First, you must believe that a soul is necessary.
One of the problems of our day is that, all too often, the companies that dominate our headlines are built to be sold. Many are sold before they’re even profitable. And the creators don’t plan to be around long. So growth, even less than profits, becomes the main objective. Building something that lasts is not.
“The companies that survive longest are the ones that work out what they uniquely can give to the world not just growth or money but their excellence, their respect for others, or their ability to make people happy. Some call those things a soul.” –Charles Handy via Identified Your Personal Values and Vision?.
Even if you haven’t seen the movie, “The Social Network,” you’re probably familiar with Sean Parker’s now famous line: “A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion dollars.” It’s a great line from a great story. But I like the next story better.
Evernote and the 100 year startup.
“Most start-up entrepreneurs talk about exiting the company within five to seven years, but not Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote,” via the Sillican Hills News. The fact that it was written on the heals of another $50 million investment in Evernote from venture capitalists was an odd proclamation. But Evernote CEO Phil Libin used Sean Parker’s line to explain why they went after more funding.
“Well, we don’t think a billion dollars is all that cool either. You know what’s really cool? Making a hundred year company,” Libin wrote on his company’s blog. “That’s a pretty big deal; not many companies make it anywhere close, but we sort of signed up for the task when we started talking about earning your lifetime trust. You plan on living a long time, right?”
It’s refreshing to read about a startup with a soul. You know how you can tell when something is the soul of your company? When you make decisions based on that something. Libin continued, “So when we make any big decision, whether in fund-raising, or product design, or partnership strategy, we ask, “would this make it more or less likely that we’ll be around in a hundred years”, and if the answer is less we don’t do it.”
Creating a powerful soul.
I’ve talked a great deal about the power of having a strong vision and clearly articulated values. I believe that your values are your true brand. Your values can also be the soul of your organization. But values become the soul, they gain their real power, only when those values support your vision, and only when those values drive how decisions are made on a daily basis.
If you want to know what the soul of your company is, look at how you make decisions. What drives how you make choices on a daily basis? What drives how you hire, how you fire and how you choose your partners? Does it differentiate you from your competition? Or do you operate on business autopilot, allowing numbers, or industry norms to dominate your decision making?
If you’re a business leader and you don’t like the answers, change them. Figure out the answer to the following questions and change the way you make decisions.
What can you uniquely give the world? What are the values you can live consistently that will insure that you deliver that unique gift?
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Chris Johnson says
Jeff, the problem with this is that we all change. Fundamentally I’m different than I was 3,5,10 years ago. I can say what our values our but we all know that we’ll be delivering narrative experiences that feel more like video games in 2-3 years.
What will never change is our dedication to craft, details, salesmanship, script and quality.
But if we do it in After Effects, HTML 5 or Cinema 4d I don’t care all that much.
If demo experiences such as we provide go obsolete, I want to pivot to something else, b/c I don’t want to sell obsolete stuff to the customers we have – and love.
(BTW: we at Simplifilm know that company *very* well, and respect them a great deal. More to come on that front, probably Julyish.)
Jeff Turner says
Chris, not everyone is going to want to have 100 years as a goal for their company. It’s just an example.
Your “dedication to craft, details, salesmanship, script & quality” describe immutable values for you. That’s what I’m talking about. Vision matters. Values matter. Execution matters. And execution becomes more powerful when driven, guided by a solid vision and values that are an active part of how you make decisions.
Since I’ve worked with Simplifilm, I KNOW you are already guided by those principles. Lots of people make demo experiences, the WHAT of your business. It’s the HOW you are doing the thing you do that is your differentiator.
Andrea Shilllington says
A company with a soul… YES, sign me up please! As a customer, as an employee, as a volunteer, as a person who cares about the world. Soulful companies are what people are craving.
We are moving up Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs (an oldie but a goodie) and we are seeking a deeper meaning from life than money, power and just more stuff.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts Jeff!
Love this post. Yes to soul, values and living that everyday and making decisions for your company with that mindset and filter. Thank you for this post. Inspiring!
Drew Meyers says
Totally agree that people are starved for companies with a soul…it’s sorely lacking in a world where the dollars and cents are all that matter to most companies/execs. I’ve been mulling an idea for a new startup for the last month or so…and creating that “soul” of the company is vitally important to me as part of that process, should I choose to pursue it.