Some businesses are born out of ideology and conviction. Others spring up out of necessity, to fill a void or meet a burgeoning need.
Then there are those born out of innovation with a vision for the greater good that have soul – companies like Apple, Disney and Ford.
• Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple wanted to produce products so imaginative and appealing that people didn’t even know they wanted them until Apple released them, not just another computer.
• Walt Disney, founder the Disney Empire wanted to create the happiest place on earth for children of all ages with Disneyland and Disney World–
not just another amusement park.
• Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company wanted to build a horseless carriage that would be affordable by every family in America, not just the wealthy.
What is a Business Soul?
A business’ soul is well defined by Henry Ford who said, “Business must be run at a profit, else it will die. But when anyone tries to run a business solely for profit … then the business must die as well, for it no longer has a reason for existence.” He did not want the Ford Motor Company to be a soulless giant business, known for its coldness and aloofness.
A business with a soul is built on principles that inspire, bring to life and permeate thought, action and end-user products. It is the driving force that propels a business innovatively and creatively forward.
Does It Matter?
Research in the late 1990s of 3,000 of the largest U.S. businesses reported in the 100 Best Companies to Work for in America showed that businesses with a soul averaged 5.5% more annual profits. A business with a soul was defined as those having a meaningful purpose and a proportional relationship between bottom-line profits, people relationships and products. A business with soul not only nurtures and grows human talent and the human spirit, but sees healthy profits as a facilitator and by-product of achieving other worthwhile ends.
Businesses with soul yield an inspired workforce with higher productivity and job satisfaction, increased brand and customer loyalty, and increased productivity and profitability with sustainable results.
Be who you claim you are. Soul is authenticity, which comes from being who you are, not what you say you are. It is about being sincere and honest in a way your workforce and customers feel, see, touch, and experience your business to be what you say it is.
Determine your reason for existence. Creating a business soul begins with soul searching by leadership. Determine the “who, what, why and how” of your business and how you can make a difference in the lives of your workforce, community and customers through your business. Do you have a meaningful purpose for existing other than bottom-line profits?
Once you have drilled down so far that you cannot get more succinct, develop a one sentence description of your soul. Then drill down once again to get that sentence into a three- to five-word statement. This is your business vision and everything you do should be measured by this statement. Then, share this new vision with your workforce.
Create Genuine Connections. Share your new soul/vision with your workforce. Only once you share it can you determine its accuracy and whether it properly reflects who your business really is. Encourage feedback. There is a natural circular flow to the soul of a business which needs to be in harmony at all levels. If the workforce perceives a facade harboring a different reality or the creation of a fake soul, their productivity will drop and chaos will erupt.
By asking for their input you will create genuine connections with your workforce and complete the circular flow. Incorporate their input and republish your soul/vision to see if it resonates. When this process is finalized, don’t just put this nice new statement on the shelf and continue as before. Take the necessary action to make it a reality. Then implement collaborative decision-making as the rule not the exception.
Incubate Human Potential. After discovering and applying your soul in your business, unleash the human potential of your workforce by creating a physical workplace environment that is representative of your new soul/vision. Keep the enthusiasm flowing by removing or eliminating things (unwanted paperwork, stashed boxes, items for storage) and old thoughts (industrial age thinking and organizational charts) that clutter the workplace environment – they will stand in the way of focus, growth and expansion if left unchecked.
By creating a workplace environment that engages and unleashes the focus of your workforce, and maintaining a circular motion of communication and nurturing, you will inspire and empower your workforce. This results in increased productivity, employee buy-in and profitability.
It is easy to overlook the importance of or discard your company’s soul because of the economy, the desire to expand, increase market share or simply the pursuit of the dollar. But if you desire sustainable growth, an inspired workforce and an empowering workplace, discovering and nurturing your business soul is a significant key to success.