Motivation, Purpose, and Optimizing For Impact

On a recent trip to Haiti, as with so many previous trips to that remarkable country, I had the privilege to meet some truly incredible people.  These people were different from any people I’ve ever met in all of my travels, and I have met some remarkable humans in my day.  These people gave me an energizing dose of perspective on life that rocked me to my core and reinforced why I jump out of bed each day.

I was meeting in person for the first time with seven young boys, all under the age of eleven, and all of whom I am enjoying the great privilege of helping to make some significant changes in the trajectory of their lives.  Each of these boys was living alone as an orphan on the streets of Cité de Soleil, the biggest slum in Haiti, with no family, no home and having to fight for their food as they foraged for survival.

Every day of my life, I feel privileged to live in Canada; a beautiful, socially liberal and fiscally conservative country that happens to rank as the fourteenth most prosperous country on Earth.  If you don’t have a job in Canada, you can still receive up to $51,300 per year in unemployment benefits, securing you a comfortable spot in the top one percent of wealthiest people on Earth.  While our country has its imperfections, most of us are still very likely to have a roof over our heads, and we are also very likely to have enough food for ourselves and our families.  I sometimes wonder if some of us can honestly fathom what it’s like to live on the streets?

One question that I get asked a ton is “how do you stay so motivated?”  I understand why people ask that, but it’s not how I think about my work; that’s why I’m sharing this story.

I live by a saying I heard a long time ago; it’s something I ask myself often “If not you, then who? If not now, then when?” – it’s a tough focusing framework, and it likely gets me involved in a few too many things, but it helps guide my decisions.

To me, 360 is an amazing company providing tremendous value to our clients and their customers, and it also serves as a tool to make an impact in the world. I feel and know we are super lucky to have an unbelievable team, clients and investors onside with supporting that.  I want us to become a billion-dollar company because I know that by doing that, we will be able to have a ton of impact in the World.  Before I even knew what this company was going to do, I had a list of outcomes I wanted to get to that I knew would help me get the rest of it right:

  1. Deliver an unbelievable experience for our clients and their customers.
  2. Build an unbelievable place to work for our team.
  3. Make a difference in the World.

Making a difference in the World is something I think about as a sort of moral imperative for each of us; it’s kind of like the price of admission we pay in exchange for our time on Earth.  It’s something that we’ve fumbled around with as a company too; there are so many great things happening in the World, all of which are worthy of support and energy.  In working with people in Haiti over the last few years, however, I have gained some new perspective on how to create impact at scale.

360 and the individuals who make up 360 have supported charities to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars in the last few years.  Along the way, we’ve worked with some genuinely fantastic charities who are doing great work in the World, but I have always wondered how to maximize and scale up the impact.  Haiti has proven a great place to help think this through because charity has inadvertently caused a lot of damage to that country over the years.  Seeing this unintended downside, I started to notice some things: When you build wells, they can break downWhen you build houses, the people still need to pay tax to live in them.  When you give people food, they need someone to give it to them the next dayBut when you give opportunity, you help empower people to become self-sufficient. I do believe aid is essential right after a disaster, people need access to the basics, but then it needs to move into trade and opportunity.

Our story of working with the Haitian people started back at the end of 2012 when one of the most important people in my life, the late Todd Skinner challenged me as to what I was doing to deliver on my founding commitment to make a difference in the World.  He was right; I was growing this company super fast with the intention to one day do something big, but what was I doing day-to-day, along the way?  That’s how we came to get connected with our team in Port-Au-Prince, and that’s how I came to understand the remarkable leverage created when you give opportunity rather than charity.

Through employing first eleven and now over seventy graduates of CETEMOH’s technology curriculum, we have been able to not only meet some of the most inspiring, creative and motivated people you could ever hope to have as friends, but we’ve also been able to impact hundreds and hundreds of lives.

So, how do you create lasting impact?

From my perspective, it starts with creating opportunity.  You take people with no families from one of the most desperate slums on Earth, and you give them a chance to learn and grow and thrive. These kids are starting out with no support and have lived until now with no resources and no hope.  Now they have a chance to be educated, to get connected with the World and see what life could look like for them.  Imagine what they’ll do with that opportunity.

That’s impact.

Each year, 360 elects a new cohort of team members to be Culture Ambassadors (CA’s) whose job it is to evolve and enable the evolution and flow of 360’s workplace culture.  It’s a big job; we keep growing the size of our team, but we are also expanding the number of locations from which we operate.  We want to make sure that no matter where they work, we are considering all of 360’s team members and doing our best to make sure they have an unbelievable place to work.

When each new group of CA’s is elected, we take them away for a culture boot camp where they can learn about how we think about workplace culture and how we look at delivering on 360’s founding commitments.  A big part of understanding how to do the CA job begins with understanding why we even care about putting resources into our culture.  That starts with an understanding of purpose, and with purpose in mind, we took the newly-elected CA’s to Haiti a few weeks back for their orientation boot camp and to get connected to the purpose 360 is bringing to that incredible country.  Here’s a quick video recap of our recent trip; if you observe, you can meet our new friends and begin to get a feel for the energy and enthusiasm with which they are approaching their newfound opportunity.

360 Culture Ambassador Boot Camp 2017 from 360insights on Vimeo.