The Power of Purpose

Greetings. In the last few years, I have become enamored with Lush Cosmetics—a British company that sells intriguingly fragrant soap that looks like cheese. Not only have I become a reliable customer for their “fresh and handmade” personal care products, but I also bring groups of business leaders to visit their stores here in Washington, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and even Kuala Lumpur. Visits intended to give leaders from a wide range of industries a sense of what it takes to create a business that is loved and respected by almost all of its employees and customers. Granted, many of its customers are relying on their parents to buy their soaps, lotions, perfumes, shampoos, bath bombs, and other products but that’s a different story. What interests me most is the “power of purpose” in this global company that is widely regarded as being innovative, caring, collaborative, customer-centric, socially and environmentally responsible, and successful.

Let’s face it, having a clear and compelling sense of purpose is vital to business success—especially today. Yet too many companies fail or neglect to make clear why they really matter, the core purpose they are trying to achieve, and the role that the folks who work there and the folks who buy from them play in making important things happen. At Lush, they wear their purpose on the walls of their stores and even in the ink that adorns some of their employees. It is a purpose that is all about products that are natural, good for you, not tested on animals, and good for the planet. All made by real people whose pictures and names appear on every package, unless a product comes without a package as a way to reduce the use of unnecessary material that is likely to end up in landfills. And purchased by customers who care about the products they buy and use. It is also a purpose that inspires the company  to invest a significant amount of its proceeds to support nonprofit organizations around the world that are working to improve the lives of children and low-income communities, and the welfare of animals—organizations recommended by employees.

All of which begs the questions:

“What is your purpose as a company, organization, or individual?”

“Is your purpose something that inspires all of your employees, customers, and stakeholders to be passionate and knowledgeable advocates for your brand?” and

“What value do you really provide?”

If your purpose is not as clear or compelling as it could be, you might want to take a field trip to your nearest Lush shop where the colors are intense, the fragrances are strong, everything can be sampled, customers are loyal, employees are engaged, turnover is low, the sense of purpose is everywhere, and the soap looks good enough to taste.

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Cheers!

How Amazing is That?

Greetings. On a recent visit to a veterinarian’s office a bright red brochure caught my eye. A brochure that promised to solve one of the most important challenges of dog ownership…keeping Fido’s, or in our case Vincent’s, teeth as clean and healthy as possible. For while we have taught Vincent to sit, stay, lie down, be gentle, pick up the Wall Street Journal from curb, stay off of the furniture, watch English Premier League soccer games with focus and passion, and remain calm when the mailman or UPS driver knock on the door, we have somehow failed to teach him how to brush his own teeth. And, quite honestly, I wasn’t sure that this skill was within his grasp.

How to Teach Your Dog

So when the folks at Milk Bone promised to solve this problem for us, my ears jumped straight up as though someone had just offered me a peanut butter-coated biscuit or the world’s largest squirrel had just appeared outside the back door. And I quickly imagined placing a new soft bristle brush in his furry little paw and then demonstrating the proper technique for keeping his adorable canines all pearly white. (Yes dogs and humans have “canine” teeth!…but I digress.) I also imagined taking Vincent to CVS where he could pick out his favorite brand of salmon-flavored toothpaste along with a spool of rabbit-flavored floss. That is until I actually opened the brochure and discovered that the innovative folks at Milk Bone were simply being clever marketers of a clever new dog treat designed to remove tartar, plaque, and halitosis (a.k.a., dog breath). Simply by chewing on. And that these benefits had somewhat miraculously been “proven in clinical trials.”

Not quite as impressive as teaching a world of dogs to actually brush their teeth. But it got my attention.

And it struck me that all of us, and all of the companies and organizations we work for, have the same ability to make remarkable promises that we could keep in slightly less remarkable but “clinically proven” ways.

So why not spend a few moments thinking about a new and bold promise that would really matter to the customers you have the privilege to serve. Then follow it up with a very creative and engaging way to solve it that gets their attention and inspires them to want to know more. After all, a big part of marketing and business success is the act of starting a conversation.

We win in business and in life when we get the attention of others. And when we use that attention to deliver on a promise that really matters.

Cheers!

The Tastes of Sweden

Greetings. For many of us, food is an important part of travel and a great way to get a deeper understanding of different cultures. And it is safe to say that Swedish cuisine has had a real renaissance in the last ten or fifteen years as innovative chefs have taken remarkable local ingredients and turned them into novel and award-winning creations. Gone are the days when Swedish cuisine could be summed up by Swedish meatballs, boiled potatoes, herring, gravlax or anything to do with a salmon, fresh strawberries and ice cream, lutfisk…a weird Nordic recipe of gelatinous fish soaked in  lye and surstromming…a fermented herring that was once described by a Japanese researcher as the worst-smelling (i.e., “putrid”) food on the planet. And that is saying a lot! In concert with the new Swedish cuisine, the Swedish spice cabinet has also expanded beyond salt, pepper, and dill, to include a vibrant mix of the world’s most engaging flavors.

Lax Tallrik

But let me take a few moments to scratch beneath the surface of Swedish cuisine to give you a sense of some of the country’s more interesting offerings.

Let me begin with sauce. Swedes love sauce. And it is safe to say that most meals would not be complete without the appropriate sauce. There are sauces for different types of fish dishes, sauces for different types of meat and game dishes, sauces for different types of potato dishes, and even a wide array of sauces for many of the most popular desserts including vanilla sauce, chocolate sauce, and even salt licorice sauce that can be used to top off your favorite treats. As someone who is not particularly keen on licorice I find this to be amazing at best and scary at worst.

Licorice Sauce

And Swedes are also crazy about aioli, which is kind of a sauce too.

Swedes also love food that comes in tubes. The most popular of these staples of the Swedish kitchen table is something called Kalles Caviar, a bright blue tube filled with creamy fish roe that Swedes put on sandwiches of eggs, cheese, or simply butter. It is kind of like peanut butter for Swedish children. And this delicacy has morphed into an ever growing collection of taste sensations that include caviar and cream cheese. Now Swedish engineers just have to figure out how to get a decent bagel in a tube. But that’s not all, you can buy mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, soft cheese and shrimp, and even herring and mackerel (yes, that’s right, herring and mackerel) in a tube. And, of course, you can also buy sauce in a tube.

Kalles

Swedes also adore candy (or “godis”) and the typical Swedish grocery store devotes a disproportionately large amount of space (by American standards at least) to a wide assortment of loose candy to be filled into handy little bags, packages of chewy candies like the especially popular Bilar (“Cars”), and candy bars. And even the world-renowned “Swedish Fish” which are made in both Sweden and Canada. I must admit that Swedish chocolate is delicious. And you can even mail candy bars to friends through the Swedish postal service (or “Posten”) simply by putting their address and a stamp on the bar itself.

Candy by Mail

Now I will leave you to draw your own conclusions about Swedes based on their food, because as French lawyer and politician Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin is credited with saying:

“You are what you eat.”

Though I think he said it a bit more cleverly.

Cheers! Or should I say “Skol!”

Scary Possibilities

Greetings. It’s Halloween…a day and night of costumes, scary decorations, candy, completely over-the-top parties (for some people), and lots of possibilities. A day when kids of all ages can become anyone or anything they choose to imagine simply by buying or creating a new persona. And a day filled with important implications for all of us, and all of our companies and organizations, if we dare to think about it with an open mind.

In an important sense, all of us could use a modestly extreme makeover at least once a year. Because all of us, and all of the places where we work each day, could always be better and more innovative at the things that matter most. But in the press of our daily responsibilities, our cluttered in-boxes, and our urgent challenges we struggle to simply get the job done, to try harder without necessarily doing better.

But what if we could pause for a day and imagine a much better way to do the most important things? What if we could create a brand new persona, complete with a cool new costume, that represents a much better way to envision, produce, and support the products, services, and solutions we offer? What if we could figure out how to step into a new character that is much more compelling and valuable for our customers?

Halloween, or any day for that matter, is a perfect day for stretching our thinking about what is truly possible! And a perfect excuse for trying.

I’m often reminded of the following Chinese proverb:

When is the best time to plant a tree?

Twenty years ago.

When is the second best time to plant a tree?

Now.

Why not use this fun and spooky celebration to plant your next tree…even if it is filled with ghosts and other scary creatures that will have to be fine tuned along the way?

Halloween Costumes

We win in business and in life when we dare to be more remarkable, and when we step into character in ways that deliver greater value to the customers we have the privilege to serve.

Cheers!

The Genius of Nap Time

Greetings. When we were kids, nap time was an essential part of life and every school day. A chance to take a break, rest our minds and bodies, recharge our spirits, and keep the demons away. A time to journey far from the task at hand, if only for a matter of minutes, in order to possibly dream about new and even more amazing worlds.

And then one day we became adults and the notion of taking a nap became only a distant and comforting memory. After all, what company or organization in its right mind would want its employees to nod off when they could be slogging through all of the cool stuff in their in-boxes or struggling to stay alert in the day’s umpteenth meeting? Napping was viewed as the province of folks who were either total slackers, completely sleep deprived, or had a major iron deficiency.

Now the world, and particularly the business world, is changing, and none other than the Wall Street Journal is suggesting that taking a nap is possibly a good thing…and that “more naps, albeit short ones, might make for a more functional workforce.” And possibly even a more energized and innovative one. They report that there is actually an emerging art and a science to napping, and that new research in the field is more and more relevant to companies and organizations of all types.

It’s an interesting shift in our growing understanding of what makes people as productive and creative as possible… understanding that could provide remarkable benefits for workers and workplaces alike.

And that could change the parameters of what it means to be a great and supportive place to work.

Businessman sleeping at desk

We win in business and in life when we take the time to nap as a great way to recharge our batteries and our motivation to do the most important things in new ways.

Cheers!