“Love Marks” & My Interview with Tami Simon of Sounds True. ~ Tara DeAngelis

Via on Oct 26, 2011
Photo: Ben Heine

Shifting Consciousness in Business?

This so called “shifting of consciousness”…really? I want more proof of this birthing.

I have been looking for physical, concrete evidence of this so called great awakening that is supposedly occurring on our planet right now.

I am both optimistic and skeptical about this because as beautiful as it would be for our rapidly globalizing and shrinking planet to unite on a conscious level, there are nearly seven billion people inhabiting our earth. Are ideas of peace, love, unity, respect and sustainability germinating or sprouting? And if so, how can it be measured?

Before the recent uprising of “people coming together for a greater good” in opposition to the actions and values of their governments in countries like Egypt, Libya, and now the United States, the only evidence of the “great awakening” I could see was in big businesses and corporations.

Corporations?

Yes. It is natural to pucker your brow as if struggling to chew a raw lemon. The mere mention of big business has left a sour taste in many of our mouths. According to Deepak Chopra in the Huffington Post:

Photo: elycefeliz

This isn’t a stark contrast of good versus evil or us versus them. The traits we hate in corporate behavior belong to society as a whole. Materialism, rampant consumerism, a refusal to think long term, isolation from global problems, reckless spending, and the drive for wealth are all around us.

We can’t really blame them because they are a reflection of us. Now that is hard to swallow. Want something sweeter? The days of dropping a dollar in the breast cancer research box at the grocery checkout have not passed. But now, thanks to companies pushing for sustainability like White Wave, Whole Foods, Sounds True and so many smaller companies, there is a new, whole-istic embrace of both meaning and money on a personal and global level. I am not a business analyst, but I have a strong feeling that as we wake up as an earth-unit and become more conscious consumers, big business might just save the world…and our souls.

One day, a few months back, I was browsing the Sounds True website and after reading the “Work Environment” section, I started to wonder how things could be if other businesses adopted the below attitude.

At Sounds True, we are experimenting with the creation of a unique business culture. Life is short, and we want to make the most of it—including the time we spend together in the workplace. To that end:

  • > We encourage people to “be themselves”—to bring their whole person to the workplace, without facade. We value authenticity and truth-telling combined with respectful communication. We want to relate to each other as whole people, heartfully and honestly, because that’s how the most genuine and meaningful connections are generated.
  • > The Sounds True work environment is simultaneously casual and active. We want Sounds True to be a place where we have a very good time, but where we also get a lot done! Concentrated and relaxed; open and focused—these are the koans of our workplace.
  • > We value personal growth and the many opportunities that the work environment provides for learning about ourselves, our impact on others, and how we can communicate and collaborate more effectively. We recognize that the more we develop our relational skills, the more effective we will be as a force for positive change in the world.

(The above excerpt is precisely what inspired me to write this article as well as research what companies are striving for the same.)

Tami Simon had a clear mission when she founded Sounds True in 1985: To disseminate spiritual wisdom. It started as a one woman project; Tami armed with her tape recorder, ready to capture words of wisdom for a greater good. Now, Sounds True has grown into a multimedia publishing company, currently located in Louisville, Colorado.

I just had to interview Tami Simon—so I did, in her office at Sounds True’s headquarters.

Tara DeAngelis: I have been a big fan of Sounds True products for many years and after recently reviewing your website and the job openings section I found it very admirable and inspiring that you were implementing a different kind of business model that focused on the “work environment of your employees.” Basically I am very interested in the national and global spreading of this kind of business. How different is this corporation from other corporations in terms of working environment?

Tami Simon:

First of all, I want to clarify something. When we talk about Sounds True’s steering mechanism, we talk about three bottom lines. One of them is our Mission and it’s not focused on employees. It is actually based on fulfilling the mission of the company which is the dissemination of spiritual wisdom.  The second bottom line has to do with how we conduct our business, and that includes our employees but it also includes all of our relationships; my relationship with you right now and Sounds True’s relationship with all of our vendors, ST’s relationship with our authors. You could say the second bottom line is a relationship bottom line. Our relationships have integrity and employees are included in that. The third bottom line is that we are continue to be profitable in order to support fulfilling our mission, the first bottom line and then having relationships that create love. So you could call this second bottom line a Love Bottom Line if you wanted to—of which the employees are obviously a part of because how we treat each other is a basis for what happens. But it’s all the relationships because as a business, we need all three of these bottom lines in order to be successful. If we only focused on employee happiness we might not be in business next year. We might have a bunch of unemployed happy people.

The second thing I want to clarify is in terms of what the implications of this might be for other businesses.

I think the new generation of employees are not going to want to work for businesses where they cannot realize their full potential as individuals.

TD: Yeah, I agree. In the past I have enjoyed working for corporations because of the “company culture” instilled within it but it seems to be missing something. I feel like Sounds True and other businesses as well are starting to come onto this new way. There is a You Tube video of you from a 2007 interview about the rise of conscious capitalism.  In this interview, you mentioned a book called Mega Trends 2010 by Patricia Aberdeen. In the book it said, “The number one mega trend in this time that we are in now and for the next few years is the rise of conscious capitalism—the rise of spirituality in business.”  It has been about four years since this interview.  What has changed with the trends of conscious capitalism since then?  Have more businesses been catching on to this?

TS: You know the truth is I don’t know. I can’t say that I am knowledgeable really about the trends, meaning I don’t know the numbers of businesses that are adopting this viewpoint. Whatever I would say would be anecdotal. 

Photo: alycat

What I can say is that part of our vocabulary as a culture has changed.  People are interested now in what could be called having your business have a “Love Mark”.  People are not only interested in the “trademark” but a “Love Mark”, which is what your customers feel and say about you.

The businesses that will be successful in the future are those that have “Love Marks”, which are declared by your customers. Your customers decide. You cannot create a love mark on the inside. Customers decide, “you’re a business we love, we love what you stand for, we love going on your website, we love your products, we feel a connection somehow to the whole culture in the way that it is portrayed.”

I think that it is clear that if you don’t have a “Love Mark”  then you may not actually be able to survive long term in the marketplace.

I think that this whole dialogue is part of the culture in a way that it wasn’t a decade ago. I think that people have seen the corruption in corporations over the last ten years in a different way than ever before and the way it has affected the global economy. The anger about that is fueling that “I want to but my dollars into honest businesses I can believe in” mentality.

TD: I am curious to know what you think of this statement by John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods: “I don’t believe governmental bureaucracies are going to solve most of the problems that we have in the world today.  It is a huge mistake to put our faith and confidence and dependence on governmental bureaucracies. They have had a remarkably bad track record of solving human problems. But I do think individuals, not for profit organizations, and the private sector, corporations and businesses, have much more potential to solve most of the problems in the world than governmental bureaucracies will. They are capable of greater entrepreneurship in a way that bureaucracy is not capable of. So I really think business needs to step up to the plate and begin to take it’s share of the civic load that exists in the world.  There are serious problems in the world in business. If capitalism would apply its entrepreneurship and creativity to solving the worlds problems, I really believe most of them could be solved in a short period of time.”

TS: Well, you know John Mackey is a free market man, which means he believes in the power of the marketplace to solve a lot of our problems and he believes heavily in entrepreneurship and the power and creativity that can come from people working within the free marketplace to create changes. I am a great admirer of what he has done with Whole Foods. He has really accomplished a shift in the whole culture about how people relate to food consumption.

Now what do I think personally about these ideas?

We can’t wait. We can’t wait for anybody else to create changes in the world. We can’t wait for governments, we can’t wait for individual politicians, we can’t wait for Whole Foods, we can’t wait for elephant journal, we can’t wait for anybody! We have to create change right now, today, each one of us, to the best of our ability.

Is that entrepreneurial?  Hell yeah it’s entrepreneurial because I have to find a way to be a change agent that is financially sustainable so I can keep doing it! I think that is really what John Mackey is talking about—that kind of entrepreneurship that says there is a social problem, I want to solve it. I will solve it through entrepreneurial means which means I will create something where I am putting value out into the world, I am receiving value (otherwise known as cash) for what I am doing and that is creating an exchange that allows me to keep making this contribution to the solution of whatever social problem there is. So of course, I am a big believer in that. That’s what I do, here, in my own way. I believe that spiritual wisdom is important, and the more of it is distributed the more people’s consciousness will open and the more open minds and open hearts we will have and I want to do it in a way that is sustainable so that means our business needs to be profitable.

TD: In previous interviews you have mentioned the “One Minute of Silence”, the “stove”, asking how are you feeling about this in a meeting, and letting employees bring their dogs to work because it provides a humanizing experience. How else is personal growth implemented on a day-to-day basis?

TS: I think the number one thing is creating an environment that values personal growth and development. That means when something goes wrong, that you don’t have a culture of blame, but you have a culture of learning. What did we learn from this? How might we do this differently next time? What did I learn about myself? If I communicated poorly, how can I communicate differently next time?  So it is actually creating a culture of learning and personal growth. That means helping people understand how important it is to know what they are feeling. To be able to communicate from their feelings.

TD: Have you read Eckert Toll’s “A New Earth?”

TS: Yes.

TD: In the book Tolle wrote: “There is the spiritual awakening that we are beginning to witness now.” He then asks the question: “Do you think humanity is ready for transformation of consciousness?  An inner flowering so radical and profound that compared to it, the flowering of plants, no matter how beautiful, is only a pale reflection.” What do you think? Is the world more ready now to transform their consciousness in business and personal life then they were say five, ten years ago?

TS: Do I think we are going through a flowering of human consciousness? I don’t know. I mean there is obviously a level of meanness, small mindedness, greed, self interest, and fear based action of all kind that is very alive in the world that does not magically seem to be waking up to our interdependence. And yet more and more people are interested in meditation. Meditation was barely part of our vocabulary twenty years ago and now everybody knows about it. I mean what are the measurements worldwide, and are we reaching some kind of tipping point, I don’t know.

TD:Yeah it is really hard to measure but I was starting to think that businesses like this are the only concrete evidence of this happening.

TS: I don’t know. Sounds True is a small business. I mean, I’m not trying be negative, but I also don’t want to be Pollyannaish about the great awakening that is happening because there is an incredible amount of viciousness occurring right now as we are sitting here having this conversation. Sounds True is reaching hundreds of thousands of people, we are not reaching millions or billions. I think that that doesn’t change the mandate.

The mandate is to actively work on such a great awakening, right now, with every cell of our being, give it everything we’ve got. Whether it’s inevitable or the longest shot in the world. Let’s completely offer 100 percent of everything we have to that possibility. I believe that. I believe I would be doing that even if there was no chance.

TD: If you could recommend one book or audio-book that could be helpful to businesses wanting to make a conscious shift in practices what would it be?

TS: I think Conscious Business by Fred Kofman, and it’s not just because Sounds True’s published it but because I think it’s a great book. It’s very helpful so I’d definitely recommend it.

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Tara DeAngelis used to teach yoga. She has learned, and continues to learn from wonderful teachers but doesn’t feel like name-dropping. For now, she is focusing on other things like trying not to make plans and throwing paint on canvas. While she is not editing your submissions for elephant journal, you might find her writing in a Boulder cafe or working or exercising or satiating herself in silly shenanigans. You might even see her leading a skipping parade. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and/or the Examiner.

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One Response to ““Love Marks” & My Interview with Tami Simon of Sounds True. ~ Tara DeAngelis”

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