"The idea of the Looptail is that, if we get everything in our business right, with our people and our culture, you have to believe that everything else will fall into place."
Rarely can I clear my agenda to devour a book in less than 24 hours. But in this case, I truly couldn’t put it down. And I’m not the only one. The Dalai Lama loved it so much he wrote the introduction! Looptail is going to make a difference; for those who want to grow a business or feel more engaged in one.
Starting behind the eight ball, to say the least, Bruce Poon Tip funded the start up of his now famous G Adventures, the world’s most successful adventure travel company, by maxing out his credit cards. After this less than auspicious start, he steadily climbed, (and faltered!) his way to success with unwavering belief that giving back is the only way to sustainable growth. His approach enables any business to be simultaneously profit-driven, purpose-driven and people-driven.
In Looptail, he doesn’t just share his fascinating journey but he chronicles the challenges and the thinking that led to his success. He outlines unique management decisions that created unprecedented growth in his company, built a work environment which earned his company a top five ranking in best companies to work for, produced extremely happy and loyal customers and last but not least, spread good karma.
People, planet, profit, passion, and purpose
"We’re searching; there’s something inside of us that wants to give more."
Can your desire to do the right thing help you achieve better business results? And is it OK to profit from doing good?
Remember the episode of Friends where Phoebe struggled with altruism? She was trying to do something good by buying a sad looking, too thin, dejected Christmas tree. But she wondered if she was truly being altruistic because she was getting something – she got a good feeling. The dilemma struck me. And now, as I help patients by teaching pharma companies that the only way to sustainable growth is by focusing on the patient, I face this dilemma again. Is it OK to profit while pursuing your passion to serve others?
Bruce describes a weaving co-op they developed on their Inca trail tour. There are thousands of tours available to choose from. He wanted to differentiate his. He also saw that the local people were not benefitting from the tens of thousands of visitors. Bruce saw an opportunity to build a weaving co-op. Not only did the culture maintain its weaving tradition but employment was created. The tour groups stopped by and learned to weave and purchased products.
He said that some people criticized him and asked if he built a community project to serve the needs of his business. His answer to that? “Yeah—that’s exactly why we did it.” It allowed them to stand out in the sea of Inca tours and differentiate themselves. Was that OK?
Before you answer that, consider that they took the long road to do this. They got the community involved in the creation of the project. They didn’t just give money and say ‘thanks for letting our tours come through, here’s a kickback.’ They created a long-term support system instead of giving short-term relief. They gave the people the gift of pride and control of their destiny. They gave their customers and employees the opportunity to be a part of something greater than themselves.
The resounding conclusion? YES! Not only is it OK to profit from doing good, it is the only way to sustainable business. In pharma, for example, we must focus on the patient to create profit so we can develop new cures and treatments. The key is that we make money to build better treatments rather than we build treatments to make money. The intent makes all the difference.
Happy? Who cares?
"I learned a lot about what drives and motivates people; one of the greatest drivers is happiness."
The success Bruce created with G Adventures centres around one of the teachings of the Dalai Lama: “Our purpose in life is achieving happiness.” Not the fleeting happiness that comes from moments of pleasure or temporary relief but rather a deeper sense of happiness. Bruce teaches that the basis of our happiness is at the core of our lives and our ability to contribute revolves around our happiness.
He identifies four conditions, directly related to business, that create an environment in which happiness can be achieved:
1. The ability to grow
2. Being connected
3. Being part of something bigger than yourself
“Being happy is nice,” you say, “but who really cares? Our people get paid good money to do what we want them to do.” Perhaps, but imagine what they could achieve if they were happy.
Bruce believes, similar to Adam Grant (author of Give and Take) that for businesses to be sustainable and successful, they must build an environment that helps people become happier and more engaged. This, in turn, engages your customers and you will see your profits soar. Win/win/win!
Bruce believes that one thing that keeps us from achieving happiness is the flawed and outdated way we try to separate work and life. Before digital cameras, I religiously processed my film strips (that’s what we called them back then!) and put the photos in two different albums; one titled ‘work’ and the other ‘life’. I distinctly remember sitting on the floor with a photo in hand, pondering whether it belonged in work or life.
It wasn’t long after that I realized work was life and started embracing it to a greater degree. Thank goodness. I love my ‘work’ and see it as an indispensable part of who I am. It is my way of achieving my mission and contributing to the world. When you don’t see your contribution as a ‘job’, the walls of the 9-5 fall away. Life becomes impassioned with your mission. Work becomes play. You find happiness… and success! The key, he said, to running a successful business is infusing it with passion and purpose.
Three types of people - which one are you?
"Those who see work as a calling are more committed to it and work both harder and longer, because their life is rewarding and they are happy."
Is it possible for a doctor to view her work as a job while the person cleaning her office sees her work as a calling and the administrator in the office sees her work as a career? Absolutely. It’s all in the choice of the individual.
It reminds me of the story of the bricklayers. The first bricklayer was asked “What are you doing?” He replied “Laying bricks.” The second bricklayer was asked the same question and answered “Feeding my family.” The third bricklayer however lit up and enthusiastically replied “I’m building a cathedral!” Which one are you? Which one do you want to be?
Bruce reminds us of three kinds of work orientation:
1) Jobs – The first bricklayer saw his work as merely a job. He was focused on his paycheck. He likely counted the bricks and wished away the hours of his shift before he could escape. He was likely the least productive person on the crew.
2) Careers – The second bricklayer was motivated to do good work. He wanted to advance in his career. He was focused on his own work and may have felt competition to keep ahead of the others. He would not have contributed to the good of the team but rather the good of himself.
3) Calling – The third bricklayer saw his work as a calling to do something great. He was completely committed to his work. He was happy. In fact, he desired, sought and found happiness and fulfillment in his work. He was the guy that worked harder and longer and helped his crew. He went home with a smile on his face and bounce in his step.
If you have a team of people and want them (or yourself) to be more like the third bricklayer, identify how their work contributes to the greater good. Also figure out how you can keep that contribution top of mind. Herein lies the secret to success! To engage your people you must recognize that the ‘work’ has to be about more than the daily grind. That is the looptail he says, “finding your passion and purpose in your work and in your company, transcending your industry and paying it forward.”
Do your people (or you) feel connected to the greater good that your company is doing? Have you identified what that greater good is?
If you have questions about branding, employee engagement, hiring (and firing) and leadership, they are all discussed with fresh views in Looptail. It is his insights and stories on happiness and fulfillment that can truly turn your game around. Are you in touch with the bigger picture – how you are contributing to the greater good? Not only will this make our world go around, but it will create a happier, more successful, YOU!