Can Building a Culture of Love Improve Your Business Outcomes?
The following is adapted from Love as a Business Strategy by Mohammad F. Anwar, Frank E. Danna, Jeffrey F. Ma and Christopher J. Pitre.
From late 2015 through 2016, our business to employee (B2E) solutions company, Softway, was on the verge of bankruptcy.
With a negative 15 percent EBITDA or losses, we were hemorrhaging cash and staring down the reality of seven-figure losses. We owed everyone money — the banks, the credit card companies, and our landlords. Our CEO had even liquidated all his assets to keep the company afloat.
When we took a close, uncomfortable look at our company’s problems, the culprit became apparent: we had a culture of fear, and it was very nearly our undoing. Our employee retention and satisfaction had suffered, and if we didn’t course correct, these issues would drag down the entire organization.
If culture was at the root of our problem, it had to be our solution, too. We committed to creating a company culture of love rather than one of fear and greed. We would find the answer to the question: can building a culture of love improve your business outcomes?
Today, as you’ll see, the results of our culture shift speak for themselves.
Putting Our Turnaround into Numbers
When people ask us if going all-in on a culture of love really improves business outcomes, we point to ourselves as example Number 1. Here, the numbers really do tell the story of just how remarkable our turnaround was.
At the end of 2019, just three years after Softway almost went under, our company was growing and profitable. We not only increased our EBITDA to 28 percent (that’s a 43 percent net difference!), but we also tripled our revenue. We had paid off all our debt. No matter which of the following metrics you want to look at, each can be traced back to our success at adopting a culture of love.
From 2016 to 2019, we saw the following improvements in our business outcomes:
Average Project size: Increased by 750 percent, putting our contracts into six and seven figures
Average Account size: Increased by 985 percent
Client Retention rate: Grew from 60 to 90 percent
Revenue per Employee: Increased by 269 percent
Attrition: In 2016, our attrition rate was over 30 percent. In 2019, our combined average attrition for India and the United States was sitting at just 12 percent.
Glassdoor rating: Our team members are not only staying longer, but they are also happier. In 2016, our Glassdoor rating stood at an unremarkable 2.9. As of this writing, that rating is well above 4.0.
Not only did the culture change get us out of the hole, but it made the organization more successful than it had ever been.
Look for the Problems Beneath the Surface
As remarkable as Softway’s turnaround story is, here’s what the numbers don’t say.
For years before our downturn, Softway had looked like a success. And on paper, we were. But our unforgiveness, misbehaviors, and structural greed caught up to us. The issues became so systemic that we stopped making money.
Through our transformation, we learned a valuable lesson — one that applies to any business of any size and in any industry. If you’re a leader and all you’re doing is looking at your bottom line and watching your account grow quarter over quarter, you might think you’re okay. But what problems are sitting just below the surface? What are the numbers hiding that you’re not bothering to look for?
We didn’t even think about addressing our problems until it was almost too late. Like many companies, we looked at our issues, shrugged, and said, “That’s just the way we’re built.” But eventually, our denial led to real pain.
If your company tolerates a toxic, unhealthy culture, the consequences might not have caught up with you yet — but it’s only a matter of time. For long-term success, it’s critical to look at the problems beneath the surface as well as the ones right in front of your face, and then take action.
Commit to a Culture of Love
Your story doesn’t have to be our story. You have the opportunity to change now — before your own systemic misbehaviors catch up to you.
Ultimately, a culture of love isn’t even about change, but about opportunity. What opportunities could you embrace if your culture changed for the better? What could your people do if they were empowered and supported?
When you ignore your people, when you exclude and marginalize, you’re leaving money on the table. But when you care about your people and commit to building a culture of love around them, your business outcomes will improve in almost every way.
For more advice on creating a healthy company culture, you can find Love as a Business Strategy on Amazon.
Softway is a business to employee (B2E) solutions company that offers experiences, services, and technology products to help build resilient, inclusive, and high-performing companies.
In 2015, when a toxic culture almost bankrupted the company, Softway’s leadership team — including authors Mohammad Anwar (CEO), Chris Pitre (VP), and Frank Danna and Jeff Ma (Directors) — vowed to bring humanity back to the workplace. Through trial, error, and determination, they rebuilt their organization around their greatest asset: people. Today, through the Seneca Leaders program and other employee-focused offerings, Softway is helping thousands of leaders spanning over forty-six countries transform their businesses by putting love to work.