Johanna Rothman, the famed consultant, author, and former Agile Conference Chair, just put out a blog post called The Company Doesn’t Love You. It is probably more important to your career than this one; go read it.
If you are still here, and still have time, I hope you’ll permit me to talk about my response to it.
My immediate response was not total agreement as much as sad, mostly agreement. That is, I agree that the company doesn’t love you … probably. If it does Love you, it’s probably four people. (And two of them are your kids, aren’t they?)
What you don’t know is that in the background, at the exact time I read this, I am in the process of considering the next steps for this tiny little business called Excelon Development. I’ve been doing the incorporation, putting the systems in place, getting the counsel, doing the sales work, and all the boring, hum-drum things that have to be done to move a company from one person to … something a little more.
One of those things I have been working on is the vision statement. Yes, I’ve been working on a vision statement. Or a mission statement. Or, whatever. You don’t need to look at me funny and laugh. When the company is this size, those statements can actually mean something — can help guide people to the right decision.
I have perhaps a page of material, maybe more, about what I want Excelon Development to be and who I would be as a principle. All the usual stuff is there: That Excelon will attract repeat clients, that those clients will become an integral part of the sales force of the company by singing the praises we earn. The goal is to have a staff at Excelon the will never lie to you, never ask someone to do something they would not do themselves . That when we fail, we’ll strive to make it right.
Like I said, a page of this stuff.
Then I read Johanna’s Post, and it all became clear.
This is what I am trying to say: I want to make Excelon Development the one company that does love you, no matter who you are: A client, a contractor, or ‘just’ someone reading a blog post.
Yes, I am man enough to be able to say the word ‘Love’ in public without threatening my sense of masculinity. I can take it. By Love I mean an action of charity – of treating others the way I would like to be treated. That means inverting my own selfish interests in the belief that, in the long term, helping others will help grow the company in the best possible way.
Because that is the kind of company I would like Excelon Development to be.
Yes, I am fully aware that many things in this world are zero-sum; Excelon won’t be handing out hundred dollar bills or paying contractors more than they bill for. I am fully aware of the system forces, the incentives, the forces of darkness, and the well-meaning friends that will try to tear down that slogan, to make it a joke, an embarrassment, the words of an idealist who was tempted, turned, and became a hypocrite far too easily.
And I know I will fail. Inevitably and without doubt, I or some agent of the company will take the shortcut, fail to follow through, forget the detail, make a mistake, and it might be a big one. It might lead to tarnish the reputation of the company at best or ruin at worst. In the end, in our broken humanity, on this earth, we all fail.
I’m going to try, and no not in some Karate Kid, “Squash like Grape” try way.
My friend, John Palenick was a World War II veteran who served in the Allegan Knights of Columbus from the 1950’s until this Lent, as treasurer of our council for the past twenty years and usher for probably forty. This Lent, at the first Friday fish fry, John was there working the front desk.
A week later, he was in the hospital.
On Sunday, he passed from this world.
I aim to try like John Palenick tried.
Yes I will fail, but, you know …
I think he’d want me to try.
Why will you fail?
If you start by thinking you will succeed, who knows what you will do?
Maybe you can start there. Maybe that’s what John of blessed memory might have done…
Thank you, Johanna. Perhaps I should have been more specific about the word fail; I don’t think the business will fail, but I am certain that I personally won’t be able to demonstrate lovingkindness at every touchpoint. Sooner or later, someone will be peeved about something I said, or I’ll have a bad day. I do want to strive to keep those things few and far between! 🙂
I have a book to loan you at STPCon. Good read. Interesting ideas presented. Talks about a Mission Statement (among other things) that starts with “We the People of the United States…”
And you friend would want you to try dilligently.
Finally. I know your boss. He’s a good guy. No one is perfect, and that’s ok too.
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“This is what I am trying to say: I want to make Excelon Development the one company that does love you, no matter who you are: A client, a contractor, or ‘just’ someone reading a blog post.”
Matt, mission accomplished.