Episode 208

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I’m a big believer in love. Sure — romantic love or the love you have for your family is awesome but that’s not what I am talking about. I am talking about loving the people on your team and your clients. It’s amazing the level of connectivity you can create when you lead with love. It may seem odd, but I think love is especially important in the workplace. Agencies lead with love towards their employees and clients will likely keep those employees and clients and enjoy the fruits of those relationships for many years.

That’s why I knew I’d love Steve Farber’s new book Love is Just Damn Good Business. Steve has decades of experience as a leadership trainer and expert, he’s an internationally sought out speaker and best-selling author. (He was my guest on episode #46 and we mentioned love a few times there too!)

In episode #208 of Build a Better Agency, Steve and I talk about the impact of love on a business’ ROI, employee retention and employer satisfaction. This is one of my favorite conversations I’ve had, and if you only listen to one episode of the podcast, I hope it’s this one.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here: https://www.whitelabeliq.com/ami/

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Why Steve’s message is so important in today’s world
  • The benefits of building a work environment based on love
  • Building love and relationships with clients
  • How to demonstrate love to employees
  • The powerful message of being fully present with people
  • What empathy really looks like in action
  • Showing love and kindness in the most difficult times
  • Serving your employees by being a “strong frame”

The Golden Nuggets:

“Do what you love in the service of people who love what you do.” - @stevefarber Click To Tweet “I'm looking for brilliance in an agency. I'm looking for creativity. I'm looking for them to solve my problems. I'm also looking for a relationship.” - @stevefarber Click To Tweet “Empathy is my ability to really understand how people feel deeply enough where it’s almost like we’re sharing feelings.” - @stevefarber Click To Tweet “Your presence simply means that you're with them. You know them, you know who they are as human beings. That's a way of showing somebody very clearly that you love them. “ - @stevefarber Click To Tweet “Love is really creating a place where people can feel safe because they know what the expectations are.” - @stevefarber Click To Tweet

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Announcer:

It doesn’t matter what kind of an agency you run, traditional, digital, media buying, web dev, PR, whatever your focus, you still need to run a profitable business. The Build a Better Agency Podcast, presented by White Label IQ will show you how to make more money and keep more of what you make. Let us help you build an agency that is sustainable, scalable, and if you want down the road, sellable. Bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey, everybody Drew McLellan here. Welcome to another episode of build a better agency. I’m so glad you’re back. If there is only one episode of this podcast you ever listened to, I am glad it’s this one. I hope you come back, but if not, I feel good about leaving you at this one. I have to confess to you that I am a huge believer in love. I don’t mean romantic love, I don’t mean love for my daughter, although I’m all about those two. I’m talking about love in business. I think it has a place in our agencies.

I think that it actually is our super power. I think it’s one of the ways that we can create a workplace and our relationship with our clients that is different than what everybody else out there is promising or doing. It has nothing to do with our subject matter expertise. It has nothing to do with our deliverables, but I think it is a part of the humanity of how we come together as team and how we serve clients. I am a big believer in love. I honestly believe that sort of leading with love is one of the reasons why I have the staff tenure that I have, because I really do genuinely love the people that I work with, and I make sure they know that.

I also believe it’s one of the reasons why, you know my agency’s about to be 25 years old, and we still have some clients that have been with us from almost the beginning, that have been with us for over 20 years. I absolutely believe it’s because we love them and because we make sure that they know that we actually genuinely care about them and their work. This whole idea of love and business, I know it feels sometimes a little squishy, I know sometimes it feels a little weird, but I am a fan. I am a big fan, which is one of the reasons why I have always been a big fan of Steve Farber.

Steve Farber wrote, what I believe, is the best without a question business book that I have ever read, which is called The Radical Leap. That book came out in about 2004, I think, 2004, 2005. I read it, and I read it saying, yes, this is validating how I show up as a leader, how I choose to be. It felt great because I hadn’t really read a lot of books that made it sound like what I was doing was smart. If anything, I’d read books said, don’t get too close to your employees. Don’t let them see how you’re feeling, and I was doing the opposite of that.

As a young business leader, I wasn’t really sure what I was doing, and Steve’s book, Radical Leap, just validated everything that I believe to be true about business. Early on in the podcast, I think it was episode, hang on, I got to look, 46. Yep, episode 46. Steve was on the podcast and we talked about this idea of radical leap and really leading with love. The book’s a business parable and I so connected with it. Then I found out from Steve that he was writing another book, and his new book is called Love is Just Damn Good Business. It’s sort of what I think of as the companion to Radical Leap.

Radical Leap was inspirational for me. For me, it was validating, but for a lot of people, it was inspirational, that they could bring that emotion of love into the business place in a really, obviously healthy and safe way, but certainly in a way that actually impacted the relationships they had with their team and with their clients. Love is Just Damn Good Business is sort of the companion piece, in that it takes the business parable that gets you fired up about doing it, and the new book shows you how to do it. It’s basically a book that lists examples and how to sort of tutorials about how to really weave the idea of love into your business dealings at all levels.

The book just came out in early September, and as soon as I found out, I got to read an advanced copy. As soon as I read it, I was like, okay, Steve, you got to come back on the show. We need to talk about this topic some more. Steve has graciously agreed to come back on the show and to talk to us a little bit more about, not only why love is good business, but also, how we can infuse it into our business in ways that really matter. Matter, not only to the people, but to the bottom line and all of the reasons why we might want to do that.

I can’t wait to introduce you to him if you haven’t heard his earlier episode, or to reintroduce him and the concept of love inside your agency. Let’s get right to it. All right, without any further ado, Steve, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for coming back.

Steve Farber:

Thanks drew. It’s great to be back with you. It’s been too long.

Drew McLellan:

It has been too long. I spent a few years since you were last on the show, and clearly you’ve been busy thanks to the book. I’m sure it’s kept you busy, getting that all done and sharing it with the world.

Steve Farber:

Yep. That’s occupying virtually every moment of conscious awareness nowadays.

Drew McLellan:

What made you decide, as a part of the body of your work, that Love is Just Damn Good Business needed to be written?

Steve Farber:

Yeah. Thank you. For the uninitiated among your listeners, my first three books, The Radical Leap, The Radical Edge, and Greater Than Yourself, were all parables. So, they’re written in the form of a story. There’s a lot of great ideas in there, but I’d never actually written a book that is more on the traditional, here’s how you do it kind of category. What’s happened over the years, the first edition of Leap came out in 2004. This work-

Drew McLellan:

Wow.

Steve Farber:

I know it’s crazy. This work has been out there for 15 [crosstalk 00:06:34]. That’s really my point.

Drew McLellan:

That’s right.

Steve Farber:

We’re very, very old. It’s been out there for a while, which means that a lot of people, because fortunately, a lot of people read that book and still read that book. The ideas have been field tested for a long time now. Lots of companies that have woven the ideas into the fabric of their company and made a part of the way they do business and lots of individual leaders that have, even if their company hasn’t done anything like that, they do in the way that they lead their teams and they have lots of stories to tell.

I wanted to lay this inside out in a way that yes, I hope it’s inspirational, but also, to really give people very tangible, concrete ideas to put into play and to provide lots and lots of examples from individuals and companies that are doing that very thing.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. When I read it, and as I said in the intro, it’s still today, and I get asked all the time, what is my favorite business book? What do I think is the business book that has had the most impact on me professionally? And I always say Radical Leap, as you know, because I try and tag you whenever I do that so that you know I’m still out spreading the good word. But when I was reading the new book, what I was thinking is, is Radical Leap made me want to be a different kind and a better leader, and this book shows me how. I think it’s a great companion.

Steve Farber:

Oh, good. I’m glad to hear you say that, because when you write books or write anything for public consumption, there’s this leap of faith, no pun intended, that you make between what you think is valuable and will resonate with people and what actually does. It’s a mighty, frightening thing. For somebody like yourself, who’s been a practitioner of this stuff for so long, it’s really encouraging to hear you say that.

But the other thing too, Drew, that I’ve done here, which is pretty obvious, given the title of the book, is that I’ve made that part of the title of the book, right? So, you’ve got The Radical Leap, which stands for love, energy, audacity, and proof, but it doesn’t say that on the cover. You’ve got The Radical Edge, which is taking The Radical Leap a little bit deeper, but it doesn’t say love on the cover. You’ve got greater than yourself, which is about raising other people up, a very significant act of mentorship is one way of looking at it, which has completely inactive love, but it doesn’t say that on the cover.

Now I come up with a book that’s called Love is Just Damn Good Business. It’s like, okay, I just felt like it was time to put that front and center, and by doing that, I expect there’s going to be two different reactions to that book. One is the knee-jerk reaction for some people is going to be the classic proverbial eye roll, oh boy. A California, touchy, feely hoo-ha crap. The other response is going to be, wow, that is true. What is that all about? Just the title is true, so what is that all about? My hope is that, that by being so forthright about it out front, it’s like beating the bushes a little bit and finding the people that are already there, but either haven’t given themselves permission to really act on that impulse or instinct that they already have, that love is just good business, and also for the people who are kind of the kindred spirits that have already been very overtly and boldly acting in that way.

That’s been my experience. So far it’s, I mean, I’m sure there are both reactions out there, and everything in between, but it’s really rewarding to me when … I just test the title out on people. It’s like, now I just got a new book, just wrote a new book. Yeah, what’s it called? I lean in and I say, it’s called, Love is Just Damn Good Business, and then I’ve watched the response. Most of the time it’s, well, I hear a lot of, that’s a great title, which is rewarding, gratifying, but the other one is, wow, yeah, that is true. Then there are going to be some people that go, “Oh, really? So, what do you mean by that?” Then I know that one’s going to take a little more work.

Drew McLellan:

Right. I have to walk them through some of the chapters. Right?

Steve Farber:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

Well, I also think the timing of the book is politically, culturally society-wise, especially here in the States, I just sort of feel like we’ve been taking it on the chin lately. The idea that we’re going to celebrate loving people in an environment where people are, if anything, being more reserved and more sort of holding themselves back, I think the timing is good too. I think it reminds everybody that, quite honestly, I think love has always been a big part of business and successful businesses.

I think, in today’s world, where people are fighting to find good people, and if they can find them, fighting to keep them. The same thing with customers, customers have so many choices, wouldn’t it be interesting and different if the reason why your employees and your customers stayed with you was simply because they felt loved and they loved you in return?

Steve Farber:

Yeah. I think, in the great … First of all, yes, there’s really nothing new here. I mean, I didn’t invent love by.

Drew McLellan:

Well, that, it would have been impressive.

Steve Farber:

That’s a hell of a brand accomplishment. But I also am not the first person to talk about this. I mean, I’m informed by my own mentors, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner. In their leadership practices, they have a practice called encouraging the heart, and then they talk about the love connection between … They don’t use that word, that phrase, but the love connection between leader and constituent, and of course, Tim Sanders wrote Love is the Killer App before The Radical Leap ever came out.

The conversation has been going on for a while, but I think you’re right, there’s something different in the air. I think maybe part of it is driven by, we live in such a polarized confrontational world, it seems right, particularly as it revolves around the political discourse, if discourse is the right word. But then, in our companies, in our agencies, in our businesses, we create our own culture. By definition, that culture is the proverbial melting pot because in … You got people that work for you, I’m sure that is not true everywhere, and I could argue that it should be, but we have people from all political persuasions, ethnic backgrounds, gender identification.

We have diversity right in our hands in our business. We have an opportunity there to unify people around doing great work and helping each other to succeed and fulfilling each other’s hopes, dreams, and aspirations. What a great opportunity to think about our work as both kind of an Oasis in a world that seems so devoid of those very things, but also, as an example, to set as an example of what’s possible to everybody else. I think we consider ourselves to be business people, air quotes, and that’s it, at our own peril really, and we limit our own possibility.

Instead, to think, well, how can I really create a culture, an environment that people love working in and not just because it’s a nice thing, and not just because it’ll set a shiny example for the rest of the world, but also because if I might be so presumptuous as to quote myself, it’s just damn good business. If I can do that, if I can create that kind of culture in my business, then that is more likely to, even just on its own, just naturally translate into services and products and projects and everything else that we do for our clients is going to turn into an experience that our clients are going to love.

When they love what we do for them, that’s where the money comes from. This is a business case. It’s not simply an aspirational thing, it’s a business case. You and I have seen it over and over again for decades now. Really, that companies that figure this out and agencies that figure this out and small entrepreneurial ventures that figure this out and Fortune 100 companies that get it, experience the tremendous benefit of having created it.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and I think the other side of that too is, one of the privileges we have as either owners or leaders, which is pretty much who’s listening to us now is, we get to decide that work environment that … The reason I started my agency 25 years ago is because I work for a guy that I thought was mean and a jerk, and I didn’t want to work for him anymore, and I wanted to create an environment that I wanted to be in.

I wanted to be in an environment where love was a core value and that it was okay to talk about … It was appropriate for me to care about my employees beyond their output. Because that was the environment I wanted to be in. I think the other part of this is, and I want to get into the ROI of this pretty quickly, because right now, if anyone’s eye-rolling, I want to put their eyes back where they belong, but I do think part of it is, we have a privilege as, certainly as an agency owner. In many cases, if you sit at the leadership table, alongside the owner, to influence the kind of work environment that we have for ourselves, and who wouldn’t want to work in an environment where people were lifted up and celebrated, and where love was a currency that was freely dolled out?

Steve Farber:

Yeah, that’s right. So, what’s the ROI then? Well, what’s interesting … Well, first of all, we can define ROI a couple of different ways in the book. One is the obvious, which is return on investment. But the other is, I called it reciprocity on investment. If I invest love in, for example, my clients, they’re going to reciprocate. The mantra here, and the book is also structured around this as three parts, do what you love in the service of people who love what you do. Do what you love is your personal heart, connection to the work. In the service of people is the context for it. You’re not just doing what you love, you’re using that to serve people to give love to them in a way that really has an impact on their lives.

What do you do when that happens? They love you in return. Do what you love and the service of people who love what you do. When you have clients that raise their hand and say, “I love what you guys do for me,” they’re not going anywhere. The same is true internally. If you have employees and associates that say, “I love working here,” even if they get an offer for $10 more down the street or whatever it is, they’re not likely to uproot themselves and go, unless it’s some really significant opportunity that they really should pursue anything, honestly. It’s really about the return. It really is about the return. As you know, I’m a business guy, and I don’t use the word love lightly.

To be clear, we’re not talking about love here as a sentiment, or just kind of a soft, squishy feeling. It’s really a practice and a discipline. The question that we need to answer is, first of all, the question you’re posing, is it worth it? And if it is worth it, how do we do it? I wish I could trout out a whole bunch of studies that show a direct causal connection between increase of love in the work environment and the bottom line. I think studies like that, they are starting to happen. We’re involved in some of our own research on this.

But I don’t think we have to do that either, because we’re already measuring a lot of this stuff. We’re measuring, for example, engagement. Why do we think employee engagement is a good thing? Because there’s been a huge correlation between a highly engaged workforce and results. Whether those results are profitability or productivity or whatever metrics we use. There is a huge correlation, and it’s one that I address quite a bit in the book actually with a little variation on the theme called net promoter score, right? That’s a measurement.

Net promoter score basically asks the question, on a scale of one to 10, how likely are you to recommend us to friends or family? Well, if I give you a 10, what am I saying? Saying, I love you. I love this place.

Drew McLellan:

I love you like in the, we just met in the last few weeks and I can’t stop talking about you, to the point that I’m annoying my friends [crosstalk 00:19:59].

Steve Farber:

Right, exactly.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Steve Farber:

Yeah. I love you, and the shouting from the roof tops kind of loving you. Of course, what’s interesting about net promoter score is, it’s not like on a scale of one to 10, there’s a gradation, and if they only give you a five, well, that’s pretty good, but it could be better. It’s like, no, man, five is not good. It’s got to be nine or 10. That’d be love. It’s a love metric. In fact, I think it was, I can’t remember his name, but a while back at Intuit, they wrote a blog post about their company and their culture. They actually called the net promoter score, the love metric. Why is that important? Because people that rate you a 10 on net promoter score, again, you get all the results that you want.

They stay with you longer, they talk about you more, they spend more money, they’re more loyal to your brand, all that stuff. That’s a pretty good measure of love. It’s just not the way that we typically think about it. Because we’re conditioned to