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Young Entrepreneur

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YEC Virtual Speaker Series Guest Daniel Lubetzky Discusses Curating a Culture of Kindness

Every quarter, YEC hosts an intimate, members-only live video chat with one of the world’s most influential thought leaders as part of our Virtual Speaker Series. Each Virtual Speaker Series event expands on a theme explored in the pages of YEC Quarterly, giving you an opportunity to glean high-level insights from different entrepreneurs each quarter.

Our next Virtual Speaker Series event -- an exclusive 1-hour event that will take place this coming Thursday, September 24, 2015 from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. EST -- features Daniel Lubetzky, award-winning founder and CEO of KIND Healthy Snacks, and his unique views on company culture.

Lubetzky is most prominently known as the creator and driving force behind KIND, which launched in 2004 with the mission of inspiring people to do the kind thing “for your body, your tastebuds and your world.” KIND is now the fastest-growing U.S. snack company and has inspired more than one million acts of kindness through the KIND Movement.

A purveyor of the “not-only-for-profit” business model, Lubetzky has also launched organizations including PeaceWorks, Inc., a business that fosters cooperative ventures among neighbors in the Middle East, and founded PeaceWorks Foundation’s OneVoice Movement, an international grassroots effort that amplifies Israeli and Palestinian moderate voices. He is also the co-creator of Maiyet, a luxury fashion brand that partners with artisans to promote entrepreneurship in developing economies.

Earlier this year, Lubetzky published "Do the KIND Thing," a handbook for success in business and life that has already earned numerous accolades, including being named to the New York Times bestseller list. In recognition for his humanitarianism, he has been named one of "America's Most Promising Social Entrepreneurs" by BusinessWeek, one of "25 Responsibility Pioneers" of social innovation by TIME, one of Advertising Age's 50 Most Creative People, and one of Goldman Sachs' Builders and Innovators 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs. He has received Entrepreneur of the Year awards from both Entrepreneur magazine and Ernst & Young. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and four children.

As a prelude to our discussion with Lubetzky on September 24th, we asked him to share some his favorite aspects of KIND’s company culture and offer suggestions for YEC members to integrate similar practices into their own businesses. Highlights from our interview are below.

An employee relationship built on trust is crucial to ensuring a long-term fit with your company.

“In today’s work environment, people don’t want to hurt one another’s feelings and thus don’t give feedback, which causes the relationship to lose trust and not work out. First and foremost, make sure you develop a real relationship with trust. If after an honest conversation, we still have an issue with an employee and are not able to switch the role or their responsibilities, we decide to initiate a two-month process for a transition. Why should you put people in a position of giving them two weeks’ notice? It’s an unnecessary and value-destructing process. In our approach, we’re doing it for the best interest of both sides: a team member who’s going to depart can use us as a reference and make sure they land in the job they want without feeling like they have to hide the interview process. On the other side, they help us pass the baton and leave the position better than where they found it.”

Keep your ego in check by respecting those who challenge your authority.

“All of us have insecurities, and will face situations where we feel intimidated and as if we’re being upstaged. It happens to all of us as human beings. The key is to recognize when those feelings come, and it takes an enormous amount of strength to do that. You need to be really in tune with yourself and be introspective...to ensure you are not reaching decisions for the wrong reasons or motivations. If you start to think this way, you’ll welcome and will actually feel excited when someone challenges you. The people who challenge me the most are the people I admire the most.”

Showing strength and being kind are not mutually exclusive qualities of a true leader.

“I don’t think of kindness as a sacrifice but rather as a strength that makes us all better. When you have empathy for your team members and they know that, they’re more loyal to you and will trust you more because they know that you authentically care about them. Kindness and empathy are and define business acumen, and we don’t recognize that sufficiently in society. It takes enormous strength to be comfortable not giving up your side but also wanting to understand where the other person is coming from.You’re much more likely to create value for your team members and society if you think more empathically.”

Staying true to your mission will set the stage for your future success.

“Make sure what you’re doing speaks to your heart. Once you have that, everything else will fall into place because you’ll be living your mission that fuels you and helps you reach the right decisions every step of the way. We entrepreneurs tend to lose focus…”

Editor’s note: At this moment, Daniel paused the interview to kindly ask a group of strangers if they were looking for a taxi ride.

“...Sorry, where was I? Oh right, not losing focus! It’s important to be disciplined and know what to say no to. As Michael Porter said, ‘The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.’ Be careful and conscious of remembering that you cannot do everything -- it is one of the greatest undoings of an entrepreneur. We want to seize all those opportunities and make them a reality, but focusing on your plan is going to help you maintain both your mission and your business plan, assuming that they are one in the same.”

The future looks bright for businesses rooted in authenticity.

“The new generation of entrepreneurs truly care more about the world and each other than prior generations. They have a more enlightened perspective and socially entrepreneurial mindset that I think will have a huge impact. Whether it’s for good or bad depends on authenticity.

Social mission gives people loyalty and energy, but I don’t think it drives long-term business. As long as there are enough entrepreneurs doing things with authenticity...it will become more prevalent for companies to authentically do things they care about and make it a better world. Not every company has to have a social purpose; I much more admire a company that is authentic rather than inject an artificial [social purpose] for marketing reasons. If you can invent a model where the business and the social aspects are synergetic, I think that’s the most awesome way to help heal society, but if you want to just create a great business or product, that’s completely fine too.”