By Clémence Bouchetal-Geffriaud—On the 19th of September, 2017, I attended an event that the Houston chapter of “Conscious Capitalism” and “Sum and Substance” co-hosted. The event and conversations- “storytelling”- were aimed at exploring the idea of finding purpose at work. As a student at UST, a MBA and MSF candidate in the Cameron School of Business, and an assistant in the Center for Ethical Leadership at the Cameron School of Business, I was very interested in learning more about this concept, so when Dr. Joe Cerami, the Director of the Center for Ethical Leadership, encouraged me to attend this event, I was excited to go and learn.
- Sum and Substance is a national storytelling event series that shares stories of purpose at work.
- Conscious Capitalism is an organization that believes that “free enterprise capitalism is the most powerful economic system for social cooperation and human progress ever conceived – when practiced consciously.” Conscious Capitalism aims to “produce businesses that are good, ethical, noble and heroic.” Furthermore, the organization can also provide help for companies in order to transform and shift towards becoming more conscious ones. Businesses practicing or aiming for conscious capitalism rely on four pillars:
- Higher Purpose
- Stakeholder Orientation
- Conscious Leadership
- Conscious Culture
During this live event, a diverse group of five leaders and entrepreneurs came together. Each storyteller shared a 10 minutes story about their path to fulfilling, meaningful work and offered a challenge to the audience that helped shape their journey.
1- Dr. Lance Black Medical Device Innovation Lead – TMCx
Brief story: Dr. Lance Black switched from patient care to design and development of medical devices. During his 10 minutes he spoke about his dad being at the hospital when he was only 6 years old and how he started looking at doctors as superheroes because they were “rebuilding” his dad. That is what made him want to become a doctor in the future. After becoming a doctor and practicing for some years he realized that he was not spending as much time with his patients as he was before because he was not focusing on them anymore and started to wonder what happen to him to become this way. That is what made him come to the realization that he wanted to go beyond, unplug and create medical devices for the “superheroes” doctors.
Challenge given to the audience: Draw a triangle, at the top of it write “what am I good at” at the bottom right write “what do I enjoy”, then at the bottom left “what types of problems do I like to solve”. The middle of the triangle should help you find jobs and occupations bringing these 3 questions/answers together to help you find purpose in what you do.
2- Dr. Geetinder Goyal Founder – First Primary care
Brief story: Dr Greetinder Goyal was working in patient care. He worked in the US for the past 11 years after working in India, UK, New Zealand…
He wanted to help people unplugging from the regular system (that he calls the “sickcare system” because there is no “healthcare system” in the US) and create a healthcare system. He decided to create his company after realizing how complicated and frustrating it could be to be on the other side of the system, as the customer. His system is currently serving over 1,000 patients and consists of a monthly membership giving them (the patients) access to 3 doctors. The goal of his company is to provide more value and to serve the patients better by spending more time with them. The goal is to practice medicine “the way we USED TO practice”.
Challenge given to the audience: Whenever there is stress and chaos around you do not be fragile, when we think of the opposite of fragile we think of words like strong, courageous… but it is not really the opposite. The real opposite of fragile is anti-fragile, so be anti-fragile, it will make you and your business stronger.
3-Albina Rippy Owner – YogaOne Studios
Brief story: Albina came from Kazakhstan when she was 16 years old to study in the US. She worked as a CPA for a public accounting firm then realized her work did not feel like it had meaning. One day when she was 7 months pregnant she was working late on a financial report and was the last one in the office. The following day the report was disregarded and worthless. This moment for Albina was the trigger to change her lifestyle and follow her passion by opening a yoga studio with her husband (which now grew into 7 locations and one retreat center in New Mexico).
Challenge given to the audience: Remember that hard work is different than great work and you want to do great work. What is your passion, your calling, what is your heart calling for and take the fist step towards that direction. Maybe it can be picking up the phone, or taking a class…
4- Jay Steinfeld Founder & CEO – Blinds.com
Brief story: 30 years ago Jay Steinfeld and his wife Naomi had 2 brick and mortar blinds stores in Houston, TX. Later in 1993, he decided to open an online store even though no one around him though it was a good idea, but he did it anyways and that was the beginning of Blinds.com. As the first and only online blinds retailor he became very successful. Then in 2002 his wife and business partner Naomi passed away, that was his trigger. He was devastated but it also woke him up. He started reading a lot about business and psychology with books such as “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. He came to the realization that his employees were not his servants and changed his management style. He started working for his employees in order to allow them to bring new ideas to the company and he also gave them more responsibilities which gave him more time to think of the future of the company. After this switch the company started growing exponentially. Jay Steinfeld really sees the changes made as the reason for the survival and success of his business. Then in 2014, Blinds.com merged with Home Depot and Jay Steinfeld stayed as the CEO of the company.
Challenge given to the audience: Maintain focus, optimism, resilience after the death of a loved one, how do you maintain your business and focus on that as well.
5- Lisa Helfman Founder & Board Chair – Brighter Bites
Brief story: Lisa Helfman was getting sick a lot, feeling drained all the time so she decided it had to change. She joined a fruit and vegetable co-op, started eating better, healthier and feeling better but more importantly she saw a change in her children’s eating habits. One day a birthday party her son asked her if he really had to eat the piece of cake so she asked him “what’s wrong with it?” and he replied: “it’s too sweet I would rather have fruits”. Right then she knew that she needed to help others to do the same changes in communities were it was needed. Nutrition and food education was lacking in these communities. So she launched a program called “Brighter Bites” which now delivers fresh produces to more than 30,000 families in Houston, Dallas and Austin AND helps these families with educational programs about nutrition. Brighter Bites is also expanding to New-York, Washington DC and Southeast Florida.
Challenge given to the audience: What is your passion, not your professional one but “regular” day-to-day passion, what do you read about when you do not have to work? This can help you find your purpose. Once you find your passion, write it down and make a plan about how you can impact the world with it. Also remember no to be afraid to ask questions.
From left to right: Dr. Lance Black, Dr. Geetinder Goyal, Albina Rippy, (Sum and Substance event moderator), Jay Steinfeld, Lisa Helfman, Josiah Hall (live band)
Overall, the event was very informative, and I left feeling inspired and motivated to seek a company having a purpose other than profit alone. It is this type of ethical leadership that inspires me and supports the foundations of ethics and leadership I’m studying at UST in the Cameron School of Business.
Furthermore, it made me realized the importance of finding meaning at work and doing “great” work instead of just “good” work.
University of St. Thomas – MBA and MSF candidate
To find out more about Conscious Capitalism: https://www.consciouscapitalism.org/
To find out more about Sum and Substance: https://sumandsub.com/