Rewind: How Conscious Culture And Leadership Drives Great Business Results!
On this Conscious Capitalists Podcast Rewind we are bringing you a much loved conversation:
Learn how a conscious culture built a competitive advantage for a pioneering used car business- Driversselect. “Our success as a conscious business was not what I learned in business school".
Hear Steve Hall describe his journey to conscious leadership and great examples of building a conscious culture that drives great business results.
Listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts or watch it on YouTube!
References & Resources:
Steve Hall on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stevehalldriversselect/
Conscious Capitalism main website - www.consciouscapitalism.org
Members profile for driversselect on the Conscious Capitalism website - https://www.consciouscapitalism.org/blog/member-profile-driversselect
Collins, J. (2001). Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't. Random House Business.
Collins, J., Hansen, M.T. (2011). Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos and Luck - Why Some Thrive Despite Them All. Harper Collins
Collins, J., Porras, J., Collins, J. (2005). Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. Random House Business Books.
Mazzoni, M. (2018). How a Texas Used-Car Dealership Became a Conscious Company. SOCAP Digital.
Mackey, J., Sisodia, R. (2014). Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business. Harvard Business Review Press.
Sisodia, R., Henry, T., Eckschmidt, T. (2018). Conscious Capitalism Field Guide. Harvard Business Review Press.
Timothy: Hello everybody, and welcome to episode number 17 of the Conscious Capitalists with myself, Timothy Henry, and my partner in making business a force for good in the world, Raj Sisodia. Hi, Raj.
Raj: Hi Timothy, I can’t believe it’s 17 already
Timothy: You say that every week. It’s 16. Now, it’s 17.
Raj: It shows another week of my life has gone.
Timothy: Well, good to see you, Raj. And today, we have a special guest, Steve Hall, who is on the board of Conscious Capitalism. And Steve’s going to talk to us about his journey to getting to Conscious Capitalism, and the thing that he’s probably most famous for besides being a great husband and great father is that he’s the founder of Drivers Select, a Dallas-based business that he’ll talk about in a moment, but the thing that caught me when I met Steve was, he was out to revolutionize the secondhand car business. When you think about used car salesmen, you don’t think, necessarily, Conscious Capitalism. But I hope that after today when you think about Steve Hall, you’ll think completely differently about used car salesmen. So, hello, Steve, and welcome to our show.
Steve: Hey, Timothy, Raj. What a treat to be here, I tell you. I can’t think of a better way to spend a day than talking about Conscious Capitalism and just appreciate the opportunity to share my journey and some of the learnings along the way.
Timothy: That’s great. Thank you, again, for joining us. And maybe introduce Drivers Select and the story behind that, how did you come to that, and the history of how that evolved.
Steve: Yeah. So, the best way to describe Drivers Select is it’s a retailer of what we refer to as nearly new vehicles. So, we identified in the marketplace that there was a sector of the population that was really preferring to buy a new car because of the body style and comfort of a factory warranty, the new technology. But they had a tough time justifying the high sticker prices and depreciation hits that occur. And so, we built a model where we would wholesale to the public these nearly new vehicles that were one to three-year-old vehicles, one to three years old and still under the factory warranty. And we just built a business over about a 17-year period of time, grew it to close to a little over $400 million in revenue.
And then out of the blue, as part of just one of the practices we had in Conscious Capitalism of giving tours to businesses that we were able to show what we called the power of CARE, and CARE was an acronym for Caring Acts Randomly Expressed, and one of the folks that came through our tours was a gentleman who was president of a Fortune 300 company in the automotive space, and we just hit it off. And out of the blue, I woke up about 69 days later and found out I sold my company. And had the sheer joy of staying with that organization for about 18 months, growing revenues up in markets. And the last one, it was about a $1.1 billion company.
And today, I can say that I’m just super impressed with the job they’ve done and how they’ve taken care of our culture and our people and have grown it close to $2 billion now. And I’m actually reengaging on some joint ventures with them that are pretty exciting, and it’s been an incredible journey, and I’ve learned so much. As far as it relates to Conscious Capitalism, it didn’t start out, I think, as the way how I think of Conscious Capitalism today. I really grew up in the auto business as a summer job. And the thing that stood out to me was the appreciation for some really good cultures and the impact that they had on business, and some of the toxic cultures. And I had fortune to actually be in both of them.
And that led me to really see the opportunity in this toxic industry where if you create a really great culture, you could do some amazing things and have an amazing journey. I started the business in 2004 just with, probably, practicing the business the way I’d been taught by mentors and coaches, my parents who were entrepreneurs, and the lessons I learned in business school. And it was incredible for the first four, five years for the business, but not necessarily for me. And how I found Conscious Capitalism is about 2010 was one of the most fascinating years of my life because it was a such a low point, it was, personally and professionally. It was just after the 2008 financial crash that wiped out a lot of our lending capabilities which we depended heavily to sell cars.
So, the business was under a lot of pressure. My marriage, at the time, was under a lot of pressure. I wasn’t spending time with my kids as much as I’d like. Health-wise, I was having some health issues. I wasn’t really involved in anything outside of the business. And the thing that kept, the question that kept showing up for me was with everything in disarray and the messiness that was existing in my life, why was it that I was enjoying the business more in this period than in the big growth of launching the business and the success of the business. And I had always thought that if I build a great business, I would get to enjoy the rewards of that. And the lesson I learned out of that was a lot of the things that I was taught were different than what I was experiencing as a leader.
And it’s hard, I think, at least, for me, it was hard because if I started to question what I was taught in one area, did that mean I would have to go back and question everything? And I think that’s what keeps us, sometimes, doing things that we just don’t feel right in the business even though we’re experiencing something different. And I think it got to a point where stuff just got so messy there was such little risk to keep doing it the way I was taught and start paying attention to what I was experiencing.
And that was the time where I met a guy named Rand Stagen of the Stagen Leadership Academy who has become one of my dearest friends and I owe so much of my Conscious Capitalism journey to him and the work that they did on me. And through that experience in the academy, I was introduced to Conscious Capitalism, the CEO Summit, got to be around leaders who just think so differently, and the thing that stood out about me was when I first attended my first summit is these folks think in decades, and here I am thinking in quarters and maybe a year. And as I started to really learn what it was like to think of the business in multi-decades, I was able to look at the same data and make entirely different decisions about how to grow the business, and that became, probably, the most rewarding journey for me and part of that.
Timothy: So, it’s interesting, as you say, a couple of things I’d love to pull out on that. One is what you were taught about leadership and what you were experiencing. What was the big gap? What did you notice was the space where it was like, wow, that gap’s pretty big?
Steve: Yeah. I mean, probably, the thing that stood out the most was how much time and energy I was using to fix other people, to fix their leadership gaps while ignoring my own. And what my hope was I don’t want to work on my gaps because that’s uncomfortable. I would rather stay comfortable and let other people do the work, and that did not make me a good leader. And it wasn’t until, in fact, Rand was one of the comments I remember is ‘leaders get the organizations they deserve’. So, whatever you don’t like about the organization, just look at yourself because you created it. You hired them. You came up with the model. You’re running it. And so, I started to say I’ve got to do the work that’s mine to do. And if I start working on myself, and filling the leadership gaps of my own, that creates the space for other people to stop working on fulfilling my inadequacies and start to also work on their own. And what I model usually tends to start showing up in the culture model for a consistent period of time.
Raj: Steve, I’d love to have you talk a little more about Drivers Select because you just mentioned CARE, and I love acronyms, so that’s music to my ears. But I know there were a lot of other distinctive things that you did to, first of all, counter the typical perception that people have of that industry. I think, to me, as a general principle, if you’re going to be a conscious business in an industry that is highly challenged, that is all the more, actually, a source of competitive advantage, right, because you’re such a breath of fresh air in that industry. But I know that you did many other, many things differently there, including, I think, you had a lot of women involved in the sales process, right? Wasn’t that an element of that? Well, just describe your philosophy operating from the culture and sort of the purpose if you had articulated one.
Steve: Yeah. I think it really comes down, for us, is that our product is really people, not vehicles. And the way that we treat the all of our stakeholder community makes a big difference, and one of the examples I get, I remember when we were first getting acquired by the Sonic Automotive Group, they looked at us and said, “You guys are selling 15,000, 16,000 vehicles a year, and we’re selling 100,000-plus used vehicles a year, how are you able to negotiate and get cheaper transportation from Riverside, California to Texas? How did you do that, and you get your cars faster,” which if we’re getting them for less money, and we’re getting them shipped, we can get them to the frontline and that drives the economic engine of the model because used cars, obviously, are depreciating assets, so speed is really important.
And I said, “Since you’re here, why don’t you just ask the trucker because we don’t have contracts.” They said, “If you don’t have contracts, how do you know you’re getting a good price?” We said, “We don’t. We just assume that they’re getting them here for the best money they can and fastest they can.” We had no idea what this truck driver was going to say. And he comes up and he says, “Let me tell you why I get cars here faster and why I get them here for a little less money.” He said, ‘When most dealers call and they buy a car at auction, I get a call from a dealer and they say, ‘hey, I need it here by the weekend.’ So, I have to pick up that car on Thursday in California. I have to drive all the way across country. Because I coach my daughter’s softball team, I’m missing out on that weekend. I cannot coach her team. I cannot be there, and I understand that’s part of the job. But then, I drive all the way across. I get here late on a Saturday, and they, no one’s there to greet me. No one’s there telling me where to park, so I park the truck. I unload the car. They tell me I can’t unload that. So, I have to load the car back up, move the truck around, then I come back in the showroom. I can’t find anybody to talk to take the keys. They tell me to get out of the showroom because I’m greasy and dirty. I finally find someone to drop the keys off, then they tell me they’re going to mail me my check in two weeks”.
“When I call Drivers Select, they are able, as soon as I accept the order online, someone calls me, a guy named Steve Selons calls me and says, ‘Welcome. Thank you so much for taking our order. We know you’re making a big sacrifice coming out over the weekend. Here’s where to park. Here’s where to come if you arrive on Saturday and you arrive during this time. We’ve got lunch. It’s from Gloria’s. It’s a great Tex-Mex. If you’ve never had Tex-Mex, it’s going to be awesome for you. Sit down, relax in our break room and hang out with the staff. There’s some snacks, also, and sodas, take those back with you on the way home. We’ll have your check ready when you arrive, and here’s where to drop off,’ and just the appreciation of that.” And he says, “I’m just treated differently, and so I’m a little more motivated to take an order at a lower price and get it there.”
And so, the realization, for me, was, gosh, if we did this with every single stakeholder, how much better would we be than our competition? And a lot of times we spend working on processes and great strategy, and we ignore the human side of that business. And it’s paid off. And so, this is just one of many examples of caring acts randomly expressed.
Timothy: I love it. That is such a great example. And the soft stuff is the hard stuff, but it really has economic value. But you don’t do it for the economic value. You do it because it’s the right thing to do. And over time, those relationships that you build become very supportive and helpful to your business. I know there was also some things you do with some other stakeholders. I think on the financial side, some of your financial providers, you want to talk a little bit about how you approached them and how they also fit into your stakeholder model?
Steve: Yeah. So, and this is another good example of what I was taught versus what I was experiencing. And I was taught to really negotiate hard with your vendors and get the best price. And I remember starting out the business with our banks, we would always try to work the banks to make exceptions on credit and give us better rates for the customers to make it easier for us to sell, and more profitable to sell. And we just got into these negotiations where every single deal was a negotiation. And what that did, it took more effort, more staffing, more work to be able to get deals done. And so even though we were getting lower rates, our cost structure to get those was going up. And the lender started to suffer some losses, and it just wasn’t sustainable.
And so, we said, look, what if, there’s an important relationship that is core to this business, and what if we actually paid our key suppliers more, and we showed them ways to make more money on us. So, one of the things we did with one of our lenders was we said, in the super prime business, you guys are coming back with rates 2 to 2 ½% lower than the next option that we have. You could actually raise your rates in this sector, and you wouldn’t lose any business from us. And that’s going to make you more profitable, and we hope, and we trust that you will reinvest those profits in other areas where you can be more competitive, and we can sell more cars, and maybe that’s in offering a little longer terms, maybe being able to stretch on some of the credit policies where you’re having some losses. But we trust that you will find ways to not pocket that but reinvest.
And what we found is the more we actually paid our suppliers the more innovative, the more creative, they would become, and the more money that we would make. And I think, and it was more fun. I mean we were always looking for ways to help each other. And when you’re solving some of your key constraints for your suppliers, it was a lot of fun. It was intellectually challenging for us. And then, they would also be able to say, “Hey, we’ve learned some things from our other customers that you might be able to benefit from. And it was a totally different relationship. We just got out of the transaction side, and we got into the relationship building and supporting one another.
Raj: So, it’s interesting that it only takes one side of a relationship to make that shift. In other words, both of you didn’t come into that with that goal. Basically, you had that part, and you reached out to them, and then you got them to think differently, right?
Steve: Yeah. I think what I realized through that was that most people want to do the right thing, and they’re just trapped in bad systems. And bad systems can defeat good intentions by good people. And as a leader, if you can create the environment and the conditions that bring out people’s generosity, and care, and love for what they’re doing, you’re going to get different results. And you’re going to form different relationships, and so I just think it’s, look for those opportunities to create conditions where people can serve you and you can serve them.
Timothy: As you sat down sometimes, let’s say at the beginning of the year or when you were doing your annual business planning, how did you factor in these things as you developed your business for the next year? And I’m assuming, here, that, listen, you ran a business. You had a P&L. And you had to do some of that stuff. And as you did that, how did you, how do you think that process was different because you brought in this kind of different mindset?
Steve: So, in the beginning, I drove a lot of that. And what I did is I started dictating the strategy, coming up with the ideas, and it became exhausting because here’s what I learned. If it’s my idea, the best that I can hope for is compliance. If it’s other people’s idea, and I create the conditions for other people to bring in their ideas and set their vision for the year, I have the opportunity to get commitment. And even if I think I have the A idea, I can’t execute an A idea with a B-level compliance as well as I can a B idea with A-level commitment. And so, what we started to do, and this is where, again, good coaching came in is just stop being attached to your own ideas. Be attached to people’s development. Every time you try to come up with an idea, or try to determine strategy, or force your opinion, be aware of your personal and your professional power in the organization as the founder, the sole owner, the CEO, and you will shut down conversations.
And what I, often, interpreted as resistance or laziness was sometimes just confusion as, well, we’ll just make that what Steve wants to do. And we’re just going to do it. And we’ll just do what he says. And we’ll just reserve our ideas. And a good coach of mine said, “Why are you so attached to using your ideas without hearing anybody else?” And he said, “As the founder and CEO, you still reserve the right to go with your original ideas. You just don’t have to speak first.” So, in these strategic meetings, one of the tools, and it was harder than I thought, was he said, “I want you to speak last in every meeting.” And go around, and he said, “You will form your opinion, but at the end, speak last, and you have, now, the opportunity to incorporate all the other ideas that would have never came out in the room.”
And so, that really became a part of our strategic planning is I would speak last. I would give much more voice and choice to the leaders. And it became one of the best development tools because they got to do the things that I got to do, which was come up with ideas, have the freedom and flexibility to take risk and fail, and capture some learning.
Raj: That is so brilliant, Steve. I love that. I was in a program earlier today with a bunch of CEOs and we were talking about purpose. And one of them said that somebody asked him how many people are in your innovation department. And he run a company of 3,000 people, and he said 15,000 people. And he said, “How do you have 15,000 people in your innovation department, if all your employees are 3,000?” He said, “We get ideas from our customers. We get ideas from our vendors. We get ideas from all over the place.” So, everybody is thinking on their behalf of creative ideas and solutions. And I think what you talked about is sort of in that vein. We don’t have to come up with all the ideas. In fact, it’s better to crowd source not just with your frontal leaders, but even beyond that. I’m sure you got ideas from frontline salespeople, or anywhere in the organization, or even from customers.
Steve: Yeah. For me, it was just more awareness. The more I worked on myself, the more awareness I had around the gaps in my thinking, and a lot in school, and in college, and even early in business, I felt I was being rewarded and compensated for achieving things with my own hard work, and will, and ideas, and execution. And so, but that has an expiration date, and that expiration date expires at different levels of the organization size and pace of growth. And I wasn’t aware of that until things really imploded, and I was fortunate enough to surround myself with a good kind of informal counsel of people. I remember reading in Jim Collins, I don’t know if it was Great by Choice, Good to Great, or Built to Last. But he said one of the best advices I could give business leaders is the importance of having a council. And I jumped on that, and formed a council that was able to not only hold me accountable, but point out the brutal facts of my leadership, and call me out on those.
And basically, one of the things that we did to build culture is we came up with this, what we call, this culture pyramid, which was modeled after Maslow’s hierarchy needs. And we said for us to have the success that we are aiming for, we need high levels of engagement, and loyalty, commitment. And to do that we have to, first, create a sense of security. Then, we have to create a sense of belonging. And then, a sense of personal achievement. And then, meaning. And then, financial and growth upside, so they can make a career out of it. And what I didn’t realize, the council helped me really point out that here is some of the actions and behaviors that you are doing that’s actually counterproductive that makes people feel insecure. Wow, I never thought of that.
And so, I’ll give you an example of that. We had to go through pay plan changes, which is extremely sensitive, as you can imagine to a sales force because we were changing our model from a high-margin, subprime business to a low-margin, wholesale, discount. Business because of the recession, we lost a lot of our lenders that went out of business, so the lending had to change. And so, the pay plan, we couldn’t continue to pay the same as we were paying on a high-margin business that we could on a low-margin business. And I didn’t realize, I came up and I said, “Look, I’m going to create a plan that will overpay them to make the change, and then any new folks that join in the future years will go to a little bit different pay plan. But the ones here, I want to take care of. So, I was all excited. I went in and I introduced the pay plan. And I thought I just fired my entire sales staff. And I was just like, “What do you mean? This is so much better.”
And I was showing them, and selling them, and selling them. And I just missed the whole emotional side of it. And what the council helped me do is, “Hey, look, here’s what I want you to do. It’s not the fact that this is a better or worse pay plan. It’s the uncertainty and the unpredictability of it, so just give them time.” And so, what we decided to do is any time we would introduce a new pay plan, we would do it for six months. We would give people; we’d say here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to allow you to have your current pay plan and this new pay plan, and you’re going to have both of them for six months. And for six months, you can take the higher of either. But by the end of six months, you have to learn how to sell on the new pay plan. And they were totally fine with that.
And as they started to, and if I was doing the work properly, it was truly a better pay plan. And I was investing and creating the vision and giving them the resources, giving them the skills and development, the action plans, and the feedback that’s necessary, they were able to transition and make more. And it was such a smoother process.
Timothy: I love that example. And so, I’m really curious, Steve, like you said 2010, you hit a low point. And you started going on this journey, and you’re telling some very inspiring great stories. What was the transition like? When you sitting here, probably easier to say, but in retrospect, from 2010 to, let’s say, 2015, what were two or three things that you did that helped you on that journey, helped the organization go on that journey with you?
Steve: Yeah. The first thing was just the recognition that this is going to be a lot longer than any project that I’ve taken on and being able to appreciate there’s going to be very little change in the beginning, and that this is a, probably, decades’ worth of work, and if someone asks you, two years in, how’s it going, your response should be I don’t know it’s only been two years. And I think that really helped me a lot. The council helped me a lot to keep me on pace and be able to be a sounding board for me to allow my frustrations to come out. And then, I think the big move was working on myself to not be attached so much to short-term outcomes. Be attached to more of the work that I’m doing, and just trust the process that if I’m doing the work, good stuff will come.
And as an entrepreneur, I’ve just always been attached to results because that’s how I thought I was valued. And that’s how I thought I was measured. And here, it was just focus on the input, not the output. If you’re doing the work, that’s good enough because if you do the work long enough, good things are going to happen. But it wasn’t a smooth journey, by any means. It was messy. It was uncomfortable. It was fun. Sense of humor helped. I mean you just had to poke fun at yourself. And then, I think you had to have a lot of self-compassion.
Timothy: Well, I remember in 2014, you participated with Haley Rushing and I in a workshop that we ran for a couple of days. And you brought in your team. And it was clear by 2014 that you’d created something special around the culture, and just the enthusiasm. Everybody came in wearing orange t-shirts and doing little cheers every now and then. It was just fun to be around that group. And again, I’m curious, once you decided that you wanted to shift how you led, what were the levers you started to pull with the organization? As you started to think about, like, I want to create this culture pyramid, or I want to implement this because in many companies, you need to have a high level of trust and engagement before you can start to make some changes like this. And people, sort of like, okay, you don’t turn on the button overnight and suddenly you have a new culture. It takes time. So, I’m curious, where did you, on the culture side, where did you start that journey in terms of a couple of significant steps you felt you took to build a great culture?
Steve: Yeah. I think one of the big areas was putting myself in a situation where I could get good feedback. Who are the people in the organization that would really give me the brutal facts of how I was walking my talk. And that, what surprised me was some of the people I was relying on were right there on the frontline. I mean, $15, $20 an hour people who were cleaning cars. And I remember I would go to these people because they’d been with me for a long period of time, and I would tell them, I was like, “Look, I know I’ve thrown a ton of ideas at you. This is one of those things that I’m going to hold on to. This is not a Steve Hall idea that I went to a conference and I learned something, and coming back, and it’s the next new thing we’re going to work on 90 days until I go back to the next conference and find something else. I am committed to this long term. And I want to walk my talk. And what I would like to do is ask you one question, how am I doing? And I will commit to you that I will only respond with two words. I will not make excuses. I won’t tell you why I did it. I will just say “thank you.”
And so, I would say, “Hey, I really feel that we’ve hired a lot of people over the last couple of months, and we need to work on a sense of belonging. What am I doing that, how am I complicit in slowing this process up? What are some of the decisions? What are some of behaviors?” And I remember one of the first things a lady said to me, she said, “You come in the store, and you walk right through 10 people and come straight over to the finance desk and get information. Can you just take two minutes to stop and check in with people?” And I’m like, uh, and what do I have said. And I would catch myself, well, that’s not what I meant, and I would say, “Okay. That’s right. Thank you.” And these are just little, I mean it’s, I learned it’s not big things. It’s doing small things every day over a long period of time, and not trying to find short-term ways measuring that, which is painful.
Raj: And, Steve, one of the joys of doing this is we get to learn about our friends more than we already know. So, we are curious about your childhood, where you grew up, what kind of parents you had. I know you said they were entrepreneurs, but what were some of the formative things in your upbringing that enabled you, many years later, perhaps, to really connect to your authentic self and figure out…
Steve: Yes. I was born in Richmond, Virginia. I have an older brother who’s 18 months older than me. Parents been married 56 years. I grew up in a household of two entrepreneurs. My dad was, actually, started out in HR, working for some larger organizations. My mom was a nurse. And I think that’s what really helped me with this whole care, and passion for caring. And then, she started a business on the card table at the house in the 70’s. And it was really around Workers’ Comp. And my dad was doing business consulting. And I guess my mom became one of his customers. And they built a business over about 15, 18 years, and retire early in their 50’s, and, yeah, I just appreciated how they were always willing to provide a loving, supportive, environment that allowed me to take a lot of risk and be okay that even if they didn’t work out, and if they failed, I would be okay because I had a loving, supportive home environment. And so, the importance of family and home structure is really important to me, and I think that’s when I describe in 2010 where it was really hitting hard on me that I wasn’t leading in that role. And I was given a gift of a strong family structure, and I wasn’t passing that on and that was a big wake-up call.
The other thing that was interesting is I watched my dad retire in his early 50s and never go back to work. And I just, over the years, have felt that there’s been some, I don’t know if it’s a sadness or, but I just realized that I’ve got to continue to learn. I’ve got to continue to grow. And I’ve sold my business. And one of the things, I get up and I have a gratitude practice in the morning is I’m so grateful to be in a position where I have so much freedom, flexibility, and independence to work on whatever I want to work on each day, whoever I want to work on it with, where and when I want to do that work. But that, also comes with a tremendous responsibility. And that responsibility is for me to continue to work on myself because I was taught by a spiritual coach of mine, Donapani. He said the greatest gift you can give the world is your own personal development because the more that you become, the more you can offer.
And that’s when I learn a lot just watching my parents being able to say, gosh, I don’t want to retire at 52. And they’ve had a great retirement. And it’s, for what they were seeking, that was fine. But it also taught me that that’s not what I wanted. And I shouldn’t be trying to teach my kids to be me. That everybody’s different. And I think, what’s the saying, that hot water hardens a carrot, but softens an egg. And so, they’d be in the same environment, but different outcomes. And I have to continue to be aware of as much as I want to try to help my kids, a lot of what I do, and I think the big realization to me over the last year is so much of what I’m trying to do for my kids is actually out of fear, not love because I’m fearful that they may not be successful. They may not be happy, so I’m trying to give them every lesson that I could give them and trying to direct them in certain situations because I think it’s a more predictable life, I think, and I can support them better. And that’s the wrong thing to do. And so, I have to look at it is am I showing up with fear or with love. And if I’m truly showing up with love, I give them the freedom and flexibility to be themselves, let them do things that I just don’t agree with, but I can be supportive and loving.
Timothy: So, Steve, where do you think that came from? I mean not everybody in those circumstances goes to that place where you say who am I, and what is my journey, and how do I show up as a leader, and how I learned to care more for others. How do I learn to recognize my fears and live from a place of love? There’s something that influenced you in some way, shape, or form to go on that journey. And I’m just curious what were some of the things in your life that you think, yeah, when I look back, those are the kinds of things that got me to this place where this matters to me?
Steve: Yeah. A couple of things, one, I do think the family structure and I had where my mom teaching me how to love, how to take care of people. My dad building the confidence, the resiliency, the hard work, the integrity side of it. But then, I also think it’s really about operating with the humility that you’re never qualified to do the job you’re being asked to do, and that’s why you have to keep working on yourself every day. And what I’ve done through that is the greatest gift I’ve been given is the opportunity to continue to work on myself. And that has introduced me to so many people, two of you included, so many in the Conscious Capitalism community, at just being around these people, that’s a lot of what you become is who you surround yourself with, I believe. And then, where do you invest your resources. Are you investing your resources in certain areas, and I’ve just, for whatever reason, found myself investing since early days, since teenager, just investing in good coaching and surrounding myself with continuous learning opportunities. And so, I don’t think there’s really one even or one person that I can point to that says this is who made me. I think it’s a series of so many small influences over a long period of time that have kept me in continuous practice.
Timothy: Beautiful. Beautiful.
Raj: And what’s your passion, now, Steve? I think I have a sense of it. You want to kind of pay it forward? You want to bring this to more leaders and cultivate more businesses like this, but you’re still a young guy. You’ve got a huge opportunity to make, you’ve already made a big impact, but to even do much more than that. What’s your vision going forward?
Steve: Yeah. I’ve been wrestling with this whole idea of generosity and how to be a reflection of God’s love, grace, and generosity in the world, and how I can dedicate more of my resources to being generous. And so, I think there’s four buckets that I find myself investing in. One is I’ve talked about, throughout this call, is I’ve got to continue the best way to be generous is investing myself because for me to make an impact for others, I have to be emotionally, physically, spiritually, mentally alive, and healthy, otherwise, I can’t really contribute at the level that I am capable of doing.
The second area of generosity is just in my family, and in faith, and making sure that I’m investing time. The older I get, the more I realize is life may not be short or long, but it is finite. And with three kids still living at home, I’ve got one in high school, middle school, and lower school, just what are the things that I can be doing to ensure that I have some type of influence that I can be good ancestor. And not just for them, but for their kids as well. And also, make sure that when they leave the house that we’re still very close. And also, when they leave the house that my wife and I also have a relationship beyond business and kids. And if we don’t have anything to talk about other than kids and business, it’s going to be a tougher on our relationship.
I’m learning over the years, I would invest in new relationships, and then when they got in trouble, and that’s where I put a lot of the time and effort in. And when they were healthy, I was like, oh, things are good, I can direct resources away from that. And the actual place to invest the most time and resources is when the relationship is when it is healthy, not when it’s new and not when it’s in trouble, so I’m looking at what are the things I did when I was first forming the relationship with my wife, and my kids, and what is it that I did when it got in trouble, and how do I take that same energy and reinvest it when it’s healthy, and that’s more sustainable.
The third area is a JV, joint-venture opportunity with the parent company just looking for ways that I can help expand the platform that I sold them. The digital, retail environment for automotive is exploding, the innovation, it’s just such an exciting time. I didn’t think I would get back into it. But I’m learning that I can get back into the space without being in the operations. And so, my goals are I will get back into the space as long as I can stay in shorts and flip-flops, and I can show up to meetings and don’t leave with a to-do list. And that’s been some fun to explore opportunities.
But, Raj, I think where you were going, which is where I have a lot of energy and excitement is that the foundation I started that I’m still in discovery mode, which is called Make it Matter Foundation. And it’s based on a belief that I learned in my Conscious Capitalism journey of business is that all actions and decisions are not equal. There’s certain actions and decisions that you make as a leader that have 10x, 20x, sometimes 30x results than others. And so, if I’m looking to invest my resources, relationships, time and energy, where can I make the biggest impact. And for me, what’s showing up after about a year of this exploration isn’t in a particular cause. I have a lot of passion for early childhood and kids, in general, foster homes, homelessness, orphanages, education, because I, as I talked about earlier, I was just so fortunate to have those, and I see how much that made a difference to me, and I want to be able to try to get a, make a difference in those areas.
And I thought that was the path I was going down. But, what really is showing up is the biggest impact, and the most generous way that I can find is to invest in actually great leaders who have great platforms, and so the more that I can work with and support these leaders and help them learn the journey of Conscious Capitalism, I think that’s where I’m finding myself to have the most energy, the most passion, the most fun because I just believe that if you ever get a chance to build a great culture, it’s one of the greatest gifts of being an entrepreneur you could ever ask for that the destination, and I had a great destination. I mean I had a great exit, something I never thought imagined. Look at the end of selling your company, or whatever you define is the end result, it’s kind of like the wedding day. It’s a day of fun. It’s a day of celebration, and joy, and but the real value is it actually in living the marriage, not the wedding day. And it’s the value that you’re going to get out of the marriage isn’t what a great wedding you had. It’s all the things you do after that, and the journey of building a business is really about just loving people, and just creating opportunities for them to grow and to learn, and to take risk, and to fail, ,and to learn again, and hopefully get them to place as high value on personal development and learning and continuous lifelong growth that I have, and that’s the gift that I want to give away.
Raj: Wow. This was fabulous, Steve. This was like a master class in business, and conscious leadership, and personal growth, and so many wonderful nuggets of wisdom that you shared with us. It’s really been a delight. Thank you so much for spending this time, and for being part of Conscious Capitalism and helping make the world better.
Steve: It’s always great to give back to people who meant so much to me and both of you have had tremendous impact on my journey. So, thank you for including me.
Timothy: Thank you so much for your time, Steve. It really is inspiring. And for those of you that are listening on whatever channel or station you’re listening, please feel free to hit the subscribe button and we can also take your comments at the consciouscapitalists.com. And if you’re interested in hearing more about Conscious Capitalism then you can go to the consciouscapitalism.org website. And of course, you can always read the book that Raj and I wrote, The Conscious Capitalist Field Guide. Thanks, Raj, good to see you again.
Raj: Yeah. Good to see you as well. And, Steve, we’ll talk to you soon.
Steve: Great. Thanks, guys.