Heart of a Leader

Leadership Matters

Is it possible to operate a successful business based upon love?

As I was again listening to February 26th Business Matters program , I found myself thinking of a conversation I had seven years ago with a very successful professor turned corporate guru. During our dinner discussion, he turned to me and said, “I don’t think its possible to operate a successful business based upon love. I wish I wasn’t right about this.” As conversations do, we drifted on to other topics, yet this portion of our conversation has stuck with me like a seed waiting for the right conditions to sprout.

For the past few months germination of this thought has slowly been erupting. On the January 15th Business Matters program, we talked about worker-owned cooperatives. I am impressed by the ability of people to come together in mutual interest and create businesses that seem to be great for everyone.

I wondered if this was a peek into an answer of the question I had been considering, ‘What does it mean to have a business based upon love?” Often we think of love in terms that come from literature or the media. It is soft and feels good and warm. You know, the kind of love that makes great sayings on greeting cards and is filled with emotion. Many business leaders would say that businesses can’t be operated in this emotional backdrop. I agree.

I have never thought this was the find of love that we were talking about at our dinner conversation seven years ago. It felt more like agape, which means selfless love. We have become cynical. We believe that if we don’t take care of ourself no one will. Yet those that are the loudest advocates of this intense focus on self-interest don’t seem any happier because of it.

On February 23, I was driving around tuned in to our local NPR station when I heard a story that was like giving a shot of fertilizer to this notion of businesses based upon love. The story was about Macy’s European Coffee House, Bakery and Vegetarian Restaurant. They are in Flagstaff Arizona and are celebrating their 30th anniversary.

In the interview, Tim Macy, who himself the caretaker of the business rather than owner, said, “The whole dream was that we wanted it to be a microcosm of the way the world could be”

Listening further to the radio piece, I found that those that work at Macy’s are referred to as family rather than employee and one family member remarked that Tim writes “love you” on every pay check.

Now I don’t know if Macy’s is the model for a business based upon love. I will go there and find out for myself. What this story did, though, is further my consideration that a business based upon love is not only possible, but can flourish. What do you think about that?

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[audio:http://businessmatters.net/fyc/fyc-100226.mp3%5D

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5 thoughts on “Is it possible to operate a successful business based upon love?

  1. Linda Gaines on said:

    I absolutely believe that a business can be based on love, and if it isn’t it WILL NOT flourish. I’m not talking about the hand-holding, eye gazing first time love that two people share in the early stages of a relationship, but the love of the product or service that you want to offer your clients, that MUST be present. You have to LOVE what you are doing, to make it happen. Whether it is going to college, opening a business, or turning a business around. You have to wake up each morning and WANT to be there and WANT to bring success (not only monetary) but success for your clients, unconditionally. “Love what you do, and Do what you love” is a successful Blackberry motto, because it is TRUE.

    • You are right and yet recent surveys show over 60% of people do work they don’t love and are unsatisfied with their work experience. What a consequence on so many levels.

  2. Clear thinker on said:

    Ugh. A business based on passion, caring for employees, and selfless devotion? Yes. Love? No. It all just seems too pithy. To call it Love is to hide the underlying factors. Sorry, but I say cut the BS.

    • i think I can understand what you are saying. I think that the word love have been hijacked by the media and given a meaning that isn’t true. When I read the three things that you say “Passion, Caring for Employees and Selfless Devotion.” that fits my understanding of love.

      Thank you for offering your thoughts.

  3. CINDY FOLEY on said:

    I FEEL THAT HAVING “LOVE” AS YOUR CORE VALUE IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY FOR ANY BUSINESS TO BE SUCCESSFUL. AND IT IS ALSO NECESSARY FOR TRUE PERSONAL HAPPINESS/SUCCESS .

    IF YOU ARE TRULY HAPPY AND LOVING YOU WILL BE SUCCESSFUL BECAUSE YOU WILL RADIATE THAT LOVE AND WANT OF SUCCESS TO EVERYONE ELSE. ITS THE RIPPLE EFFECT. THE ENERGY WE PUT OUT IS SO IMPORTANT TO THE LIVES OF ALL WE TOUCH (AND ALSO THE ONES WE MAY NOT EVEN KNOW EXIST).

    HOW WE CONDUCT OURSELVES AND THINK OF OURSELVES AND OUR WORK PROJECTS OUT TO EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING ELSE AROUND US (AND RIPPLES OUT INTO THE WORLD EVEN FURTHER) SO THAT WE ARE ALL ACCOUNTABLE FOR NOT ONLY OUR WELL BEING BUT THE WORLDS WELLBEING.

    I WANT TO ADD THAT THE ORGANIZATION I CURRENTLY WORK FOR HAS THIS CORE VALUE AND IT IS TRULY THE REASON WHY IT HAS BECOME AS SUCCESSFUL AS IT HAS.

    THE BOTTOM LINE HERE ISNT GREED, ITS LOVE, KINDNESS AND RESPECT OF ALLTHE EMPLOYESS AND CLIENTS. THIS IS WHAT MAKES MY EMPLOYER SUCCESSFUL. THEY LOVE WHAT THEY DO AND TRULY WANT TO MAKE PEOPLE HEALTHIER AND HAPPIER —EMPLOYEES AND CLIENTS ALIKE!

    I FEEL TRULY BLESSED TO BE A PART OF IT AND HAVE LEARNED SO MUCH SINCE MY INCEPTION OF EMPLOYMENT. I NEVER THOUGHT IT WAS POSSIBLE TO EXPERIENCE SUCH A THING, BUT IT IS!

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