (both positively and negatively), and the significant responsibility it accompanies. Continue reading

No Substitute for Hard Work

“Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.” – Vince Lombardi

I’ve been pondering this message for some time – writing about the importance of hard work. It seems so cliché these days to write about the obvious benefits of hard work – and even more cliché to start a leadership blog with such well-used quotes as those from Vince Lombardi. What’s more, I’ve worried about whether my message will offend those who might interpret this message as an affront to their work ethic.

But this message is important. It’s time to put the softer elements of leadership aside and speak to the heart of the matter – and quite simply it is this…most people don’t put forth the effort that is truly required to be successful in their life pursuits. Whether that’s at work, with family, with friendships, or in our hobbies, too many of us think that we can shortcut that process and still succeed.

Newsflash! Nothing in life comes easy. More importantly, nothing in life is worth having if it isn’t earned. “No pain, no gain” – isn’t that how the saying goes? Why then do so many people long for success (professional, financial, etc) but fail to put in the effort required for that achievement? Continue reading

Hardship and Duress

“Hardship can turn out to be a great blessing, and disasters are sometimes remembered more fondly than weddings or tropical vacations. Humans don’t mind duress; in fact, they thrive on it. What they mind is not feeling necessary or valued for their contribution…”  – Sebastian Junger

A good friend of mine shared this quote with me last week, and for some reason it really struck a cord. Not that I am dealing with more hardship or duress than anyone else. Then again, it seems challenges lurk in every corner and at every turn.

Some of my fondest memories come from times in my youth when such challenges existed. The soccer games we lost against our biggest rivals in our run for state, only after months of grueling practice. The many car wrecks I had (yes, I was a horrible driver), and working two jobs to pay off the damages. Continue reading

A Purposeful Brand

“Authentic brands don’t emerge from marketing cubicles or advertising agencies. They emanate from everything the company does…” – Howard Schultz

I was sharing dinner earlier this week with several of my colleagues, and the conversation turned to the topic of work, motivation, and ambitions. One of the more rewarding aspects of my job is to understand what motivates my fellow team members – and to make sure we honor those elements as we build our business.

“To be honest, I just love helping people find work”, one of our recruiters said. “The beauty of working in staffing is that you get the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life every day”. Prophetic words that spoke volumes about what motivated her behavior.

And I can tell you this statement was a genuine as the day is long. I know this because I saw it in action. Earlier that day we met several of our consultants during a client visit. One of those consultants pulled our recruiter aside to inform her his assignment would be ending prematurely. I wasn’t part of that conversation, but I did witness the follow up. Continue reading

Focus and Simplicity

“Mastery comes from a monomaniacal focus on simplicity vs. an addiction to complexity” – Robin Sharma

“What you stay focused on will grow” – Roy Bennett

I have always been a student of success in business and have long admired those who are able to achieve profitable growth even in the most difficult of times. Many of my past leadership messages have spoken about the importance of culture in driving this success. So too have I written about attitude, an important element of culture. But today I want to discuss the value of focus and simplicity as two of the most important elements of success in business.

Over the last several months I have spent a considerable amount of time researching this topic. In addition to looking at the qualities that drive our most successful (and least successful) branch operations, I’ve also looked outside at some of the more successful companies in our industry. Believe me when I say this wasn’t a casual effort – I have mountains of data behind this. In the end this exercise has led me to one inevitable conclusion – teams that live and bleed focus and simplicity achieve disproportionate growth, have higher staff engagement/satisfaction levels, and provide better service for their customers.
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