In what has become the most universally observed holiday in America, the vast majority of us will sit down with family and friends today to celebrate Thanksgiving. In anticipation, I reached out to some of the most impactful business leaders in I know to get their take on gratitude as a business principle.
“Today, in particular, there are many options for people in terms of where to spend their time, talent and treasure,” says Tamra Ryan, CEO of the Women’s Bean Project, a nonprofit packaged food company in Denver that exclusively employs vulnerable women. “I believe we should be grateful when someone decides to spend any of those precious resources on or with us.”
Credit: Women’s Bean Project
“I have learned that gratitude is a two-way street. The women we hire at the Bean Project are usually extremely grateful for the job and the opportunity to change their lives. And we are also grateful they have decided to take a leap of faith and make the commitment to us (and themselves) by coming to work every day and taking the steps toward change,” she says.
I believe we should be grateful when someone decides to spend any of their precious resources on or with us.
She credits a spirit of mutual respect and thanksgiving for the fundamental success of the program. “The alchemy of mutual gratitude creates amazing results. Women realize they are worthy of a better life.”
The power of gratitude in business isn’t limited to nonprofits.
Sara Hanks is the founder and CEO of CrowdCheck, a securities compliance technology company that helps issuers comply with the SEC’s Regulation Crowdfunding. She serves on the Crowdfunding Professional Association board with me.
“Knowing that a client or customer appreciates what you are doing strengthens the bond between you and makes it more likely that you will go the extra mile for them,” she says.
Knowing that a client or customer appreciates what you are doing strengthens the bond between you and makes it more likely that you will go the extra mile for them.
She shared a remarkable anecdote to make the point.
‘Years ago, as a partner in BigLaw, I was having a difficult time dealing with the lawyers on the ‘other side.’ Late at night, at the printers, my client came back from the baseball game with a small Yankees teddy bear and placed it in front of me. He appreciated my team’s work—gratitude on both sides. I still have the bear, although the client company is long gone.”
Felicity Conrad, another lawyer who made the leap to entrepreneur as the CEO and co-founder of Paladin, a tech platform that facilitates pro bono legal work, suggests that gratitude isn’t just something to be expressed after the fact.
“I believe that gratitude is a precondition for making authentic business decisions,” she says. “Gratitude is nothing more than having a healthy appreciation for the broader context you operate in—without that, I really don’t think a business can connect with its audience or achieve its desired impact.”
I believe that gratitude is a precondition for making authentic business decisions.
Marcus Bullock has become a successful entrepreneur following his incarceration. President Trump recognized him at an event at the White House earlier this year. He is the founder of Flikshop, a mobile platform that allows users to snap a photo and instantly create a postcard to be sent to an incarcerated friend or family member—Instagram for a population with no connection to the internet.
Credit: KK Ottesen
“We have to be intentional about showing gratitude to our customers for trusting us with their photos, as well as to our team members who give so much of their lives to our company’s purpose,” he says.
We have to be intentional about showing gratitude to our customers for trusting us with their photos, as well as to our team members who give so much of their lives to our company’s purpose.
“Our users are experiencing some of the hardest times of their lives while a loved one is incarcerated. When someone goes to jail or prison the entire family goes to prison,” He continues. “We want to help show that there is some form of humanity while they go through this…even if it’s just to donate a few Flikshop credits to their children.”
Aria Finger is the CEO of the nonprofit DoSomething.org that activates young people through social media to do something good for the world.
“When I think of gratitude, I think of gratitude in the context of my incredible employees! I run a non-profit so I might not be able to make them rich, but I can thank them for their incredible work. I probably don’t do it enough but a simple, heartfelt ‘thank you’ can go so far in letting people know how much you value them.”
A simple, heartfelt ‘thank you’ can go so far in letting people know how much you value them.
She uses an example from her home life to make the point that people need to experience gratitude at work, too.
“When you’re at home and you do the dishes, you don’t expect anything but if you get a “thank you” from your husband, you are so much more likely to do them again the next day and feel good about it,” she says. “Why should business be any different? We’re all humans and we all want to be recognized for our hard work!”
Carrie Romano is one of the most successful nonprofit CEO’s in Utah, having raised millions of dollars for two different nonprofits, the YWCA and the Ronald McDonald House Charities Intermountain Area, for large capital projects. In her current position at the Ronald McDonald House, she led the effort to raise the money necessary to more than double the size of the house (now the size of a significant hotel).
Credit: Ronald McDonald House
“Gratitude is generative. We all want our work and our lives to matter. When people express and feel genuine gratitude – we work harder and better,” she says.
Gratitude is generative. We all want our work and our lives to matter. When people express and feel genuine gratitude – we work harder and better.
She sees a model of gratitude in the families the organization serves. “Every day we’re reminded of the fragility of life as we watch the courageous children and their warrior parents battling life-threatening illnesses. They feel and express gratitude for every moment together.”
“In addition, our mission is fueled by philanthropic support – people that give away their own treasure for a greater good, volunteers that give their time, and dedicated staff that bring the mission to life every day,” she says. “We grow our mission impact because we share gratitude.”
Christopher Soukup is the CEO for Communication Service for the Deaf, a nonprofit that provides relay communication services using video phones to translate between hearing and hearing-impaired or deaf people. He is a member of the community his organization serves.
“Gratitude elevates business beyond the transactional,” he says. “It is a fundamental part of reciprocal business relationships.”
“When you make time to appreciate the people around you and the contributions they make, and give them opportunities to do more of what matters to them, you create a synergy between yourself, your employees, and your company’s purpose,” he adds.
Gratitude elevates business beyond the transactional. It is a fundamental part of reciprocal business relationships.
He says, “Gratitude is vital to engagement, to creating the spirit and energy of togetherness as we work towards a common vision.”