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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