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August 10, 2017


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Yes, but ... David ... who are you to judge whether or not something as deeply impactful as being abandoned as a child has had an authentic impact on this young CEO's sense of purpose and how he applies that to his leadership role? If, indeed, the company did arrive at their newly articulated mission through a focus group, as you speculate, are you certain that this CEO's backstory didn't play a role in developing what was presented in the focus group research? And that ultimately, the focus group research confirmed that this backstory helped create a strong brand message? Are you confident, in your analysis, that that room of 2000 employees isn't one of the priority audiences for this messaging, especially given that a sense of purpose is a major contributing factor behind the decisions of where top talent decides to work, today? Contrary to your view, I think that tapping into helping people find where they belong as a purpose for a real estate company is far from rhetorical pink slime. I think that the CEO's own backstory of feeling he didn't belong has helped his organization arrive at what Lisa Earle Mcleod refers to in her book of the same name "as having a noble sales purpose." When moving, finding where you belong is not an insignificant life decision, no matter what stage of life you're in. I'm grateful everyday that both friends, and a real estate agent, 16 years ago, helped me discover that where I live today is, after all, where I belong. Through my own personal backstory, though not as dramatic as the CEO's, I find Compass' purpose to be relatable. And if I were looking to move anytime soon, I very well might look them up because they are expressing a value that I relate to ... (and btw, I would agree with you on the little boy running up the hill bit as being unnecessary). Cheers!

Well, Russell, I'm glad you asked this. Here's the thing. He doesn't DEMONSTRATE the connection with his argument, which looks for all the world—to anyone beside a desperate-to-believe employee of the company and a guy pre-disposed to love some purpose-driven marketing—to be reverse-engineered to match his life story.

I have a very strong feeling that when this guy is running a car-wash chain, he'll get up there and talk about how his grandparents made him feel "dirty" as a child ... and then when he goes on to run an insurance company, he'll say his bounder dad made him feel insecure ....

In fact, those claims would actually be more authentic sounding to me than his bit about not belonging leading him to run a real estate company.

Look, all organizations exist to fill human needs. So all organizations relate to human needs. And all humans who run them can probably find some way to connect their humanity with what they're doing for a living.

And no doubt they should try to do so. But they shouldn't try too hard. They shouldn't have to. Howard Schultz doesn't have to, when he tells the story of how seeing his father being disabled without benefits in the 1960s drove him to make Starbucks the only company that paid benefits even to part-time employees. The story simply rings true.

If you found this yarn believable, fair enough. I thought it was a really transparent load of malarky. And I don't really care what it does or doesn't do to Compass' brand.

But I DO care to defend the credibility of the "deeply personal story" against its use for, as you say, a priority of audience for corporate messaging.

One last point, Russell—before the expected response from you. You say, "Contrary to your view, I think that tapping into helping people find where they belong as a purpose for a real estate company is far from rhetorical pink slime."

I think it's possible to tap into human purpose to get people involved in an enterprise for more than a paycheck WITHOUT CONNECTING THE WHOLE THING to the CEO's own childhood!

Southwest Airlines made people "free to move about the country" without ginning up some yarn about how Herb Kelleher never had a bicycle growing up. And it even built a culture partly around Kelleher's values and personality without going any farther back than the story about Kelleher sketching out the first routes on an bev nap.

There are credible stories, and there is bullshit. They glue people together, for the long haul. I don't think this Compass story stands up to scrutiny or will be retold even a few years from now.

Well, David, I think the difference between the way that you're viewing this, and the way I'm viewing this, is that you've made a rush to judgement because you think this smells like bullshit, while I'm willing to give the guy (and his company) the benefit of the doubt. There actions will ultimately speak louder than there words, and they'll either have failed the bullshit test, or they will have lived up to and manifested their purpose in ways that are credible. And, btw, if I'm more susceptible to this than you because I'm "pre-disposed to love some purpose-driven marketing," so be it. As you know because of conversations outside of this thread, I'm not a hopeless idealist in this regard, but I do believe business has a role and an opportunity to be a force for good. I'm not alone in this regard, and being part of the community that is thinking this way gives me reason for hope. One thing is for sure ... at least I don't have to lie awake at night worrying that cynics like you aren't keeping an eye on things. ;)

Rush to judgment? I watched this video all the way through TWICE! ;)

Peace out, you hope-smoking, pre-disposable content marketing lover man.

It's a sad fact that authenticity is dead in this age of everyone living their lives on screen in the hopes of provoking the reaction of others. If I thought this guy's "purpose" had one ounce of authenticity, maybe I'd try to let it slide. But it is, in fact, rhetorical pink slime. He is using what he says are childhood hurts to hawk his business. That makes me want to hurl. It diminishes the experience of all of those who are TRULY (and quietly, devotedly, and authentically) living their purpose. Sometimes, people just run a business, and that's ok, especially if they run it honestly and efficiently.

Let's be honest here: The guy and his company are hawking real estate. I've known a lot of real estate agents over the years and it's safe to say the primary reason they got into selling real estate is they can make a ton of money. The commissions are a helluva lot better than those for selling cars. They didn't go into real estate because they wanted to make people feel like they belong in the world. Seriously, do people really buy this kind of BS? Yes, I suppose there's some satisfaction in finding someone the right home. Not so much when they find out a month later it's a home filled with asbestos, or that the foundation is crumbling. There's nothing wrong with having a job because it can make you a lot of money and improve your lifestyle. But spare me the phony "purpose-driven" boilerplate.

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