05/29/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

How To Find The Thrill In Your Business

Ask the question "How's business?" these days and you're likely to be met with a long sigh and a series of sorrows about how tough it is doing business today.

But, then again, it depends on who you're asking.

If you ask Justin, a college student who is also working for the Gallup Organization, you'll hear unbridled enthusiasm for the possibilities of reinventing the way citizens engage in their communities to solve problems. If you ask Chad, a recent graduate from Northwestern about his job prospects, he's downright giddy over the possibilities that the current crisis represents. "It's too bad for my parents, but all I see is opportunity to reinvent the way we work and make money."

The next generation is a generation that looks at the mess that is before us and wholeheartedly embraces James Baldwin's challenge: "The world is before you, and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in." Some people can look directly in the face of seemingly insoluble problems--the ones that have so many of us reeling--and see nothing but a sea of thrilling opportunities.

And that's the very approach that legendary leaders and entrepreneurs have taken over the years that has resulted in building some of the highest performing organizations that ever existed. They're driven by a mighty Purpose that creates the 'thrill' of doing business. Companies with a purpose have a way of seeing a need in the marketplace and conceiving of a never-before-thought-of solution to meet that need.

Sam Walton looked at people in rural America and envisioned a day when they could afford to buy the same merchandise that was readily available to more affluent people living in metropolitan areas. Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines, looked at the highways and envisioned a low-cost airline that would get people out of their cars and into the air. John Mackey of Whole Foods Market looked at the grocery industry and envisioned a way to provide choices for nourishing not only the body but also the community and the planet.

There's a new breed of entrepreneurs like Blake Mycoskie, Chief Shoe Giver of TOMS Shoes, who created a way to provide a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair of shoes that are purchased (one for one) and has more energy and charisma than just about anyone we've ever met. Or Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappo's who believed deeply in delivering WOW-worthy customer service in every interaction and has built a billion dollar company in less than eight years in the process.

All of these individuals and the companies they created are passionate about making a difference. They've found "the thrill." Whether they were born" that way, stumbled into it or had an awakening somewhere along the way, the drive to make a difference is what fuels the company. And it's what everyone who is in business today needs to find in order to get out of the slump and get on with it.


Great purpose based organizations put the customer first. Start with the customer in mind and find a deep seated, unmet need that you're passionate about fulfilling.


What do the people in your organization seem genuinely fanatical about? Look at behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs that exist within your organization in order to discover where the real thrill resides. Some of the organization we covered found the thrill by: serving underserved populations, creating new paradigms, fighting for noble causes, or enlightening and empowering people.


Ultimately, the answer to this question will be the source of the passion that fuels your way out of the current malaise that is hanging over the business community.

We will not whine our way out of the current mess we're in. Finding the thrill of doing business by figuring out exactly what problem you're driven to solve will be the first step towards revitalizing your culture and moving your organization (and our society) forward.