Last week at The Running Event, the keynote speaker uttered words every single business owner needs to hear—He said, “Love and business…there’s plenty of room to cultivate both.”
Love and business. Two terms that typically don’t get much playing time. Not together, anyhow. But this guy insisted that any business’s future relevance depends on both working as one.
The speaker was Walter Robb, former CEO of Whole Foods. A man who, even after decades of people management and top-level customer service, got all choked up when he was asked what kept him motivated all these years.
His answer was simple: he wants to do something meaningful in the world. Just so happens that he did it through grocery retail. It’s obvious, however, that grocery retail was simply a vehicle for this calling. Call it his vision, his mission, his story, or whatever, Robb’s life force transcends, yet hugely influences his day to day. And not just at work, either. He might not be the CEO of Whole Foods anymore, but that doesn’t change who he is. And frankly, who he is is what has always mattered the most. Not his title.
A room of more than 300 specialty run retailers were witness to this big time CEO toss around words like gratitude, recognition, authenticity, and vulnerability—and do so in a wildly practical way. They heard him passionately discuss things like nurturing employees, building a values-driven business, and creating intentional space for people to develop (as humans first, employees second).
Folks took copious notes, but not because his words were revelatory. Because they were not. They were, however, a punch-in-the-arm reminder of what every retailer in that room already knows. And has known since their first day in business.
If nothing else, Robb struck a chord that resonated with that intangible feeling that attracted folks to specialty retail in the first place. He dusted off the idea of genuine connection and recentered it on the collective mantle. We all damn sure knew it was there, but maybe it had been a while since we gave it much attention. Let alone pointed it out to others.
For me, his opening session set the tone of the show. I most appreciated his focus on culture; How people feel when they walk in the door; How staff are empowered to be the best version of themselves while selflessly offering customers an unforgettable experience.
Because when we are doing retail this way (and in life, too), each interaction is that much richer. And sure, it translates to a better run shop, which is cool—but that’s just a bonus. More importantly, if we actively work on strengthening our cultural foundation, we harvest an environment that celebrates the betterment of people. And no matter where you stand, politically or otherwise, I think we all can agree that the world could use a big ol’ plate of that.
Are you running a values-driven business? One that parallels those hot fires in your belly? If not, time to get real again. You’ll be way more attractive as a result.
Tom Griffen is a highly sought after trainer and presenter whose message transcends industries. He’ll help you raise the bar as you take your business to the next level.