CAUSE!: A Business Strategy for Standing Out in a Sea of Sameness
April 18, 2016
In their latest book, Jackie and Kevin Freiberg have turned out a highly visual and inspirational treatise on the importance of cause in our lives, and in the lives of companies.
It has been said many times that a company's culture is its greatest asset. There are many articles and books devoted to describing how to build a successful and vibrant culture, but Jackie and Kevin Freiberg simplify things by getting to the core of it. They tell us on the very first page that it is a company's cause that drives its culture. And that is what they focus on in their new book, Cause!: A Business Strategy for Standing Out in a Sea of Sameness.
The Freibergs have a somewhat specific formula when they write. Rather than taking an idea and explaining how it manifests itself across many organizations, they focus on one company and dive into how their core makes them great at what they do. It's not that they don't discuss or feature other companies—they do… a lot, and at length—but their books are always built around a single company. In Cause!, that company is National Life Group. But how do they choose the companies they feature, and why National Life? They explain:
Since our first book, NUTS! Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success, became an international bestseller, it’s it has not been unusual for leaders to ask us to write their company story too.
However, when you make your living telling stories, there better be a phenomenal story to tell. We seldom say “yes” because that rare blend of the right stuff that truly does make the world better is, well… rare.
National Life Group was founded on Servant Leadership principles, on one man’s desire to make life better for people in rural New England. And the company has stayed grounded in these principles for over 167 years.
Even today, as Wall Street and the big guys try to exploit so many small-to mid-size companies, National Life is as Main Street USA today as it was when it started. Like the crisp Vermont morning air, we found that refreshing.
At National Life we’ve discovered a community of people who are die-hard about advancing financial literacy, paving the way for free enterprise and entrepreneurship, helping people realize the American Dream, and delivering on promises. From what we’ve learned, National Life is democratizing financial services for everyone interested in a better future.
CAUSE! is a wake-up call to anyone who doubts the significance of their contribution. When you realize your profession matters and your work enriches lives, your work takes on more meaning and significance. Your job becomes a calling and your contributions give rise to a movement.
Regardless of what you do or where you work, we hope CAUSE and the stories housed within it will inspire you, too, to Do Good on Main Street, on Wall Street, and on your street.
There is a well documented shift taking place in business. Even companies that one would think can't possibly have a moral imperative—purveyors of sugary drinks, for instance—are finding a way to become more purpose driven and cause oriented. But National Life, the Freibergs tell us, was built this way, and "occupies that rarified space among companies that have been cause-oriented for over 100 years." What attracted them to National Life was "that they were cause-oriented before cause was cool." That means they hold a lot to learn from. The foundation of that learning comes in the aspirations of their work. Most of us would consider a rather pedestrian, hum-drum consideration, but National Life CEO Mehran Assadi believes he's on a crusade to do good, to protect people and institutions, to "keep alive the dreams of families, the hopes of small businesses, and the dignity and financial independence of seniors." It is a belief that allows them to do things in leaps and bounds rather than fits and starts. As the Freibergs put it:
No company and no nation can outperform its aspirations.
The heights to which we rise depend on the weightiness of our dreams.
National Life works for TRANSFORMATIONAL as opposed to incremental change.
The way they do that is that is in their service to others. Beside being true believers in the transformational power of the peace of mind and security insurance provides, each employee is encouraged to give back within their community, and given 40 hours paid time per year to volunteer. They do a lot to make sure their employees are not only happy at work, but connected to a greater goal and sense of purpose in their work. And that's because it is not just a company's aspirations, or even a community's or a nation's, that matter. It is our own. The authors bring that point home in a personal way when they write:
You don't become happy by pursuing happiness. You become happy by living a life that matters, a life filled with significance. And that come from being committed to something beyond yourself.
If you don't have that sense of purpose, a cause worth fighting for, it's much easier to become self-absorbed and preoccupied with your own desire for happiness. The more obsessed you are, the more it alludes you. Because whatever you think will make you happy is never enough. … People who pursue happiness, in and of itself, usually end up unhappy, longing for more.
I think the same exact thing can be said for profits and the life of business. If all you do is chase profits, they end up rather meaningless, empty, and ephemeral. If you search for and serve a social profit, you have something that can last, that you can sustain, build on, and grow. You have a cause. And that is what Jackie and Kevin Freiberg help us further consider and, dive deep into, and find in their new book. If you don't know your company's cause, and your cause within it, we have 40 copies to give away this week.