On Having Fun

On Having Fun
November 5, 2019 Summit Coffee
In Blog, Fashion

The French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:

“If you want to build a ship,
don’t drum up the men to
gather wood, divide the
work, and give orders.
Instead, teach them to yearn
for the vast and endless sea.”

How to motivate a team of people who work in different cities, come from different backgrounds, and have varying visions for their lives, is the great responsibility of every leader. This isn’t unique to me, to our industry or our generation. It’s as old as time.

As we’ve further developed and strengthened our mission and our goals, what we do approach differently than some is our desire to have fun. Well, I should make this about my perspective — it’s what I value more than most CEOs and leaders, I have found. I want to have fun, and I believe that a leader and company that prioritizes this has some advantages.

My approach to having fun isn’t new — it’s one of Summit’s nine Macro Goals. It dawned on me today, however, that there is a reason it’s the Macro Goal I have the hardest time “checking off.” It’s because I have been looking at fun, and the other eight goals to be fair, just as they are written: as goals.

Goals are, literally, things to be scored, achieved, reached. But having fun cannot be measured by a goal, a moment in time when you have an awakening and yell, “Look at us, we’re having fun! We did it!”

Instead, having fun is a value. As are the other eight statements — being a good and fair employer, sharing our story, being sustainable. None of these should be targets we try to hit, but should be statements we vow to live out in how we approach our work every day.

So, from hereon forth, consider them our Nine Company Values — goodbye to the Macro Goals language. But, back to fun.

I somewhat jokingly texted my brother Spencer a few hours ago that “I care more about having fun than most people.” Why? I believe if you can see life through a lens that’s generally fun-colored, you can approach everything with more hope, more optimism, more energy, more of your whole self.

And as I have written about in the past, I have the privilege/responsibility of extending my personal values onto the company that I own and operate. If I believe that having fun as an individual leads to improved hope, optimism, and energy, than Summit should operate with that same lens.

Working in the service industry isn’t always glorious. It’s labor intensive, it’s busy, it doesn’t pay very well, it’s pretty public and unforgiving. If we can try to make it fun, though — as the company leaders, as the front-line employees — than it will make everything brighter, happier, and give it perhaps more purpose in our lives.

Deloitte has shown that over 50% of business leaders rate culture and engagement as urgent issues, while Glassdoor reports that culture and leadership are three times more important to employees than salary. So companies and leaders need to decide what they stand for, what their values are. And having fun is, very distinctly, one of ours.

I fully admit that our workplace isn’t always fun. This January, Andrew told me that “we aren’t having that much fun anymore.” And when we look at our baristas, some days and weeks they look way more exhausted than exhilarated. This post isn’t about recognizing ourselves, and sharing the secrets for “how to be great like Summit.” It’s more the opposite, in fact, that we know we aren’t doing enough to ensure that having fun remains one of our nine core values.

Howard Schultz, he of Starbucks fame, said that leaders should work to exceed the expectations of their team, so that their team can exceed the expectations of the customers. For today, that starts with fun. I want to approach work with more levity, more humor, more positive energy — more fun — than I have been. My hope and belief is that if I can do that, then others will see how much fun I am having and they’ll want work to be more fun, too. It’s not fun to tell employees how to build a boat and instruct them to do so; it’s fun, as Saint-Exupéry wrote, to “teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

At the end of the day, we’re in the business of making people happy, and what’s a better way to do that than by having workplaces full of employees having fun? This is my opus on changing goals to values, and making fun a core value of Summit’s that we’re committed to focusing on and bettering with every decision and every day here forward.

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