Good People, Strong Values and the Power of Ownership
I love what Lester Thornhill is doing as CEO of Life’s Abundance, a rapidly growing premium wellness company with focus on consumable products for families, including pets. Our own business is focused on transparency and connection to core values, and we love to tell stories of companies that are doing those things well.
Here are the keys to Life’s Abundance success.
KT: Tell me about what sets you apart as an employer. When people spend half of their waking hours at work, how do you make sure they feel great about coming to work every day?
LT: What sets us apart? Our business distinction really starts with our core values. Along with being Evergreen, the other two core values of Life’s Abundance are Empathy and Energy. They help keep Life’s Abundance focused on customers, a great work environment and constant innovation.
We are really true to those core values. They’re not just something we made up because we’re supposed to have them. It’s important to impart these values to the next generation, so they understand what we’re all about and why we’re here.
We are also totally transparent. We post every day on our ‘team hub.’ We let everyone know how we’re doing – we share successes, with graphics and numbers. Everyone knows this is a direct result of the work we’re all doing. One of the seven principles of an Evergreen company – pragmatic innovation – means hundreds of little changes that we make all year long. It adds up to these big changes in our performance.
KT: How do you identify talent? Given the market today, the talent wars are on and finding great people is a key to every organizations success.
LT: One of Life’s Abundance’s founders once ran a staffing agency. She has an unbelievable talent for bringing together like-minded people. In 20 years in business, we’ve never had a major decision that we didn’t agree on.
Our philosophy on values has changed how we search for talent. If you exemplify these core values it means you’re a certain type of person, with certain characteristics. Once we realized that some people naturally have the core values we’re looking for, we seek out that type of person. We put emphasis on soft skills, with more time in interviews figuring out what kind of person we were hiring rather than their skill set.
We can teach you skills that you don’t have – but it’s really hard to change who you are as a person. We’d rather not take that on.
KT: Tell me more about how you set yourself apart with your products. You talk about being “white-glove”. What does that mean?
LT: My goal is not a number. I want to get to the point where we have total transparency with the customer, so they understand how seriously we take product quality, all the way back to raw materials. We want to be responsible for everything we put out, so we ship directly to customers. Even though we have never had a recall, if we ever have a problem with a product, we can email or call every single customer.
If you really want to be premium, be ‘white-glove.’ Be responsible from the time it’s made to the time it’s delivered. That’s why we have such consistent long-term customer retention.
KT: You are an employee owned company. How does that change the way you do business?
LT: One example is we believe ownership thinking should include employees having “skin in the game”. We have a quarterly bonus that’s revenue-based. I can honestly say to every employee, ‘you make your own raise.’ As revenue goes up, a piece of it goes to you.
We give feedback all the time regarding how we’re doing on that bonus. Ever since we have instituted the bonus, we’ve hit it every time – we never miss. That quarterly bonus keeps getting bigger and bigger. After a while I say ‘well, let’s just take a chunk of it off and make that salary.’ Then salary goes up, and the bonus starts to build up again. People love that.
We want to stay private. It’s one of the core principles of being Evergreen. Once we become public, then it’s all about maximizing shareholder value. We want to make a profit, but it’s not more important than our mission. That’s why we’re employee-owned. Profit is just a barometer for how well we’re doing in our purpose of helping to improve the health and wellness of families.
To learn more about Kirsti’s work and to stay in touch, connect with her on LinkedIn.