People often ask us how four friends in their early twenties with basically no business experience were able to start a company that has gathered over 20,000 entrepreneurs through events to hear presidents, business leaders and some of the world’s most dynamic thinkers offer paths toward success.
Not only is making no small plans the takeaway from our experience—which ultimately led us to buy Powder Mountain in Utah as the home for our community—but it’s also the resounding principle we’ve heard on our stages over the last 15 years from the likes of everyone from Richard Branson to Jeff Bezos.
Here are some takeaways that all CEOs can apply to their businesses.
1. A big mission makes a big difference.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re running a National Football League team or a non-profit. People will be more excited if they’re aligned with a shared mission that can have a big impact.
The coach who shows up on the first day of practice with a plan and a mission of getting to the Super Bowl sets a very specific bar. The same can be established for the CEO of a non-profit delivering clean water to a village a thousand miles away.
Look for the areas in your company that can be turned into a mission that will make people wake up with a resolve to change lives.
2. Your customers become a community.
When your customers share your company’s values, they can form a supercharged community. They’ll be more inspired to offer suggestions and ideas, much like fans that get behind the team at a sporting event.
They feel a part of your mission and stand up and cheer when they see good things happening.
3. People rise to huge challenges.
A mission doesn’t have to be played out in front of a billion people. It doesn’t have to save somebody’s life. It can simply inspire someone to lift themselves to a higher level.
When we became the youngest entrepreneurs ever to host a conference on a cruise ship, we promised our guests internet access in the middle of the sea. This was important to a lot of people who bought tickets. It was crucial for them to be able to connect 24/7 with their businesses back on land.
The problem was, the cruise ship company didn’t offer this service. And we didn’t have the resources to bring in a NASA-level crew to figure out how to pull it off. So we entrusted the responsibility to one of our founders – Jeremy Schwartz.
Jeremy’s credentials were admittedly a little soft in this department. He’d handled the sound as a member of his rock band when it toured in his previous life. Ever since, he had become our point guy for all matters tech.
The mission was obviously way beyond Jeremy’s area of expertise. But he became obsessed with the task. The complications presented by the cruise ship were enormous. Yet with the help of some engineers, he rigged up and fitted a system. As the cruise ship pulled away from port, everyone’s cell phone was functioning. His efforts seemed heroic.
But after a promising start, the technology hit an invisible wall at sea and failed. Jeremy was crestfallen . . . until ironically, and comically, guests realized they liked the idea of being out at sea without an internet connection. They all felt free.
The point is that Jeremy had set out to do something that was basically impossible at that time, and he pushed himself as far as he could while being completely devoted to the task. That’s what a sense of mission provides. Even when things don’t work out, it drives us to give our absolute best effort.
4. Missions attract press.
People in the media are drawn to missions because missions make great stories. The formula could not be simpler. The more exciting the mission, the more excited the press will be to find out about it.
At first, good press may seem like validation of all that you’re doing. But that’s just the start. Good press makes people know what you’re doing and often attracts partnerships.
What’s more, press reacts to press. When one media outlet sees another noticing your mission, it can wonder if it’s been asleep at the wheel. The more news outlets cover what you’re doing, the more others will be interested. This can become exponential.
And if you have a customer base that’s grown into a community, you’re in a place where those stories can go viral.
5. Recruiting becomes a lot easier.
When word of your mission gets out, a magnet starts pulling in people with like-minded ideals and ideas. Once people become curious about what you’re doing, you’ll find them at your doorstep.
We spent years at the start trying to search for people who’d want to come to our events. After the audacity of our mission got out, a young woman who was interested in social entrepreneurship and studying at McGill University in Montreal came all the way to Malibu to find us.
A friend of hers drove her up the Pacific Coast Highway and left her outside a gate that she thought led to our company home. As she stepped through, the gate closed on her and locked her in. Only then did she realize the house wasn’t ours.
Eventually, she got to the right house, and we were lucky she did. We took her up on her proposal to work with us and she went on to lead content programming at our events.
People don’t travel thousands of miles to join up if they’re simply looking for a paycheck. They travel long distances because they hear a calling. These type of people are not going to be wandering off in times of The Great Resignation or The Great Reshuffle.