How Prioritizing Purpose Makes All the Difference in Creating a Lasting Business

Friday Coffee Meetup:  Jan 20, 2017

Presented by Eron Zehavi

Blog Writeup by Jan Young

You can listen to the podcast here.

Eron Zehavi is the Founder and CEO of Wellnest, a holistic wellness lifestyle brand and local digital marketplace to easily and affordably connect yoga teachers with students for personalized 1-on-1, small group, and corporate yoga sessions. He was previously the Co-Founder and Chief Rewards Officer of Swagbucks, the web’s largest and most engaged rewards and loyalty community with over $160 million distributed rewards. Swagbucks grew from a 4 person bootstrapped company over the course of 8 years to 250 people, raising $60M in what was at the time the largest series A round in Los Angeles. It was through Eron’s experience at Swagbucks that he evolved his purpose driven approach to business that led to his new business and the subject of his presentation.

Swagbucks was formed by an unlikely foursome:  a honey exporter, a song writer who organized benefit concerts, a magician, and a Minor-League baseball promotor who spent a lot of his time working with mascots. They started their company in an upstairs office of the Jewish community center in Redondo Beach. None of them were in tech or had an MBA. So why were they successful? The Swagbucks foursome was purpose focused. They were focused on creating a sustainable business and building things that lasted.

The Swagbucks purpose was simple. Traditionally, loyalty programs were built on the breakage concept: Loyal customers earning points that went unused or holding gift cards with $0.05 or $3.65 remaining. These points and gift cards added up to big bucks. Ironically, these loyalty programs make money from the lack of loyalty—people are disincentivized from doing business with the company. It’s too hard.  Swagbucks believed that everything you do should incentivize people to come back and engage with you again. So, they made it easy to use your points or leftover gift cards to get stuff you felt good about. The CEO put his baseball card collection up on their site, they found old classic VHS tapes, they got Irish themed holiday items from the 99-cent store. The focus was on tangible value and making people feel good about doing business with them.

Eron shared a quote and a reflection:

  • “Those creating the technology of tomorrow will do more to influence the future of human spirituality than will all the religious leaders combined.” ~ Dan Brown
  • “Best Practices” provide an overview of what has worked well in the past, not a blueprint of what is best for the future.

It is Eron’s belief that technology is transformative and has the power to positively influence human spirituality. We often get sidelined with tangential activities. We get disconnected from why we’re doing what we’re doing. We look at past examples for best practices instead of answering the question: What is my purpose? And by extension, what is the purpose of my business? What are we creating in the world?

What energy are you creating and infusing in the world? Infuse yourself into the purpose of your business. All of your employees must be aligned. If you and your employees are all aligned with the purpose of your business, what does that look like? When you are aligned, what you create equals more than the sum of the parts. It’s about creating a sustainable business.

In 2008, the loyalty business was just coming up. Programs were for VIPs only; rewards were few and far between. Swagbucks turned it on its head. They had $5 redemption levels; you could get the best item at lowest redemption value. This was counterintuitive to the best practices at the time because their payoff was so fast. But customers wanted a fast payoff. Swagbucks thought about what the customers wanted.

As Eron put it: Our businesses are extensions of ourselves. What we want to put out into the world. Have that be what we want to put out in the world. If corporations are people, then treat them like that. People have morality, hopes, ideas of justice and goodness. Intertwine that into your business. You want to surround yourself with people who light you up, who care what you have to say. You don’t want to be surrounded by negative energy. And so it’s the same with a company. That’s the magic. Put that in the fabric of your business. This is not taught in business school, but it is the essence of a successful business.

Eron shared a slide with images of Love vs Fear. Some people thing hate is the opposite of love, but it’s not. Fear is the opposite of love. When you’re defining what you want to put out in the world, think: Does anyone want a life of scarcity? No. Abundance, joy, peace, love, connection, understanding. All of these are rooted in love. Compassion. Empathy. Business is an extension of our lives. So what we want in the world, in our lives—put it into your business. If you want a sustainable business, keep fear, anger, scarcity out. What are people worried about? We worry about money. But we print money. Literally. If you live in place of scarcity and fear, you are getting away from your purpose. But purpose lives in Love. This isn’t hippy dippy, this is just how the universe works.

Eron shared a slide with an image of an Othello board. Eron’s new mission—his purpose, his business—is to turn dark energy into light. It’s important to share what is beautiful and positive. Energy does not live on an island. We are all in the same pool of energy. Like the Othello board, what you surround yourself with, that’s what you become. Why put in negative energy? Separation and competition disconnects us from creating a joyful happy world. That’s really everyone’s mission. Think about this: you’re looking at a pool of water, you’re in the deep end of the pool, my son is in the shallow end and he shits in the pool. What do you do? You get out of the pool, even if you’re far away. If someone shits in the pool you get out—it’s the same in an energy pool. You want to put something good in the energy pool of life. Don’t shit in the pool. Put in compassion, love, joy.

Eron shared a quote from Nikola Tesla: “It is doubtful whether men who would not be ready to fight for a high principle would be good for anything at all.” There is power and challenge in that quote. It is imperative that we all take on the personal responsibility to create joy and opportunity in this world. Smile at the barista in the Starbucks. Then the barista will smile at the next person, and so on, and so on. Are you willing to fight for a joyful world so that your family and friends will have a life of abundance, joy, empathy, compassion, and love?

We are the ones to create the technology that will transform the world. Our businesses will thrive our personal lives will thrive. You have the power to do something about it. We are disconnected from the idea that we can make a difference. But we have that power. Ask yourselves – what am I going to create today, and how is that going to benefit the world? You, your customers, your P&L, your accountant, you will all be happy.

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