Insights Using the Lens of Passion Capital

April 12, 2016

I find that owners and management of most organizations use a standard set of statements and reports that shine timely light on how they are doing and that they also use planning tools and processes that they are comfortable with, have withstood the test of time and that really work for them.

However, I am a firm believer in the need to periodically look at a business from a different angle or point of view and I encourage my clients to do so. There is always something to be learned when you use a new lens through which to scrutinize your organization.

I have provided business advisory services to Stephen Thomas Ltd since 2007. This Toronto firm is the largest marketing agency in the country that focuses solely on the not-for-profit marketplace. I work with them on setting the agenda for and facilitating their annual two day senior management offsite planning sessions. Every two to three years we use a different lens through which to look at all facets of their business. Earlier this year we used Paul Alofs’ book Passion Capital (McClelland & Stewart, 2012) with great success and I would like to share this experience with you.

Paul Alofs is an innovator who has run the 500 North American Disney Stores, HMV Music Stores and since 2003 has been the CEO of The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation (not a client of Stephen Thomas). Paul has been named Innovative Retailer of the Year, Music Industry Executive of the Year and was an inaugural inductee into the Marketing Hall of Legends.

He has created the concept of Passion Capital upon which he believes all other forms of capital are built. There are 7 Principles which are the basis for Passion Capital:

Creed – a focused statement of beliefs that creates clarity, unity and inspiration for the organization. Developing a creed “What do we believe” is the first and most important building block of Passion Capital.

Culture – Successful cultures are built with a long-term commitment to performance and to human values such as loyalty and respect. Actions, not words, drive performance based cultures.

Courage – is born out of adversity, challenge and making mistakes. Courage is having the strength to stand up for your beliefs and to take risks. Fear of failure, more than any other fear, prevents people from building Passion Capital. If you hit the bull’s eye every time, you are standing much too close to the target.

Brand – built over time and represents a promise of performance. As Jeff Bezos, Amazon, said “You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” Your brand is your unique proposition built on creed, culture and courage.

Resources – such as financial, human and technological are the lifeblood of Passion Capital when they are allocated effectively, when the right resources are invested in the right place at the right time.

Strategy – the typical strategic planning tool of SWOT analysis needs to be replaced with SPOT analysis with passion replacing weaknesses. Strategy is the brain of Passion Capital.

Persistence – is the determination and will to keep working toward something you believe in. Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. Persistence is the heart of Passion Capital.

Stephen Thomas takes a very open and participative approach to its offsite planning meetings with all employees. Prior to the senior management team leaving for the offsite an all employee meeting is held and there is always a leave behind assignment for employees. So this year employees were divided into small teams with each team assigned to one of the Passion Capital principles with a view to examining Stephen Thomas through that very particular lens. So we had both the senior management group and all other employees focused on looking at the company from a new perspective.

Shortly after the offsite meetings, the senior management team and the employee teams presented their findings and recommendations for change that provided input into an implementation plan.

The purpose of this blog is:

  1. To emphasize the importance of periodically looking at your organization through a new lens;
  2. An introduction to Passion Capital and the principles of Creed, Courage and Persistence that are particularly innovating and different; and
  3. To offer up my opinion that I would be extremely surprised if there were not a few “Aha Moments” if you looked at your business through the lens of Passion Capital.

Paul Alofs’ book is rich with stories and real examples supporting the case for Passion Capital. He also likes to use quotes such as the following one from Canadian Dominic Barton. Dominic is the global managing director of McKinsey, who has argued that Passion is critical to business and critical to McKinsey –

“Passion is key. You don’t always have to be logical. Don’t do something because of what you think it might get you, do it because you’re passionate about it.”

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