I just spent a week in San Francisco at the Small Giants International Summit, a gathering of business leaders who define success by more than just their financial bottom lines, but also by their contributions to their communities, a dedication to great customer service and the creation and preservation of workplace cultures of excellence.
For the second year in a row, the Summit presented an amazing opportunity to be inspired by some of my heroes – like Jack Stack, Norm Brodsky, Chip Conley, and Ari Weinzweig – and also to learn from fellow business owners who are striving to build great companies that are full of “business mojo” – a concept introduced in 2006 by author Bo Burlingham in his book “Small Giants: Companies that Choose to Be Great Instead of Big”:
“Business mojo is the corporate equivalent of charisma in a person…Companies with mojo have a quality that makes people want to be part of them.”
So what is this elusive mojo, and why should you care? It turns out that companies who pursue this philosophy also tend to attract and retain great employees & customers, and have highly sustainable & profitable business models – and have a heck of a lot of FUN doing it!
Six Steps to Growing a Great Business with Mojo
Step 1: Create a Vision of Greatness for your business
A company vision is more than just a business plan – it paints a picture of what your company will look like in 1, 3, 5, or 10 years, should inspire you and your team, and should provide a “north star” to guide your decision-making.
- Mojo Tip: Zingerman’s Training offers a wonderful seminar called Creating a Vision of Greatness that can help you with the process of figuring out WHO you are, WHAT you want out of business, and WHY.
- Mojo Tip: Ari Weinzweig, Co-Owner of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, also wrote a great book called “A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business” that goes into great detail about the visioning process. Buy the book, or read a sample chapter here.
Step 2: Grow roots in your community
Businesses that plant seeds and develop deep roots with their communities cultivate relationships that give both ways -employees feel good about the impact they are making, and members of the community tend to support businesses through thick & thin.
- Mojo Tip: Be inspired by this great story about how the Chicago community supported Small Giants Community Member Nick’s Pizza & Pub, when they encountered some financial difficulties in 2011.
Step 3: Develop close personal ties with customers and suppliers
Carefully consider the experience you want your customers & suppliers to have when they visit your business, use your products, receive service from your company, or interact with your team. Deliver a consistently great experience that anticipates and fulfills people’s needs, and they’ll keep coming back for more!
- Mojo Tip: Chip Conley, former CEO of Joie de Vivre hotels, has developed a seminar to help companies Develop an Evangelical Customer Base using the principles from his book, “PEAK: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow”
Step 4: Care for your employees first, nurturing them with love and respect
Practice a culture of intimacy, based on “caring for people in the totality of their lives” and a mutual understanding and appreciation of the responsibilities of owners and employees toward one another. Happy employees will care for your customers more completely, which leads to happier customers who are more inclined to keep buying from you and referring their friends & colleagues.
- Mojo Tip: Read Paul Speigelman’s book, Why is Everyone Smiling? – It’s a great resource for learning how building a great employee culture can lead to amazing business success. Paul is the CEO of the Small Giants Community, and owner of BerylHealth – a company known for its world class employee culture & customer service.
Step 5: Cultivate passionate leaders who are in LOVE with what your company does
Developing a vision, great customer relationships, and a strong employee culture can go a long way toward motivating you and your team, but in the end your team also has to have a PASSION for what your company does. People who are just working for a paycheck may fill a seat in your company, but if they don’t have a passion for your purpose, their lack of alignment will continue to drag you off course from achieving your vision.
- Mojo Tip: Attend one of these On Purpose Seminars at Nick’s University covering topics of hiring, leadership, and communication to help you develop a culture of excellence in your organization.
Step 6: Grow your cash by protecting your gross margins
All the warm-fuzzy stuff is useless if you run out of cash, so it’s important to make sure you have a sound business model that produces consistent profits day-in and day-out! Having employees who act like co-owners can make a huge difference to your bottom line, so adopting an open-book management style is also essential to getting (and keeping) everyone on the same financial page.