It can be downright provocative to talk about love in a business context. The famous phrase derived from The Godfather, “It’s not personal—it’s business,” has led many to think business is purely transactional and sentiment should play no part (let alone the big “L” word). But I believe business can be deeply personal—and when it is, business gets better.
Most companies are obsessed with monetary and timing efficiencies, and this means they structure their businesses to minimize human interaction—because human interaction can be messy, it takes time, it’s unpredictable. But it’s human interaction that breeds trust, loyalty, and ultimately, love. Tim Sanders says in Love is the Killer App, “Those of us who use love as a point of differentiation in business will separate ourselves from our competitors just as world-class distance runners separate themselves from the rest of the pack trailing behind them.”
For me, love in a business context is about two things.
1. Recognizing the supreme value of every person.
Every human on earth is here for a purpose, and every one of them has both value and pitfalls, both brilliances and challenges. Imagine if every person understood this truth and interacted with others from this belief! When I am centered on this truth, my relationships—with both others and myself—suddenly have an abundance of respect and grace.
2. Helping those around me grow.
One of the most lasting impacts we can make, no matter the business we’re in, is to help people become more the people they were made to be. When I shift my mindset to believing my job—in any context—is to support the growth of those around me, my heart shifts away from myself to care for them. I’m more sensitive. I’m more bold. And not only do I feel so much more fulfilled, but I see those people I work with begin to flourish. And this approach is not relegated only to those in a leadership position—each of us have the same opportunity to influence everyone we encounter every day.
As Simon Sinek analyzed the leadership styles in flourishing businesses, he was met with some remarkable conclusions. When people work in a loving environment, they not only feel safe and valued, but they are much more productive. He says, “The leaders of great organizations do not see people as a commodity to be managed to help grow the money. They see money as a commodity to be managed to help grow their people.” People well-loved perform.
Seth Godin shares that the Industrial Revolution of “better, faster, cheaper” is meeting its natural end. The economy will no longer be driven by an efficiency model, but rather a human connection model, or as he calls it, the “Connection Economy,” in which people are valued for their ability to connect people and elevate their uniqueness.
Love is smart business. And while serving the bottom line may seem like a solid objective in the short term, the long game is won by those who elevate those around them. When founding and growing cabi, there have been thousands of opportunities to pick profits over people. And we have refused to do it, because we know picking the growth of people will stand the test of time. Yes, it’s challenging. It takes time. But we have a cadre of followers who are fiercely loyal—because they know they are loved and valued.
So for all the Don Corleone’s of the world, I say…spread the love. If it’s business, it’s absolutely personal—and the more personal, the better.