In studying leaders and the values which drive them, I’ve found that there is a striking difference between founder owners, and most business executives: In short, it’s the passion and purpose which drives them—it’s their Ho‘ohana, their intention connection to worthwhile work.
With a founder owner, what drives them stems from a very clear WHY, and their passion and purpose usually drives the rest of the company to a much greater degree as well.
In my own work history, I’ve always felt blessed that I had the good fortune to work with both kinds of leaders, and could better understand the difference.
Archive Aloha to revisit: The Alaka‘i Benefactor: Sharing in the ‘Ohana in Business
Now there may be a downside, one being that the founder owner isn’t necessarily a savvy business person as well. That weakness can eventually plague an entire industry if a founder’s followers are too zealous in copying a flawed business model. That was my complaint in my very first Managing with Aloha manifesto; I talked about how much a broken business model can hurt everyone involved. That said, I will opt for working with founder owners every single time, for what you learn from them far outweighs the risk. I also believe that every person who enrolls in their mission and vision is there to help them, and the business, succeed.
Archive Aloha to revisit: Can everyone be a Partner?
Do yourself a favor, and sit with this Do Lecture for the next 25 minutes or so. Take notes. In it, David Hieatt, Co-founder of Hiut Denim Co, talks about why manufacturing is coming back home, and he gives us good insight into the mindset of a founder business owner:
These were my notes;
—I loved his story about his Dad; the notion of putting a signature on your work is something we talk about a lot in Managing with Aloha from a values perspective, yet to do so physically and tangibly as branding and the history tagging he speaks of, wow.
—The Why of a business is easy when it’s the wind in your sails.
—When a factory leaves a town the people often stay there, which means the skills are still there. Realizing this, Hieatt better understood his home town of Cardigan as an integral part of his Why: His Hiut Denim Co. makes jeans “and only jeans” purposefully, but the business finally came to be because his passion for doing so was connected to the town—sense of place!—and it could be done with “grand makers.”
—If you don’t love your product [or service], you shouldn’t be making it [or providing it.]
—You should be selling your product [or service] to the people who love it just as much as you do. Hieatt shares his awareness that his customers are “creatives.”—how would I describe Managing with Aloha customers?
—A company should always inspire you. This is the Why behind his yearbook, and it got me thinking about how the Hualalai marketing calendars which featured a Hawaiian value each month, were designed for our customers, yet inspired all of us as staff as well.
—New ideas will arise from your passion and your belief. Hieatt wants to sell products that last, believing that’s the best thing he can do for the environment—this is his environmental circle of influence. Thus, the idea of his history tag emerged, along with the wonderful processes which surround the idea and bring it to life.
—Back to Dad—wonderful storytelling—the day will come that you don’t get to finish your To Do list. So if you’re going to do anything as your work—i.e. if you’re going to Ho‘ohana;
- Do something you love
- Don’t work on other people’s dreams, work on your own
- Do something so well you’ll always put your signature on it
—He is such a good example of the founder’s mindset! [and thus, this post I’m sharing with you.]
Founders are lifelong learners too.
The video, and Hiut Denim Co, are now 6 years old. I came to discover Hieatt a few years ago, followed him on Twitter, and subscribed to his newsletter and blog, and at some point I copied one of his tweets to keep on my laptop’s desktop so I could re-read it occasionally. I’ve often thought about taking some time to transcribe it for better readability for myself, and to share with you, so let’s cross this one off my To Do list!
Pull out the notes you took after watching the video, and add to them.
Practice your diagnosis skill as manager: After you read through this list of Hieatt’s beliefs, what would you say his personal values are? Which of his values made it into the value statement of his company?
Once you have your own answers written down, click in here: Our user manual—Hiut Denim Co.
The things the last 10 years have taught me, by David Hieatt:
1. If we can’t do the basics amazingly well, nothing else will matter.
2. Never try to be cool. Only try to be good.
3. Be honest. People trust you when you tell the truth.
4. Be brave with your ideas. And fight like a brave to make them happen.
5, Understand everything we do has some negative impact on the environment. But that shouldn’t stop us from trying to be as low impact as we can.
6. Hire people with passion and who care. We can’t put the fire in someone’s belly. Only they can do that.
7. Making this a fun place to work in shouldn’t be confused with being an easy place to work in. Trying to be better than the other guys is never easy.
8. If we make a promise, we have to keep that promise. If events prevent us from keeping that promise, be quick to tell the other person.
9. We all work for this company, but make sure that this company works for you.
10. Try stuff. Make mistakes. This is how we learn.
11. We are not a normal company. Our aim is to make people think as well as to buy.
12. A strong team will achieve much more than a team of strong individuals ever will.
13. We want to be great in what we do. Treat average as the enemy. Be tough on it.
14. Be positive. Believe in your ability to do amazing things.
15. Treat people with the same respect they pay you. Remember, flowers bloom in the sunshine.
16. Have fun. Like is over in a blink of an eye. Ask my dad.
17. It’s OK to disagree on stuff. That’s how great stuff happens.
18. We are using this business to try and change the things we care about. That doesn’t make us perfect. But it means we are doing something. Dick Dastardly had a point.
19. Wrong thinking is often right.
20. We have a point of view. Don’t expect everyone to agree with it.
21. Quality is many things, not just how well you make something.
22. Give something back. It doesn’t have to be money like the earth tax we do. It can be even more valuable. Your time.
23. Do is a powerful word. A good friend of mine told me that.
24. Make time for yourself. For your sports. For your family. Be home for bath time. Kids grow up real quick.
25. Play is good. Equally, work is good too.
26. Stay hungry. Wanting to improve is a never ending journey.
27. Find your love. And do it. Like they say, life is short.
For a more recent conversation with David Hieatt, click into his interview with creative coach Mark McGuinness (both podcast and transcript): Don’t Just Sell Something: Do Something! with David Hieatt.
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Preview of Managing with Aloha, Second Edition, released Summer 2016
Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawai‘i’s Universal Values to the Art of Business