The Power of Purpose in Business

It was the spring of 2013 and my first full year as an entrepreneur. I had been introduced to S. Chris Edmonds by a mutual friend. I mentioned to Chris that I was working on launching my business as an author and speaker. He recommended that I speak to Mark Levy.  

Mark Levy leads a consulting practice called Levy Innovation focused on positioning. Described as the “horse whisperer” for writers, Levy had worked with prominent thought leaders such as Marshall Goldsmith, Simon Sinek, David Meerman Scott, and Cali Yost. I hired Mark to help me with my platform. Over six weeks, he coached me on creating marketplace differentiation, crafting an elevator pitch, mining my backstory, and developing a go-to-market strategy.

Mark is brilliant. He taught me about crafting a big idea and developing a backstory. We spent a considerable amount of time on not only the what and how, but also the why. To illustrate the importance of communicating my why, Mark shared a story about one of his clients. It was one I’d never forget.

The Power of Purpose

CalculatorThe client was a financial planner serving small business owners. Let’s call him Ed. Ed had shared with Mark that he recruited the majority of his new clients by speaking. He would give a 90 minute seminar on managing finances. At the end of the seminar, Ed would offer a free one hour consultation/assessment. If there was 40 people in the room, he’d typically have only two or three take him up on the offer. The need to grow his client base led him to Mark. Mark asked Ed why he chose to pursue a career in accounting. He shared that the inspiration began during his teenage years. His parents had passed away in a car accident and he was raised by his grandparents. His grandfather had worked at a local company for over 30 years. His grandmother was working as an office administrative assistant in a local school. Ed could remember sitting in his living room at age 14 like it was yesterday. His grandfather was next to him reading the newspaper. An advertisement caught his eye. The ad was for the sale of a local butcher shop. He approached his wife and expressed his desire to purchase the business. They both would quit and go into business for themselves. She was skeptical, but eventually agreed.

Ed watched his grandparents cash in their life savings to start the new business. The butcher shop didn’t make any money the first year, lost money in year two, and a little more in year three. By the end of the fifth year they had lost the remaining capital and were forced to close the business. Instead of enjoying their retirement, they went back to getting full-time jobs and both worked until they passed away. Ed shared that he went into accounting because he didn’t want to have other small business owners experience what had happened to his grandparents. Mark asked Ed to share this personal backstory during his next seminar. The results were staggering. Ed merely told his backstory on why he became a financial planner before starting his regular session. At the end he made his usual pitch. The difference was that 37 out of the 40 attendees took him up on the offer, many of whom became clients for Ed.

Arriving at the Ultimate Differentiator

I began writing back in 2008. For one year I blogged about 50 different topics in marketing. Searching for what I thought would be a game changer in business. The following year I would have a “moment of truth” in New York City that changed my life. I walked away from that experience believing the biggest myth in business was the idea of meeting customer expectations. Too much attention was being placed on acquisition. Going forward businesses  would need to find the little things to maximize the customer experience by putting customers first. Taking care of the customers they had, so those customers would bring them the (referred) customers they wanted.

I became a disciple of the late Ted Levitt. Levitt believed that business should put the customer at the center of everything they do. Levitt asserted that “The search for meaningful distinction is central to the marketing effort. If marketing is about anything, it is about achieving customer-getting distinction by differentiating what you do and how you operate. All else is derivative of that and only that.” I believed the focus of business should be on customers and not just chasing bottom line profits. Profit was the result, not the aim. Customer experience was to become the new marketing.

PurpleGoldfishAfter collecting over 1,000 examples and writing Purple Goldfish, my thinking was slightly altered. I found that the companies who did the little extras for customers, also applied the same principles for their employees. In fact, many of those successful companies seemed to place a greater emphasis on culture and putting their employees first. It led me to crowdsource another 1,000+ examples. These examples were focused on the little things for employees to help drive engagement and reinforce culture. The result was my second book, the Green Goldfish.

GreenGoldfishMy outlook after Green Goldfish was altered once again. I had previously held the view that you treat all of your customers and all of your employees the same. I came to realize that for most companies, 80% of profitability is created by just 20% of customers. In addition, 80% of the value that is created by a business, comes from just 20% of the employees. I realized that you don’t treat everyone the same, you treat everyone fairly. My third book in the original trilogy, the Golden Goldfish, focused on the little things you do for your “vital few” in business.

GoldenGoldfishI now believe there is an ultimate differentiator. While writing Golden Goldfish I was introduced to Chris Malone. Chris Malone co-authored The Human Brand with Susan T. Fiske. The book examines the concepts of warmth and competence in relation to business. As humans, our brains are hardwired to sense warmth and competence immediately. Warmth trumps competence. It starts inside your organization and radiates to your customer. If you want to win the hearts of employees and wallets of customers, you must go out of your way to put their interests ahead of yours. Malone and Fiske call this the principle of worthy intentions. These worthy intentions are typically linked to the purpose of your company. Purpose is now becoming the ultimate differentiator.

The book Red Goldfish, co-authored by Graeme Newell,  (launching 2/14/17) will explore how business is evolving, the importance of putting purpose first, how to define your purpose, the eight purpose archetypes, and how to create the little things that bring purpose to life.

Red Goldfish Book

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – here is a slideshare presentation on the concept of a Red Goldfish:

Is It About You or Them? Make a Choice

By this time, it was mass chaos. Exacerbating matters was the fact that this was a post–September 11th world, where cute disguises don’t go over so well with airport security or law enforcement. Still thinking it was a heart attack, a defibrillator was used to shock me as Lindsay looked on in complete horror.

This is an excerpt from a story that my good friend, John Ruhlin, tells about his proposed engagement in his new book, Giftology: The Art and Science of Using Gifts to Cut Through the Noise, Increase Referrals, and Strengthen Retention

John reflects on the situation and notes that his elaborate plan to dress up as an old man and surprise his then girlfriend was based on the fact that he loves surprises. She would have been happy with something simple and the engagement should have been more about her rather than him.

John then expounds on this notion and comments, “We make a gift all about us. It’s our event, our colors, our themes, our preferences, our whatever—and it has little to do with the recipient. Be thoughtful about what’s motivating you, and be honest with yourself…[giving] isn’t about stepping into the spotlight—it’s about shining the light on someone else.

This principle of putting others first and genuinely serving them applies to every Goldfish concept. Too often, companies and people are quick to ask how the Goldfish concepts can build the top-line instead of giving from a generous heart to make the lives of the people that they serve better. Here’s a synopsis of the Goldfish:

Purple Goldfish- Give the little things to your customers to touch their hearts and create a better experience.  

Green Goldfish- Go beyond dollars to drive employee engagement and reinforce culture.

Golden Goldfish- Take extra special care of the top 20% of your customers and employees.

Blue Goldfish- Leverage technology to create a better customer experience and differentiate from competition.

Red Goldfish- Embrace purpose to drive employee and customer engagement, and make an impact on the lives of those the purpose serves.

When most people hear those concepts, they typically comment that they share these values and believe that they they’re important, but…

That’s when all of the “but’s” begin to set in and negate everything that was said before:

  • We have to experience growth and have quantifiable metrics and returns for our shareholders and investors. We can’t gamble on an “expensive” initiative and not have it correlate to results.
  • My boss and the board just don’t share these ideals.
  • We just don’t have time. We’re too busy.

On and on it goes. What starts as a positive, fruitful discussion transitions into the same old focus of financial results and nothing more. Oftentimes people will even comment and talk about participating in these business principles but it’s almost always about them and their organization. For example:

  • You give nice gifts branded with your logo to try and buy the loyalty of customers.
  • You’re nice to your employees because it’s expensive to replace them.
  • You invest in technology to alleviate long-term costs.
  • You establish a “purpose” as though it’s a marketing campaign to convey how thoughtful and philanthropic you are.

What can you do about this? Here are the three easy steps that you can take immediately:

1. Make a deliberate choice. You don’t have to overhaul your entire organization today to embrace these principles. You simply need to be intentional about positively impacting your customers and employees and make this the focus of your decision-making. Make it about the people that you serve and the strategic plan and little bits of action will follow.

2. Be the catalyst for positive change. If you truly believe that giving, serving, and making a positive difference in the lives of others then why have you not made this clear to your organization? Is it because you’re afraid of being talked about, not fitting in, detracting focus, or temporarily failing? Relentless commitment to creating and sharing vision with others is how positive change will permeate in your business.

3. Establish a plan. Would our team like to work with you to make executing these principles faster and easier? Of course. However, you can do this yourself if you’re willing to take little bits of daily action to intentionally design your customer experience, employee engagement, technology, and purpose. When you figure out what the right inputs are then you’ll inherently discover how they correlate to your top-line results.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – If you have an hour, check out Lewis Howes interviewing John Ruhlin about the principles of radical generosity. It’s worth your time!


"For Purpose" or "Not For Purpose"? That is the Question.

“Brooks, we’re going to make so much money together, buddy!”

This is what the CEO of our newly created entity exclaimed to me on a warm spring night while sipping an expensive craft beer atop a rooftop bar overlooking the Charlotte, NC, skyline.

For some reason, that statement really struck a nerve with me.

Maybe it was because I liked to focus the last few hours of my day on personal and professional development, and was reminded about the time that I was sacrificing to be here.

Perhaps it was because he was drinking a $12 bottle of beer while a majority of the world was starving to death. (Sorry, the inner hippie in me just came out).

Ultimately, I realized that the purpose we had set forth was not consistent with the type of value that I wanted to create with, and for, others.   

Without skipping a beat, I quickly responded, “Yes, I hear you, and that’s awesome. To be candid, I care more about creating something remarkable together and genuinely serving the community. The money will be a byproduct of our service. Whose lives are we going to make better as a result of our existence?”

He looked puzzled and the conversation quickly tapered off. Most of our group had worked together in a previous life and they clamored about the “good ol’ days.” They excitedly made plans about how big we were going to grow and what they would do with their newfound wealth. I stood there knowing that as badly as I wanted to fit in; this square peg was not going into a round hole. Our values just weren’t congruent.

The Elusive Red Goldfish

It’s easy to get “cause marketing,” and the overall new wave of philanthropic infused business models confused. The newest book to emerge from the Purple Goldfish platform is entitled, Red Goldfish, written by my colleagues, Stan Phelps and Graeme Newell, and it argues that all businesses must choose to be “for purpose” or “not for purpose” in 2016 and moving forward.

The most common problem that I see is entities treating “purpose” as though it’s a campaign or integrating this aspect because they’re “supposed to” or because “everyone else is doing it.” The end result is an effort that typically comes across as contrived, and ultimately, chock-full of lackluster results.

Let me be clear, profit should be a primary goal in business. Without properly stewarding over your finances and investment, you’ll never have the ability to create more opportunity for others. My argument is that entities must begin, or reinvent themselves, with the end result in mind.

In essence, businesses must ask, “Whose lives are we looking to positively change, and how are we going to make the world a better place?”

Enter “For Purpose” Entities

As I just mentioned, companies seem to align with a different cause and are all out to make a positive difference in the world virtually everywhere you look now. While all of this action is wonderful to see, I came up with five keys based on my failures, overall experience, and copious amounts of research to create and sustain meaningful “for purpose” entities.

1. Start with an idea.

John Rivers of 4 Rivers Smokehouse didn’t set out to create Florida’s largest barbecue chain. John cooked his now world famous brisket to serve his community, raise money for those in need locally, and to gently evangelize.

At the root of it all, John lives out his vocational purpose. He acted on an idea which begets excitement which begets passion which begets purpose. When you have a joyful heart toward your cause you’ll always take massive action, and this all comes as a result of being led by the right idea.

2. Be inclusive.

Too often entities want to make their impact all about them. You’ve seen it time and time again when entities make proclamations in their communications to say, “See, look at what we did for all of these people and how awesome we are.” They’ve made it all about them and how great they are.

They talk about what their vision is and how they are going to accomplish their goals. But what about the people that they serve? What about their employees and the people that want to help? Everyone wants something to believe in. Are you giving them the opportunity to be a part of your movement and inviting them to do so?  

3. Intentionally permeate your purpose-driven culture. 

One of the largest disconnects with purpose are the personal connections to the stories about the end results. So what can you do about it?

I highly recommend creating internal and external communications that celebrate how your employees, customers, and community align with your purpose. Take the time to celebrate the instances where your purpose has manifested as often as possible. Hang up pictures or post them on your website to tell the stories of the people that you have helped by living out your purpose. The possibilities here are endless.

4. Lose yourself in service. 

Too many entities focus on the outcomes in the form of a P&L and financial statements when they need to be focusing on a few strategic inputs. My suggestion is to garner that focus on a few customer impact measures, i.e. what are the few activities that we can take scalable action on that drive our customer’s overall experience and the top-line?

The biggest disconnect that I see is the inability to correlate the right measures of service to profitability. Therein lies the key to truly losing yourself in service to others and the commitment to become a servant leader.

5. Say what you mean and execute.

Have you ever seen a speaker that looked the part, put on an excellent presentation, and said all of the right things but you just couldn’t bring yourself to trust them? Something about them just made you think that they are going to jump off stage and engage with the superficial (and typically illicit) pleasures that money buys.

Amy Cuddy of the Harvard Business School has argued that our primitive brain immediately evaluates every person that we meet by asking two questions: “What are this person’s intentions toward me?” and “How strong and competent is this person?”

Competence is the key word in those questions. Your employees, customers, and community are all counting on you to follow through with what you say you’re going to do. The second you start making successions; you’ll have broken trust and will create a slippery slope of incompetence.

The unfortunate part that is never addressed is that no one wants to deal with confrontation head on and call out your incongruence.

Instead, your employees will talk after hours over drinks and let their discontent fester. Your customers will leave without saying a word because they don’t care about you. And the community will talk behind closed doors about how they don’t support you. Before you know it, you’re out of business and feeling empty inside.

If you make bold promises, stick to them no matter what. Your word is your bond.

Et Tu, Brute?

Will you be one of the “for purpose” or “not for purpose” entities moving forward? Either choice is completely acceptable and I hope that you don’t choose the “for purpose” angle just because everyone else is doing it or that you want to look good in the eyes of others.

Personally, I look forward to the day when I’m able to turn to a group of young men and women to cast vision and make a statement very similar to this one:

We’re going to develop 100 million transformational leaders together. As a result, we’ll be able to take care of our families and create amazing experiences with people that we love and care about.

…Oh yeah, and we’ll make some money too as a result.

The Edelman Earned Brand Study Reinforces the Importance of Purpose in Customer Experience

I had the opportunity to be the opening keynote PRSA Houston’s PR Day last week. The luncheon keynote was given by Edelman’s Tonia Ries. Tonia presented findings from their Global Earned Brand Study.

Tonia Ries Edelman Earned Brand

Becoming an Earned Brand

Here are some highlights from the study of over 13,000 consumers in 13 countries:
  • The pace of change in marketing is accelerating rapidly.
  • Upstarts like Uber, Tesla, Warby Parker and airBNB are challenging long-established brands, and categories are being re-imagined.
  • Purpose is emerging as an expectation. The study found that 62 percent of respondents would refuse to buy a brand if it fails to meet its obligations to society.
The Study aimed to codify the strength of consumer-brand relationships. The Edelman Brand Relationship Index measures brands on a 100 point scale based on 18 variables. The average score was just 38. The Takeaway: There is a tremendous opportunity for brands to strengthen and grow.

5 Stages of the Relationship

The Study showed five distinct stages of a brand relationship: Indifferent, Interested, Invested, Involved, and Committed.
Photo Credit: Edelman Earned Brand Executive Summary

Photo Credit: Edelman Earned Brand Executive Summary

To quote the Study,
At the Indifferent level, shoppers buy without much thought. At Interested, they might choose a brand over competitors based on their recall of a review or a logo. By Involved, consumers actively scan the shelf for the brand. But the real commitment comes in the last two stages, where the consumer mindset moves from ‘me’ to ‘we.’ At Invested,the consumer believes the brand shares his or her values, and might try to convince another shopper not to buy a competitor. Finally, at the top of the scale [Committed], the relationship truly becomes about shared benefit—the consumer will take action with and for the brand.

Where are the Opportunities?

earned brand indexOut of seven attributes, there are a couple clear opportunities for brands (highlighted in yellow and purple. Those attributes are acting with purpose and telling a memorable story. This aligns with the work Graeme Newell and I are doing in the Red Goldfish Project. A red goldfish is when a brand embraces being for-purpose and does the little things to bring that purpose to life for both customers and employees.

Final Takeaways

Here is how Edelman defines an earned brand:
The Earned Brand’s story is not simply told, it is demonstrated and experienced; and, to do that, brands can’t operate with a style guide alone.The Earned Brand has a world view and a belief system, a purpose and a reason for being—one that defines not just the communications, but how the brand behaves online,offline, and in all contexts.An expressed set of values informs which products are made, which language is used, how customers are treated, and ultimately the legacy the brand leaves in the communities it serves.
Here’s my takeaway: Your brand is no longer what you say it is. It’s what your customer experiences, what shared beliefs you have, how they feel about your brand, and most importantly… what they share with others.
Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – here’s a video with Richard Edelman and Michelle Hutton talking about the Earned Brand Study:

The Fuller Cut Barbershop Embraces Kids And Literacy To Be For Purpose

Walk into The Fuller Cut barber shop and you’ll find something interesting happening in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Kids are reading as they are getting their haircut. It’s good business for both the child and The Fuller Cut. Kids who read receive $2 off their haircut.

Photo Credit: The Fuller Cut

Photo Credit: The Fuller Cut

The shop is owned and operated by, Alex Fuller, a lifelong resident of Ypsilanti.  In 1994 Alex opened his first barber shop, a small, three chair establishment. Years later he purchased a building, did some renovations and brought in some great barbers.

According to a report in the Huffington Post, this idea is taking place in other barber shops across the country in places like Dubuque, Houston, and Columbus. Credit Alex Fuller for adopting a great idea. To quote Pablo Picasso, “Talent borrows, genius steals.”

More Than Literacy

Promoting literacy is only one aim of the discount offer. The purpose is to promote confidence and culture. According to Alex Fuller, “All our books have positive images of African-Americans — whether it’s astronauts, athletes or writers.”

Photo Credit: The Fuller Cut

Photo Credit: The Fuller Cut

Red Goldfish

The Fuller Cut is a great example of a Red Goldfish. A company that embraces purpose before profit. It’s learned that by being for purpose, you can create prophets.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – here’s a video about The Fuller Cut from MLIVE:

Five Unforgettable Bits of Wisdom from John Maxwell

Recently I went to Atlanta, GA, to help serve John Maxwell at a conference. It was a bit of a sacrifice, and I fell behind in my work by at least two days. I also paid my own way just to be there. You heard me correctly…I invested my time and hard-earned money to volunteer.

And I can tell you unequivocally that I would gladly pay to be able to serve, again and again. Spending 10 hours in a room with a master that had devoted his entire life to systems of leadership and constant growth was an honor.


Most would say that John Maxwell is a book writing machine (80 plus and counting), but I believe that he has merely chosen to be intentional, full of purpose, and dedicated to what he has been called to do in his vocation. Those simple decisions are all that it took for him to become the best in the world.

I have over 20 pages of notes on the topic of growth laws but I went ahead and developed the five top takeaways from the weekend along with my thoughts on them:

1. “Good becomes great when you change a life.”

As leaders, this should always be our sole goal in all that we do. Positively impacting and changing the lives of all of the people that we serve is what it’s all about. However, how often do we let ourselves get bogged down with the [not as] important, everyday activities? How often do we focus on our P&L, and only analyze the output numbers?

Those are good behaviors and overall mindset; but it’s one of the keys that separates the good from the great. Greatness transpires when a leader chooses to make a commitment to change lives of the people that they serve, and refuses to dilute their efforts with mediocre behaviors.

2. “Transformation begins within yourself. Start with you, and go from there.” 

Too often we set out to change and mold others when we’re the ones with the major character flaws. Before a flight takes off, who do the flight attendants tell you to take care of first in case of an emergency when the oxygen masks fall from the overhead compartment? For all of those that are too busy getting in those last second emails or watching Inception on your portable DVD player, they tell you to take care of yourself so that you can then care for others. You can’t help anyone if you’re on the floor gasping for air.

The same applies to engaging our people. If we can’t take care of ourselves, and lead in the way that the rest of the world is counting on us to; then there will be no one to follow us.

3. “Every day, get a win. Do something for someone that they couldn’t for themselves.” 

If we’re winning every single day, and celebrating those successes; then we’re making progress. The key to servant leadership is providing value to others by giving them something that they can’t do alone. Most people tend to overthink this component when it’s actually quite simple at its core.

Can people listen to themselves, and give tidbits of wisdom that they’ve never heard before? Can people learn something new that they currently know nothing about? Nope, and that’s where you, as the leader, need to step in and be proactive about how you can help others. As the saying goes, “the more you know, the more you know what you don’t know.”

4. “Don’t tell me, show me what you’re going to do.”

How many people do you know that are still talking about what they’re going to do, and all of the amazing plans that they have? If you’re honest with yourself, do you have the tendency to be one of those leaders as well at times?

This is especially pertinent when it comes to how you lead your people. They don’t care what you were, or are, going to do for them. They want to see how you can serve them, add value to them, and make their lives better. This is your responsibility and calling as a leader.

5. “No matter how far you go, you have to remember where you came from. That’s who you are, and that’s your foundation.” 

John ended his talk with a walking stick that reminds him where he’s been and what he has accomplished. Various areas of success have a way of putting us on a “feel good” drug where it becomes about you and what you’ve been able to achieve. In my estimation, John’s “walking stick” is the perfect symbol.

The walking stick helps support us when we’re dreary and want to give up. It helps us stay the course with where we’re going. It serves as a constant reminder with where we’ve been, what we’ve conquered, and helps keep us grounded.

This was my number one takeaway: “Where have you come from, and who are you, really?”

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Here is John presenting the same content to Nerium, a network marketing company that achieved over $1b in sales in just under six years. Nerium went “all in” on John Maxwell’s teachings, and the results show that the proof is in the pudding.



Photo credit:

You Gotta Serve Somebody

Guest Post by Dee Ann TurnerVP of Enterprise Social Responsibility for Chick-fil-A

One of the things that I love about working for my organization is the commitment to service. Sure, we have a commitment to serve our guests, but we also serve one another.

One time, I spent a week with leaders in another organization. These were truly some outstanding people for whom I have deep love and respect, but during the course of the week, while I was under their leadership, I noticed a certain anxiety building in me.

By the end of the week, I identified the anxiety. It was the absence of being in the presence of servant leadership. During this time with these leaders, they practiced privilege rather than service. When there was a line, they were at the front. When we ate, they were served first. At events, they had premium seating. When others needed help, they allowed someone else to do it.

The absence of servant leadership that I experienced helped me to value what I may have taken for granted in my organization. Leadership is a tremendous responsibility to not only lead, but also to serve those we lead. In my organization, it is imbedded into our culture that leaders are the first to arrive and the last to leave.

Leaders ensure that everyone is served before serving themselves. They give deference to others and do not expect, nor accept privilege.

For a number of years, I had the privilege of reporting to a leader that both modeled and taught servant leadership. This particular executive began working as a teenager in a restaurant for a leader that provided a servant leadership model for him to follow. Thirty-five years later, this executive has personally modeled the same servant leadership that he learned from his boss when he was a teenager.

The impact of one person on one teenage team employee, later turned executive has helped shape the behaviors of an entire organization. Thousands of employees have been tremendously influenced to put service above privilege and millions of customers have received remarkable service experiences.

What are a few key behaviors of servant leadership?

  1. Don’t expect others to do what you are unwilling to do. One of the things that I learned from my leader was working side by side with my staff is very important. When they are in the trenches, I need to be in the trenches with them. When there is a challenging opportunity, we need to be right beside helping to solve the problem. He is a leader that won’t be found in the box seats at the game, but instead, working alongside employees that are serving the fans in the stands.
  2. Acknowledge that every member of the team is important. In traveling to some of our business outlets with my leader, I watched as the very first thing he did was to introduce himself to every member of the team, learning names and asking questions to know them better. He rarely forgets a face or a name and people often feel valued that he takes the time to know them personally. Like his his boss did for him when he was a teenager, he remembers to thank everyone for their service.
  3. If there is a line, be the last one in it. Recently, I attended a company-wide event and we provided bus transportation for all of our employees to the event. As 1,200 people took turns boarding the buses, this same executive was the very last one on the last bus. All the while, he was talking and visiting with employees using the time to catch up both personally and professionally with people from all areas of the company. Putting others above yourself is the hallmark of a servant leader.
  4. Share opportunities and privileges with those who might otherwise never have the opportunity. Not long after I joined my company, I was flying on a charter flight with my husband to our annual company meeting. I was an entry level employee and just grateful to be invited to the meeting. When we boarded the plane, we found our seats in first class. I watched as company executives passed through the first class section to the take their seats in the economy cabin.
  5. Be inclusive. Another leader in my company, who calls himself the ‘curator of the culture,’ learned from his father, the founder, and knows that inclusivity is important to creating and growing a compelling culture. He seeks opinions and spends time with employees in all areas of the business and particularly enjoys connecting with leaders and employees in our business outlets.

At our corporate office, there are no reserved parking spots for executives or private executive dining rooms. The 350 plus capacity childcare center is available on a first come, first served basis available to all full-time employees. The fitness center and the free group training and exercise classes operate on the same basis.

Award winning leaders in the business units often have special celebrations to share their honors with their employees who have helped them achieve high goals. This type of inclusivity strengthens the culture at all levels of the organization. Individuals truly feel a part of the mission of the organization and feel treated with honor, dignity and respect.

Simon Sinek wrote in his book, Leaders Eat Last, “The true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own. Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead and understand that the true cost of the leadership privilege comes at the expense of self-interest.”

It's My Pleasure BookYou want to be a leader? Find somebody to serve.

Dee Ann Turner is the VP of Enterprise Social Responsibility for Chick-fil-A, a national speaker, and author of, “It’s My Pleasure: The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and A Compelling Culture.

CX Day Celebrates the Importance of Customer Experience

Today marks CX Day, a global celebration of the companies and professionals that create great experiences for their customers put on by the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA).

Here’s a short video from the CXPA that demonstrates the importance of a strong company culture that embraces customer experience:

FREE eBooks

In honor of CXDay, we’ve made four of the eBooks in the Goldfish Series free today:

purple green golden blue goldfish books

Purple Goldfish – Purple Goldfish is about differentiation via added value. Marketing to your existing customers via G.L.U.E. (giving little unexpected extras). The book covers 12 ways to win customers. The end result is increased sales, happier customers and positive word of mouth. Click here to get your free Purple Goldfish eBook.

Green Goldfish – Green Goldfish is based on the simple premise that employees are the key drivers of customer experience and that “Happy Employees Create Happy Customers.” The book focuses on 15 different ways to drive employee engagement and reinforce a strong corporate culture. It is based on the findings of the Green Goldfish Project, an effort which crowd sourced 1,001 examples of signature added value for employees. Click here to get your free Green Goldfish eBook.

Golden Goldfish – Golden Goldfish is based on the simple premise that all customers and employees are not created equal. For most businesses, 80% of profitability is driven by the top 20% of customers and employees. These are simply your “Vital Few.” The book focuses on 9 different ways to do the “little extras” to promote customer advocacy and drive employee engagement with these key stakeholders. Click here to get your free Golden Goldfish eBook.

Blue Goldfish – A blue goldfish is any time a business leverages technology, data, and analytics to do a “little something extra” to improve the experience for the customer. The book is based on a collection of over 300 case studies. It examines the three R’s: Relationship, Responsiveness, and Readiness. Blue Goldfish also uncovers eight different ways to turn insights into action. Are you ready to use info-sense to win profits and prophets? What’s your Blue Goldfish? Click here to get your free Blue Goldfish eBook.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – here is a video about the concept of lagniappe:

What Does an Old College Couch Have to do with Remarkable Customer Service?

In 2012, the original book, What’s Your Purple Goldfish? – How to Win Customers and Influence Word of Mouth, was released. This happened shortly after the time that I walked away from my job at a Google subsidiary to fry chicken for free at a fast casual restaurant startup in remote South Carolina.

For three and a half months, I provided pro bono consulting to the developing chain and worked in operations to learn the ropes of management (as hourly restaurant jobs had helped me pay for college). In the interim, I slept on an old college couch wedged between a ping pong table, and a mini fridge full of stale Miller Lite.

Most people would say that I had verifiably lost my mind, and most people would be right.

All I knew is that the service industry had my heart, and that I was meant to serve others through remarkable food, drink, and service. I felt called to devote my life to the hospitality industry in the form of leadership, purpose-centric service, and people development. People were counting on me to add value to their lives, and I had to make it work one way or another.

That’s where it all started, and I’ll always remember where I came from. Those humbling moments in our lives that help us define who we are, how we grow, and our ability to serve are everything. When is the last time that you’ve examined your “couch”?

I’m happy to say that everything got better. Flash forward a few years and I had become a full-fledged restaurant operator. One day, a manager at another one of our restaurants, Matt, told me that he had met Stan Phelps. Matt raved about Stan’s business insights and offered to let me borrow his copy of What’s Your Purple Goldfish? that Stan had given him. I picked the book up and I immediately felt compelled to shoot Stan an email.

I felt as though Stan had emptied out the contents of my brain and put them in a book as our ideals were strikingly similar. Shortly thereafter I started researching Stan’s work and found that he had just published an article about our restaurant and, lo and behold, the “lagniappe of the day” was one of my video newsletters.

Side note: I’m still waiting for Stan’s apology for unauthorized use of my “amazing” creative work but that’s a topic for another day.

Stan and I met about a month later and found out quickly that we both believed that the best way to differentiate in a “sea of sameness” was through touching the hearts and minds of the people that you serve. We hold that people that are congruent in their beliefs and actions inevitably attract one another.

But why is this so important?

Consider Friedman’s theory which states that the sole purpose of business is to provide a return to shareholders. This is the basis from where KPIs and quarterly dividend returns come from. Most of us accept this principle at face value, but the problem with this philosophy is that there’s never enough of a return and executives get caught in a perpetual quarterly return cycle. For better or worse, ROI and profits are what validate the efficacy of leadership in most businesses.

I’m sure you’ve witnessed this firsthand where quarterly top-line sales and bottom-line efficiencies have to be established. In my estimation, most companies choose the quick and easy route to drive top-line sales by discounting their brand and give just to get. To establish bottom-line core competencies, companies typically hack at the product, labor, and physical plant which all, in turn, diminish in quality and damage morale.

At the end of the day, sales cure all and there needs to be strategy to drive people in the door, ensure that they’re coming back, and makes your customers feel compelled to tell others about your remarkable experience.

In order to drive traffic, your first inclination is probably to start dedicating your budget to advertising in order to reach the masses. However, consumer attention has never been more fragmented and the value of traditional advertising has decreased significantly. I say “value” because advertisers provide a tremendous service but it’s too expensive, does not clearly correlate to top-line, and doesn’t capture attention despite how they might sell it.

Consumers now have millions of ways to spend their time…

Are we really bold enough to think that our message is so special that people will drop whatever they’re doing to pay attention to us? Do we believe that our customers put our businesses on some sort of pedestal and all clamor over the opportunity to share our newest promotion with their friends?

Perhaps we need to selflessly serve others and care first.

I would equate this principle to brushing your teeth. If you brush your teeth quickly and haphazardly every so often, then you’ll get the job partially done. Perhaps there are even some “quick fix” solutions that you can utilize such as mouthwash, white strips, and an annual cleaning.

In short, everything looks great on the outside, but the foundation is crumbling. It’s those that are willing to brush thoroughly, floss, and show dedication in their daily upkeep that will still have a beautiful set of teeth when they’re 80 years old while your competition is soaking their dentures in cleansers (if they haven’t already died of tooth decay).

The only possible thing that we can do to stand apart is to intentionally touch the hearts and minds of the people that we serve on a daily basis. All it takes is the willingness to consistently adapt to today’s business landscape and allocate the resources necessary. You owe it to yourself to be able to fail, test, and continually improve.

Your people are counting on you.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Check out this oldie but goodie from Seinfeld illustrating a classic customer service failure. It’s a great reminder basic execution should always remain the foundation when we go to serve others.

The Foolproof Method to Uncover Corporate Purpose and Ignite Your Team's Passion

It brought me to tears often.

It was only one simple word: significance. Yes, our new business had made our “corporate purpose” revolve around just one word, and yet almost none of the 107 employees could recite this one word without being prompted.

I thought that we had checked every box off of our operational checklists, and done everything right as we started our new venture. Not only did we have the tangible tasks completed, but we had also taken the time to intentionally develop a culture that served both our customers and our team.

Every single day, I would ask the team members the same question, “Why do we exist? What is our purpose as a business?” The answers were varied, but again, virtually no one could succinctly answer the question.

At first I foolishly blamed the team. I often thought to myself in a childish manner, “What kind of dope can’t remember a one word answer?” My initial gut reaction, of course, was not correct nor fair to the team.

I knew that frustration would not get us closer to our goal, and I began to take the disconnect to heart…

I felt like a total failure for developing the culture that did not understand what it stood for.

It wasn’t until I made the revelation that although the culture’s purpose was simple and strictly defined; it was the team that was missing purpose in their work.

It didn’t matter what our leadership had written on a piece of paper, and was preaching to the company. Without the employees having conviction and feeling meaning in their work, there was no way that they were going to buy into the purpose that was constructed in a corporate boardroom.

You might be thinking that a lot of companies have a “corporate purpose” though…

I would tend to agree, but what percentage of employees actually know what this statement means? More importantly, how many employees actually live these words with all of their heart, spirit, mind, and action?

I would venture to say that corporate purposes fail to work for two predominant reasons, which are as follows:

  1. They’re too complicated.
  2. Employees don’t feel purpose in their contributions, and don’t align with the company.

Let’s start with that first point. Oftentimes, corporate boardrooms form these statements and “purpose-driven” cultures because “it’s the right thing to do” or “it’s good for business.”

The problem is that they turn their corporate purpose into more of a slogan, a contrived attempt at garnering employee buy-in, jam pack the statement with every buzzword, and/or all of the above.

The repercussions of not having a clear, easy to understand purpose in business is just as bad, if not worse, than not having one at all.

If the team doesn’t understand why the entity exists, then how can the people that you serve possibly know? On top of that, how can your customers excitedly share your business’ story with their network? 

How does one uncover corporate purpose?

I believe that you only have to answer one question: how do you improve the lives of the people that you serve? There are other questions that you can ask. However, it all starts and ends there. Once you have an exact statement that answers that question, the rest becomes much easier to develop.

The other reason for lackluster results with corporate purpose are employees that don’t have personal purpose in their work that aligns with the company. Call it purpose, meaning, or whatever else but it’s the fuel for all of the other positive qualitative factors.

Without purpose, a career quickly becomes the dreaded “job.” The position becomes all about the individual, and the employee demands to know how their employer can service their needs in the form of education, compensation, and stature.

If you think about it, solely profit-driven companies are only looking to leverage its employees for its shareholder returns, and the employee treats the company in the exact same way.

…How do we do help our people uncover more purpose?

I’ve read just about book, listened to every podcast, and watched every video on this topic. I’ve disseminated all of this information, and applied these principles using my life as the guinea pig. This is how I discovered the BASIC framework which is as follows:

Baseline– Notate what is providing and taking energy, and formulate a system for measurement and awareness. (I recommend physically writing everything down in a pocket-sized notebook, and translating it to Evernote).

Assessment Proactively become more self-aware by asking everyone in your network hard questions about your work, and identifying trends in your vocation. 

Strengthen Steward over your relationships, thoughts, behaviors, and actions to identify and focus on positives.

Intentionality Envision the perfect work day, and strategically add little positive behaviors to make daily progress toward that vision. 

Commitment Go “all in” with your current job, lose yourself in service to others, and assume or align with the corporate purpose.

Ultimately, when your people uncover more purpose that was divinely created for them in their work, they’ll either align with the larger corporate purpose, or strengthen the corporate purpose with their own.

This is all good and well, but you’re about tangible results on your P&L, right?

The fact is that purpose-driven businesses are more productive, generate higher sales, keep employees longer, and are more profitable. Entities such as Deloitte, Gallup, and Millward Brown have provided copious amounts of data that state “for purpose” businesses are beating the pants off of strictly profit driven companies. 

Millward Brown summarized this concept best when they said, “Our 10-year growth study that reviewed over 50,000 brands showed that companies who put improving people’s lives at the center of all they do have growth rates that are triple that of their competitors, and they outperform the market by 383 percent.”

Did you get that? You have the opportunity right now to outperform the market by 383 percent by just doing right by your people. Or you can choose to get tears in your eyes when people can’t remember one word.

Speaking from experience, a system of purpose a lot more fun and profitable.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Check out this brief clip from Advisory Board which shows how their deeper purpose applies to their people, and the communities that they serve.