Two things have been running on my mind this week, personal branding and the Supreme Court ruling on the Hobby Lobby vs. Sebelius case.
As you probably already heard, the Supreme Court ruled this week that a closely held (ie-not publicly traded, perhaps family owned) corporation should not be forced to offer contraceptive coverage (specifically for IUD's and Plan B) as part of the insurance plans for their employees (as is mandated by The Affordable Care Act aka-Obamacare) based on the tenant of religious freedom. (NOTE: in the last few hours they clarified that their ruling could actually apply to ALL forms of birth control so the ramifications are still rolling out) To be clear, the Supreme court declared that corporations are "people", and as "people" they have religious freedom (Say what?) and it would appear that these "people" have rights that supersede the rights of women (99 percent of which use birth control at some point in their lives for a variety of reasons) But i'm not here to offer political commentary. If you want to discuss that issue we will have to do it on another platform.
I'm here to tell you why Hobby Lobby is a successful company. I'm here to tell you why people have come out of the woodwork to defend this organization even if they don't shop there or have never heard of the store until now; Why people are bashing commentators like Jessica Valenti, who have publicly stated their discontent with Hobby Lobby. Why all the fuss over an arts and crafts store and its birth control coverage?
Here's why, because with a single lawsuit Hobby Lobby has become a symbol of something greater than the products it sells. Most brands/companies seek to achieve notoriety and in a world in which people want to support brands that stand for something (ie-Toms, The Honest Company, Warby Parker), Hobby Lobby has succeeded in that task. While maybe they are a symbol of something some may not agree with, they are a branding and PR success story. Hobby Lobby's mission aside from selling you glue guns and yarn was to spread the Lord's word. They have never tried to hide the fact that they think of themselves Christian organization (sounds antithetical maybe as they are a business but somehow they make it work), in fact it is stated on their website that they are committed to: " ...honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner that is consistent with biblical principles." The website gives you more traditional marketing language and ends by saying "...that it is by God's grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured. He has been faithful in the past, and they (we) trust Him for their (our) future."
Hobby Lobby has built an empire without shying away from what motivates them to be in business- God. In the case of this lawsuit, they are against 4 of the FDA approved types of contraception, since they believe them to cause a "type of abortion" because they may prevent fertilized eggs from thriving. Since their corporation is staunchly "pro-life" they argued they should not be forced to offer coverage that provides these types of birth control. Interestingly enough, over and over again the scientific community has argued that the morning after pill does not equal an abortion. But that of course is not a deterrent for Hobby Lobby H.Q. After all, this isn't about business for them, this is about a higher calling'
Earlier this week I listened to Simon Sinek's TED talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action, he tells us that in order to be successful it is not enough to tell people WHAT we do, but we have to know WHY we do things. Answering this question to ourselves and to external audiences is what will determine whether or not we are successful. and if we can lead others Brands who successfully answer the WHY, are the ones that compel you to pay extra for an Apple Computer, they aren't selling you a computer they are selling you a lifestyle, a status. He suggests that this is why Apple has consistently beaten out the competition, and why Martin Luther King Jr. became the leader of the civil rights movement. In both cases these brands don't focus on telling us about what they do, they tell us WHY they do it.
Here's what Hobby Lobby has in common with the best brands, they have never shied away from who they represent. As Sinek suggested, they don't just tell you what they do, they tell you WHY they do it.
“There is no getting around the fact that Jesus offends some people,” the founder of Hobby Lobby wrote in “More Than a Hobby,” his book about the business. “Nevertheless, he is too important in my life for me to cower in fear of mentioning his name.”
He's right, I personally don't think another person's religion should affect my ability to access ALL types of birth control but i'm not the one running a large, "closely held" company with thousands of employees. The passion of its founder has fueled every decision that is made by Hobby Lobby's executive team and it permeates every aspect of their business. As I was reading about Hobby Lobby's founder I had a crazy thought- This is exactly the kind of passion you need to have about your career. You need to believe in it with fervor. If you are not in it all the way, it will be apparent to others. If you are interviewing for jobs that you are only sort of excited about it will show in your performance. If you are self-employed you need to believe in what you are selling to your clients. If you are in a job rut it will shine through even if you desperately try to pretend like your heart is still in it. More importantly, it doesn't matter what you do, what matters is WHY you do it. What fuels you to do what you do? If you cannot answer this question it will be difficult to convince others that you are the best person for the job.
A recent survey conducted by Time Magazine revealed that about 50 percent of Millennials still haven't answered the "WHY" question. Many survey respondents stated that they still weren't in "the right career" It's not shocking to me since college is all about answering the "WHAT" question. We spend more time focusing on WHAT we are studying and WHAT we want to do rather than asking ourselves WHY we do what we do.
In an increasingly competitive world, branding yourself is imperative, and you cannot do that until you figure out your "WHY." Once you figure it out, you should not shy away from it, after all Sinek explains to us that those are the people who change the world. Case and point, as a result of the Hobby Lobby ruling, more than 100 other organizations have cited that they will also seek to drop coverage of contraceptives for their employees and there is a growing concern that religious freedom provisions will now be used in cases concerning the rights of LGBTQ individuals in the workplace. Hobby Lobby is influencing change according to its world view. It remains to be seen whether this decision will have impact on their day-to-day sales goals, but they have definitely succeeded in answering their "higher calling." What about you, what is your higher calling? What is your WHY?
Has it changed throughout your career? Does your audience know why you do what you do?