Daily VIAL: Love Summit 2017

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Daily VIAL: Love Summit 2017

Our team just returned from the Love Summit in Cincinnati last week. What an awesome event. LPK provide the space and, just WOW. Most people dream of being able to work in an office like that. The facility that housed the Summit itself was enormous and packed with interesting side rooms.

To do justice to a VERY INTENTIONAL ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF LOVE, I would have to write 20 pages, mentioning so many people and all of their loving and generous actions. So, to keep this short, I’ll simply say:

To the organizer: Samantha Thomas you did an amazing job, and your own stand for love and love in action is what made it all possible. I acknowledge you for the labor of love that this summit was, for the hundreds of hours you must have put into planning and executing on this event. Extraordinary.

John Perkins was a positive, grounding force, with many old and new friends in attendance to see him speak and to spend time with him. He truly is one of a kind.

To the speakers: I don't know how Samantha did it, but two full days of speakers and workshops and each one more interesting, moving and inspiring than the next. Thank you for your authenticity, loving, sharing and powerful speaking. 

To all the attendees: As always, you MAKE an event like this. We left with many new friends, hundreds of new ideas based on your feedback, and feeling so alive with the Power of Love to transform the world of business.

Thank you to you all, and with all our love.

The Habits at Work team

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Daily VIAL: John Perkins

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Daily VIAL: John Perkins

The founder of Dream Change Inc. and the sponsor of the Love Summit, is John Perkins. He is an economic hitman, Shaman and dream changer for many. For me, the reason for today’s VIAL (VERY INTENTIONAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF LOVE), is two-fold.

The first is for John’s commitment to the health of our planet and all its people, for the work he has done in and with the people of the Amazon, and for establishing Dream Change and The Pachamama Alliance. His books are not only best sellers, but have also drawn some fierce criticism. To me, criticism is a sign that an author is getting to the truth of the matter. As we say in our business, if you’re not offending some people, some of the time, you’re not trying hard enough. Change requires people to challenge what is so today, and that often creates fear. John, more power to you for this courageous work.

The second is for the wisdom John shared with me in the only, one hour conversation we’ve ever had. We covered subjects from slavery to pet ownership, from his experiences in the Amazon (and mine) to euthanasia, and everything in between. If anyone had been listening in, it would have either been the most muddled conversation they had ever heard or one of the most profound. For me, it was pure entertainment, which hid the fact that I was busy absorbing wisdom from a man who’s seen a thing or two in his life.

John, I hope that’s the first of many great, wild and eclectic conversations we have and I look forward to joining you on one of your next adventures into the Amazon. I’m excited to catch up, hear new stories and drink more wisdom from our conversation during the Love Summit this week.

   
           
   

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Daily VIAL: Morgan Thomas

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Daily VIAL: Morgan Thomas

It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve only ever met Morgan four times. It feels like we know each other so well and have been friends since childhood, which is why he is a fitting choice for today’s VIAL.

It takes a lot of love to let others really get to know you, to be vulnerable and to be trusting, especially when you’ve just met, but I’ve seen that my experience getting to know Morgan is not unique. After spending a few days with him, people leave with a deep sense of connection, renewed love for themselves and the people around them, and with their hopes and dreams brought back to life.

Morgan’s work in personal transformation had that same effect on our group of 30 people when we hired him, and again when we brought him back to Chicago from Amsterdam a few years later.

What a fulfilling life it must be to move from group to group, from city to city, leaving a wake of transformation, excitement and new insights behind for the people that you touch. I appreciate the good work you do for the world, and especially for our little world, so very much.

Like many other VIALS, the reason I chose Morgan is very personal. It is for the good times we’ve spent outside the workshops he ran for us. Our conversations over a few drinks that, despite it being ‘after work’, were just as penetrating, meaningful and moving as the ones we had ‘during work’, and often more so. Although I loved playing sport as a kid, I am never much interested in discussing the latest game or TV series. So, it’s a rare pleasure for me to meet someone like Morgan with whom we can have conversations on everything from astrophysics to the meaning of life, even before our second drink arrives!

Morgan, I’m so glad that Steve van der Watt introduced us. Despite not keeping up with the latest in sports, the trip the three of us took to Ireland with that group of guys to watch the Springboks play the Irish was a blast. I know that when the three of us get together again, the fun will continue as if we were never apart.

Thanks for caring enough to call me on my stories, to stand for my team’s transformation, and for doing it all with an infectious sense of humor, an air of mischief and mystery and the flair of a showman. Now get your butt back to Chicago!

   
           
   

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Daily VIAL: Wegmans

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Daily VIAL: Wegmans

A few years ago, we did some work with the top rated grocery store in the US, Wegmans. They do Rochester proud, and I know they are universally the favorite store in the North East.

This is no surprise because they do amazing things for their customers; but we learned that they’re able to scale this because of their deep commitment to the lives of their employees. Many company leaders say that their employees are like family, and at Wegmans, this is perhaps more true than at any other company. During the time we worked with them, I witnessed countless examples of employees' lives changing because of their relationship with their employer.

My VIAL goes to a couple of people from the Wegmans team that worked with us directly: Ted Dennee, Becky Lyons and Anne Meath.

I’m always grateful to clients for working with us (of course, that’s how we pay our bills), but not all clients treat vendors with the level of warmth, love and kindness that this team showed us. Make no mistake, the stakes of the project were high and the seriousness of how they managed our work together was always evident; yet in all our dealings, it felt like we were talking with old friends who could be very honest with each other.

I believe that the way Ted, Becky and Anne treated us is mirrored in the way that all Wegmans employees are treated. So, it’s not surprise that they continue to be rated as the best place to work, and that their customers LOOOOVE visiting their stores. Who wouldn’t want to be served by people that are happy, healthy and feel supported by their leaders?

To Ted, Becky and Anne: Thank you for the way you worked with us. To Wegmans: Thanks for being the kind of company that proves loving leadership, transformed into ‘love in action’ for employees, is not mutually exclusive from having a thriving and profitable business. In fact, it’s the reason why I expect Wegmans will continue to lead the market for years to come.

   
           
   

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Daily VIAL: Mark Myerson

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Daily VIAL: Mark Myerson

Mark Myerson comes to every conversation with alacrity.

"Alacrity: Showing cheerful willingness and eager behavior, like a kid whose mother has told him he can buy anything in a candy store."

Every time we speak, we both end the call laughing at each other’s passion for whatever we’re now tackling, and also laughing at the fact that we just spent an hour selling each other on our ideas, which is unnecessary since we pretty much always love each others’ ideas, if not because they’re good (and many have not been), but because of the audacity behind them.

When I speak to Mark, I’m always reminded of Daniel Burnham’s words:

"Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency."

Mark, I have fond memories of us in Singapore; planning to revolutionize employee benefits with flexible benefit systems, SmilesTM and health savings accounts, and spending hours eating dim sum or Big Macs (what the hell were we thinking?).

Each time we speak I become more sure of three things:

  • It’ll never get old listening to your new grand plans, and I’m excited to see how you WILL solve diabetes in Asia
  • You’re a hard man to keep pace with when it comes to reading, research and pushing the frontiers of what we know about health. We’ve got a whole team of researchers, and so I’m always amazed at what you cover on your own.
  • We will always want to work together and probably never should! We’d spend too much time hanging out and “selling each other”, and not enough time actually getting things done.

Thanks for your mentorship, friendship, and your kindness and generosity over the 25 years we’ve known each other. I know your passion will never die, and I look forward to being inspired, to laughing and to learning every time we speak. Onwards and upwards, my friend. 

   
           
   

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Daily VIAL: Band of Brothers

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Daily VIAL: Band of Brothers

Some friendships last a few months, some a few years, and some are for a lifetime. Tyrone and I have been friends for more than 40 years!

When we graduated university and went our separate ways, I had little expectation that we’d end up working together later on. When he returned home to South Africa from his years abroad we joined forces and started what became a whirlwind for our company. Tyrone joined the team as the sole salesperson. He succeeded so quickly that we hatched a plan to “go big or go home” and decided to hire 50 salespeople. We put them through the most intensive sales training and bootcamp we could design for the next six months, hoping to end up with a “dangerous dozen” of the best trained sales people in our industry.

To say that things got a little hairy is an understatement. Things are likely to go wrong when you have that many trainees on the streets selling for you, and boy, did they! Thankfully, Tyrone is a master organizer and coordinator, and within a few months was running a highly effective team of salespeople. Many of those people have gone on to have very successful careers working for other companies or even starting their own.

One of the people in that cohort became our highest performing salesperson and, over time, a close and trusted friend to both me and Tyrone. Adrian Parsons came to learn the finer points of selling from us, but we ended up learning what a master salesman looks like in action from him. In my experience, Adrian has what many salespeople lack: extraordinary discipline to the sales process, combined with the charm, wit, IQ and the tenacity necessary to succeed in sales. He opened and grew an office for us in a new part of the country that became almost as big as the “head office”. I admit to loving sales, but I’ve never had more fun in my life than selling with Adrian in Cape Town. I saw him grow into the highest performer in our company, and I gained a new friend. Who could ask for more from work?

James Hine was a second person in the small group of people that survived the bootcamp and then thrived in our business, partly because of his salesmanship, but also because of his infectious good humor. With his constant smile, it’s hard to be around James and not want to do the same and then find yourself laughing soon after. I’ve long noticed that a sense of humor is the glue that keeps teams together, it reduces stress and that makes coming to work a joy. James, we survived the fastest car ride in our joint history and many more adventures together. I think all four of us are lucky to be alive, but I know the three of you have the extra good luck of now working together.

When I left South Africa, Tyrone set up his own business and soon Adrian and James joined as partners. Between the three of them, they have grown that business into a first-tier provider of employee benefits advice in South Africa and that business then became part of the JLT group internationally. It’s no surprise to me that their business is flourishing. Most growing companies are lucky to have one or maybe two superstars, but this “gang of three” is a formidable force and I’m always so excited when I get to return to South Africa to see them in action. I’ve spoken at a few of their company events, and I’m always impressed by the extraordinary level of trust that they have with their clients and the rave reviews of their service I hear when I ask about their company.

Today’s VIAL is to this ‘band of brothers’. Thank you for your loyalty, friendship, professionalism and trust while working together and for the opportunity to come and speak to your clients since living in the US. You’ve built an amazing company, and it’s always a highlight for me to return and not recognize your business because of how much it has grown and matured.

I often daydream about the fun we’d have if we all got to work together again, and I know I’m missing out on the fun you have each day. But often while sitting in Chicago, I take a pause to remember our good times and our friendship and smile at the joy of knowing each of you.

   
           
   

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Daily VIAL: Rachel Druckenmiller

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Daily VIAL: Rachel Druckenmiller

Six days to go to the Love Summit and I can’t wait to see my old (new) friend Rachel Druckenmiller speak and share her story.

We met by email followed by a call several years ago. In fact, Rachel just shared our original email exchange with me a few weeks back and we both laughed about how things have changed, and how things have stayed the same in the world of wellness. Despite knowing each other ‘electronically’ and keeping an eye out for the work the other was doing (on LinkedIn or in other news), we had never actually met face to face.

So, when we reconnected and spoke again a few months back, and then were both headed to the WELCOA conference it was a chance to finally meet and have many long overdue conversations. Rachel was, of course, one of the reasons I was there in the first place, as she had introduced me to Ryan (together with Sara Kidwell).

Since we both had a few free hours on day one, we were able to talk, connect, share ideas and dreams for the future of wellness and our own personal struggles and frustrations working in this wacky industry. It was not only one of the most engaging conversations I’ve had in a long time, but as I’ve come to learn with most conversations with Rachel, one of the most memorable. Not just because of the wisdom she shared about how she tackles the toughest problems in wellness, but because of how open she communicates her own struggle in a way that leaves me feeling like, “I’m not alone in this.”

Rachel, one of the things that gives me most pleasure in life is seeing people grow and flourish in their careers; and your fierce determination, vulnerable openness to new experiences and your ability to always hold a beginner’s mindset, even though you’re already an accomplished ‘pro’, are lessons I try to remember and apply each day.

One of the things I’m most excited about for the Love Summit is hearing you talk, and knowing it will be even better than all the times I’ve seen you speak live or on video before.

Thanks for our friendship, for our partnership in wellness, whatever that might bring, and for always being generous with your suggestions, introductions and time. That means the world to me.

   
           
   

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Daily VIAL: Samantha Thomas

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Daily VIAL: Samantha Thomas

It’s one week until the Love Summit, so what an appropriate time to be acknowledging the Love of the team involved.

I only met Samantha Thomas two months ago, which is hard to believe because the Love Summit comes up daily in our office, so it feels like we’ve known each other much longer. Thank you to Mark Hurwich for introducing us. Mark heard me speak at a Conscious Capitalism event and afterwards told me that I MUST attend, and if possible, present at the Love Summit. My reaction was similar to most, “What’s the LOVE SUMMIT?”

Samantha and I spoke a few days later and after a quick conversation, all my questions were answered and I spent the day elated by the vision she shared for this event. So much of our work in the last several years has been focused on the habits at work, that work, to bind people together and ignite success. We just had never found a great way of expressing it, but the mission of the Love Summit does exactly that. In our own words, we’d say, “What the world of work, the planet and people need today is the Mindset of Love that brings the Habits of Love to work, and that unleash the Power of Love to sustain and humanize business!”

We met briefly at the WELCOA Summit where I was a late edition to the speaking roster, so this was a lucky accident. Samantha was gracious enough to invite me to speak at the Love Summit in one week’s time and we’ve been hard at work planning ever since.

While I’m very grateful to Samantha for the opportunity to speak at the Love Summit, today’s VIAL (Very Intentional Acknowledgement of Love) is for another reason; Samantha, the kindness, love and compassion that you show everyone with whom you meet is infectious and has inspired many conversations in our office on the topic, including but not limited to, our daily VIALS. We’re having a lot of fun preparing for the summit and thinking about all the ways in which our work and your mission align.

Thank you for introducing me to John Perkins and many of the Love Summit speakers, and for inviting us to be a part of this event. Yes, there was a love revolution in the 60s, but that was focused on love in life outside of work, while business continued to be driven by greed, profits, or politics.

The Love Summit is the epicenter of the love revolution FOR business. When businesses with a higher purpose finally rule the world and are run by people who lead with kindness and compassion, the future of the planet and humanity won't look so bad after all. Let’s all hope and work towards that happening in our lifetimes.  

   
           
   

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Daily VIAL: Jeff Yoos

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Daily VIAL: Jeff Yoos

I love Santa Barbara. It’s one of the places in the world that I've wished I could live. The weather is perfect, the people are wonderful and the sunsets are breathtaking, but the real reason I love visiting there is Jeff Yoos.

We met under some unlikely circumstances; he attended a talk I was giving at UCSB to a room full of actuaries. Instead of that scaring him off (as it would most people), he stayed afterwards and we had a great conversation, and that quickly led to forming a business partnership.

For a few years, together we brought a new conversation about wellness to employers in Santa Barbara. I visited once a quarter to meet some awesome people that attended the events Jeff arranged, and we did some very rewarding work together. However, the highlight of each visit was catching up with Jeff, meeting his awesome family and realizing that I’m not too old to find people with whom I can forge a friendship that feels like we’ve known each other since we were kids.

Jeff has since moved on to Alliant where he has broken all records for new business growth for that office. If you know Jeff or are lucky enough to be one of his clients, that won’t surprise you.

Jeff, you are someone I truly admire. There is little you don’t know about employee benefits and wellness, yet you deal with everyone you meet with kindness and humility. We’ve walked into some meetings where the people in the room were clearly dealing with some pretty heavy stuff, and each time we left, they were clearly feeling lighter and more calm. That’s an amazing gift you have, the ability to change the way people feel. I often quote Maya Angelou’s line, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Those words apply so well to how you operate in the world and to each interaction I’ve had with you.

I know our business partnership will not be our last time working together, and I look forward to remaining friends and supporting each other in our careers for years to come.

In friendship and with deep respect for you.

Andrew

 

   
           
   

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Daily VIAL: A Lone Nut's Appreciation for First Partners

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Daily VIAL: A Lone Nut's Appreciation for First Partners

Next week I’m attending the Love Summit in Cincinnati for the first time, and this led me to reflect on the many people who played a ‘first’ role in my business life; the first person to join a new venture, to set up a new business. There are so many firsts in our business life, too many to mention, so today’s VIAL is just a sample of the many wonderful people who took a risk WITH me, and more importantly, ON me.

Charl Cronje is one of the funniest men I know. We met at university, taught each other our various approaches to behaving badly, and became great friends. When I set up my first business a year later, he was the first person to jump on board. In hindsight, the two of us had no business running an actuarial consultancy, and so we had to quickly hire a more senior actuary to check our work, but we did have an amazing adventure (in actuarial terms) doing some of the first FAS106 calculations in South Africa, working with an assortment of mining companies and other businesses and trying to learn fast enough to keep up with our clients, let alone be ahead of them. Charl’s now an accomplished actuary in the UK, an author of columns and blogs (which, I always love to read) and just as fun and warm as when we meet 25 years ago, which was confirmed when we met for a beer recently.

Wayne Chen was our first ever ‘grad school hire’. Since we knew nothing about hiring someone, we nearly blew it several times, and he probably found the experience just as strange as we did. He became a superstar for our company and is now an entrepreneur at large in London. Wayne is the reason I will forever take a bet on new graduates. When you find a hidden gem, they are more than worth their weight in gold.

Kerry Dawkins also played many first roles in my business life. She left her career as a budding accountant (ok, she ran screaming from it!) to join our business and started many different divisions for us; flexible benefit consulting, retirement consulting, and more. She’s been a collaborator with BRATLAB and Habits at Work, and now runs a very successful coaching business in South Africa. She is a published author, with a book on career planning under her belt, and I suspect a second book sometime in the future. We’ve been friends for 30 years now, and in business together on and off for the better part of 25 years. Seeing you and Jonathan is still one of my highlights when visiting South Africa.

Ken Sloan, Chris Moreno and Caryn Tomasiewicz were all first partners in my US businesses and I’ve written about each of them in my previous VIALS.

There are many more people that joined our business or were the first to be part of an advisory board. I know not mentioning everyone by name is an oversight, but I also hope you know who you are and what your contribution means to me.

As Derek Sivers talks about in his TED talk, it's not the lone nut the makes a movement, it’s the first follower. In my case, I am clearly the lone nut; but all the people that have joined me in some crazy project or business have not just been the first follower, but inevitably, the first leader in our business. You’ve brought sense, calm, focus and execution to our dreams. Thank you all for your friendship, your belief in me and our joint vision for the world and for the fun we’ve had working together.

   
           
   

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Daily VIAL: Phil Hauck

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Daily VIAL: Phil Hauck

I mentioned Phil Hauck in yesterday’s VIAL to Jim Rivett. Phil and I met when he was leading the Healthy Lifestyles Cooperative in Green Bay. It was an extraordinary initiative that brought together hundreds of employers into the first, wellness-lead insurance co-operative that I had ever seen and perhaps one of the first in the country. To pull something like that together takes a highly trusted and well-liked person with tenacity, commitment and passion. And that pretty much sums up Phil.

After Phil and I knew each other for a while and I had spoken at a few HLC events, Phil invited me to speak to his TEC (The Executive Committee) group. I had never heard of TEC, but I accepted without much thought based on knowing Phil. That was seven years ago, and since that time I’ve become a regular speaker for TEC groups (and now Vistage), and have joined a Vistage Group myself here in Chicago. It’s a world and a family of people that I might never have known about or become a part of without the kind invitation from Phil.

However, my VERY INTENTIONAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF LOVE goes to Phil because of the hours he spent giving me advice about our business.

Not just in his role as a member of my advisory board, but on calls and over dinners at St. Brennan’s Inn. For nearly a decade, Phil has not just been a good friend and a trusted advisor, but a wise sage on everything from marketing, to presentation skills, to business strategy and life in general.

Phil, thanks for all the lessons, the good times spent together, the risks you took on me and my business and the countless hours you’ve spent thinking about the many questions I’ve sent you over the years. Thank you also for all the people I’ve met through you. Jim Rivett and all the people at Arketype that I wrote about in a previous VIAL, Sherry Freeman who worked with you at the HLC, your TEC members and, of course, your wonderfully inspiring daughter Katie McClure (we just got to meet in person this last week in Portland and, unusually for a first meeting, we both shed a few tears, a lot of smiles and head shakes and I left very grateful to have met her).

I hope we continue to spend time together and remain friends for years to come.

   
           
   

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Daily VIAL: Jim Rivett

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Daily VIAL: Jim Rivett

Jim Rivett became one of our earliest clients when we restarted Health at Work after moving from Texas to Chicago. At that time, he ran a small advertising and media agency in Green Bay, Wisconsin called Arketype. For their size, they produced amazing documentaries, advertisements and other great work for clients. I loved driving up to visit their offices, a three-story converted church in the middle of the downtown area. It is one of the most inspiring office spaces I’ve ever seen.  

The thing that touched me most about those visits was the warmth, kindness, vulnerability and tenacity that Jim showed while facing the very significant challenges he had at that time, both in business and personally. Transforming the culture of his company became something of a labor of love for both of us (since, in reality, there was no money to spend on the problem). I often speak about the amazing work that Jim and his team did during our time together, and the fantastic results they achieved for their business. Most importantly, I share the impact their work had on the lives of the Arketype team.

Today’s VIAL (VERY INTENTIONAL ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF LOVE) goes to Jim for not only the work he did and the opportunity it gave us to expand our work, but for a second reason. A few years after we had stopped working together, and completely out of the blue, I got a letter in the mail. It was from Jim. In just one page he updated me on his own journey of health and thanked me for the contribution we had made to that. What really touched me about the letter was that:

  • All the hard work had been done by Jim and his team so saying thank you to me was unnecessary but nevertheless so appreciated.
  • Years later, Jim had taken the time to acknowledge our role and to say thank you. It left me feeling like whatever our contribution had been, it had lasted. And that’s the ultimate compliment that one can receive about their work.  

Jim, that letter arrived at a time when I really needed a boost; one of those days, in one of those months, when you’re wondering if all the hard work is worth it, and if anyone really cares about what you’re trying to do after all. I treasure that letter, and read it from time to time when I need reminding of why I do what I do, or simply need to cheer up.

Thank you for your friendship, your leadership and your courage in transforming Arketype and the lives of your team at that company.

I know you’ve since moved on to bigger and better things, but the impact you had on me will never be forgotten. I’m sure many of the people that were there at the time will not soon forget your leadership and commitment to their health (Bobbie Fredericks, Vicki Baumler, Jason Baker, Ross Mollet, Laura Baker Lear, Ray Faccio, Gregg Schneider, Tami Anundsen, Megan Anderson, JoAnn Reimer, Shelly Young, Mary Weed-Wheeler and many others). 

And of course, none of this adventure would have been possible if I had not met Jim, which I did because of the kindness of Phil Hauck, who remains one of my favorite people in the world, and is a fearless leader of both his TEC groups and the many initiatives I’ve seen him work on over the years. Thank you Phil.

   
           
   

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Daily VIAL: Dawn Repola & Paul Brunetta

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Daily VIAL: Dawn Repola & Paul Brunetta

It often takes a while to get to know people well enough to decide if you really like them or if they’ll just turn out to be good acquaintances, which is why after meeting Dawn Repola for five minutes, I found myself surprised by the certainty that I’d just met someone that would be a great friend, business partner and personal hero. I remember thinking, ‘This lady is awesome, I like her.’

Well, I wouldn’t be writing this if my first impression had not turned out to be exactly right and then some. Thank you Thomas H. McConnell for introducing us almost exactly four years ago today and what a ride it’s been in that short time.

In that meeting, we quickly began to talk about, and soon after form, a new company with Paul Brunetta, with goals to tackle the ongoing problem of smoking in the US and globally.

In doing so, I got the chance to meet many of the wonderfully warm, and wicked-smart team at Aegis Creative (people like Kendall Kruase, Gail Solod, Anne Morawski, Greg Feldman, Linda Sexton, Susanne Muller and many others) and some of the many, many people that Dawn and Paul know around the world (Lisa Kroon, Sheana Bull, Duane Spivey among many others).

Just last night we had our regular telephonic meeting and, as usual, Dawn was more than organized and made things easy and efficient for us all. That seems to be something she’s always done, from running her business to running a meeting. She has this amazing ability to put people at ease, but still run things like clockwork. Just like every other meeting with Paul, I left the call smarter and thankful that I get to partner in business with this man.

Paul, I’m inspired by how you operate in the world. It’s clear in every conversation we have that your background, education and career experiences make you the intellectual leader in our group, yet you always make things easy to understand and wait patiently for me to catch up with your thinking. I’m grateful I get to learn from you, not just all the science, but the art of sharing what you know in a way that leaves people feeling great about what they’ve just learned.

Dawn and Paul, I know we have more than our fair share of challenges with this business, but whether it takes off as we hope or not, I will be forever grateful that we get to work on this important problem together. My life, and our work at BRATLAB and Habits at Work is much richer for knowing you, and for being held to the high standards of work and clear thinking that you bring to every interaction we have.

Thanks for always being gracious, warm, charming, thoughtful and generous in everything we’ve done together. You are two of my favorite people on the planet.

Much love

Andrew

   
           
   

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Daily VIAL: Craig Wortmann & Sales Engine

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Daily VIAL: Craig Wortmann & Sales Engine

If you’ve met Craig Wortmann, you’re likely to say, “I love that guy.” If you’ve taken his MBA classes or sales training courses, you’re likely to say, “I learned so much from that guy and I love him.” I’ve done both, and say both of those things all the time. I’ve also seen him in action helping us build and tune our sales engine and here are some of the things I learned:

  1. The high art of sales is not lost. It is alive and well, and the master of the craft is Craig.

  2. There has never been, and I hope there never will be, something more impressive than a man with immaculate manners. For me, manners are simply the habits that show respect, kindness, and care, and also demonstrate that someone is trustworthy. Craig has ‘old school’ manners adapted for the modern world. Said differently, he’s the kind of guy you’d want to send your kid to for ‘finishing school’.

  3. Humility attracts amazing people. Although Craig is often the smartest person in the room, and always the smartest person in a sales setting, he is humble in his approach. As a result, has some amazing people around him. To name just two: Vanna Logothetis, who made our work with Sales Engine proceed quickly and flawlessly. I’m not surprised they work so well together, as she shares Craig’s warmth and charm. Jill Mullen, who ensures the sales training courses and operations of your business run so smoothly.

Today's VIAL (VERY INTENTIONAL ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF LOVE) goes to Craig for his friendship and kindness outside of our formal working relationship(s).

Every time we meet (not often enough) I leave feeling great about myself and my life in general, and excited about what Craig is up to and the possibilities of our own business. As a student of the art of selling myself, I became jaded after reviewing and auditing hundreds of books and courses over the years. So, it is especially refreshing to be pleasantly surprised to learn something new in this area. When I meet with Craig, I generally take away five or more new ideas!

Craig and Vanna, thanks for being great friends to me personally, and to our business. The work you do for companies and for students at Kellogg inspires us. And, of course, we’d have never have found Tia if we had not known you and she has become a central and core part of the Habits at Work team.

I hope you continue to help companies build and tune their Sales Engines for years to come.

   
           
   

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Daily VIAL: Jeff Olson & Olson Engage

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Daily VIAL: Jeff Olson & Olson Engage

Plans seldom work out at expected, I find. But sometimes they work out better than expected, and it’s usually because you meet people who take what you do, think about it and then make it better. Today’s VIAL (Very Intentional Acknowledgement of Love) is for a person and a team who did exactly that for Habits at Work.

I met Jeff Olson in a coffee shop halfway between our offices with Aaron Levy. We had a great first conversation and I invited Jeff to join our Chicago WORK ROOM event. We were somewhat hopeful he would join us, despite the relatively short notice (it was coming up quite soon in the future).

Not only did Jeff arrive, but he brought with him another four people from the PR firm Olson Engage: CEO Bryan Specht, EVP Tricia Ewald, SVP Brian Flad, and VP Kathleen Rafferty.

Seeing them work together as a team at WORK ROOM was one of my highlights in 2016. We didn’t hear from them again for a while, which is always worrying, but when we met again, all my concerns disappeared. They had clearly been thinking about and working on the ideas we shared and the work we did together at the workshop.  

Since that time, Bree and Amanda (from Habits at Work) and Jeff and Jenny Garner from Olson Engage, along with the rest of their core habit team – Alyssa Gold, Leah Jones and Shannon Lovich, have brought the work to life in their company culture.

We’ve watched as they invented “White Space” as a goal for employees to, not only take time on their own health, happiness and security, but also as the time to spend on being restorative so they can be highly creative for clients. Unlike many organizations, their plans have been built WITH the team, not just for the team. The result is that things are moving faster and there is greater buy-in than in many companies we’ve seen deliver top-down solutions.

The most exciting thing is that Olson Engage is now taking on reinventing what it means to be a PR and digital marketing agency for employees. Instead of the “churn and burn” approach to young talent and the myth that “working longer = working better,” Olson Engage is focusing on the life success of their employees, trusting that if they get that right, their employees will look after their customers just as well.

This kind of courageous bet on future-proofing their business is, in my opinion, one of the reasons why Olson Engage has grown so fast and why they are my pick for the agency of the future.

Jeff, you’ve become not only a great client, but a good friend and someone with whom I hope to speak with (or see speak) at many events on the topic of "The Agency of the Future!" Bryan, Tricia, Brian, Kathleen, Alyssa, Leah and Shannon, thanks for your leadership and hard work. We already tell the story of Olson Engage to so many people we meet and we know that your journey has just begun. Can't wait to see where you take this next.

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Daily VIAL: Tyler Cooper & The Cooper Clinic Team

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Daily VIAL: Tyler Cooper & The Cooper Clinic Team

I came to Dallas in October of 2005, full of energy and with conviction to create a wellness consulting business in America. It didn’t take me long to realize that Texas was not the best place to make a living in wellness consulting at the time! It was really difficult to find CEOs and other leaders that were believers AND who were prepared to take a chance on a new company, run by a South African with no US track record and no local network. After six months of roadblocks, brick walls and flat out ‘NOs’ you can imagine that my confidence was not at an all-time high.

That’s when I met Tyler Cooper. We met for lunch and by the time we were finished I had a feeling I had met a friend for life. We’re about the same age, share many of the same passions, but were at very different stages of our lives at that time.

Soon after, I met with Tyler and his dad Kenneth Cooper, the founder of the Cooper Clinic, The Cooper Institute and the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas. I was blown away by what I found. In the heart of Texas was the most incredible center for wellness and research, which was changing the conversation about the value of exercise to human health and performance. Their business was thriving, and I was in awe. After a tour of the facility and some time spent together, I knew this would be a transformative meeting for me. Tyler took a leap of faith and hired us, and not without reservations and concerns from other team members. In return, we worked our hearts out for the Cooper Clinic, helping them to redesign their health plans and their own employee wellness program. It’s fair to say I learned more in our time working for them than at any time in my life. I poured through their research papers, changing many of my views as a result, and left Dallas two years later with a very different view on the world of wellness.

Tyler and his team were very much the inspiration for our research lab, BRATLAB, and for much of the work we did as Health at Work (before becoming Habits at Work). I learned how to navigate the world of American business effectively from many during those years. I learned from Todd Whitthorne what an expert professional speaker looks like in action. He’s still one of the best speakers I’ve ever seen, live or televised.

Chris Moreno and I spent days at Cooper with Tyler and others, building our relationship and our business. In fact, when I moved to Chicago, Cooper Clinic assumed the business of Health at Work Dallas into their own corporate wellness consulting business.

For this and for many other reasons, today’s VERY INTENTIONAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF LOVE is for Tyler Cooper. Thanks for our 12-year friendship, for including me in a few crazy mountain climbs even when I was slowing everyone down (and whining when I thought I might freeze to death or lose my thumbs to frostbite – yes, I am a soft South African). I’ve met a lot of new friends through you, and I always smile at the teasing over email that precedes and follows each year’s mountain climb.

It was a great thrill to spend time with you and Clark during your recent trip to Chicago. I look forward to a lifetime of friendship, and being able to pick up where we left off each time we see each other, regardless of the number of years that separate those times.

I remain inspired by your work, by your leadership at the Cooper Clinic and Institute and by the example you set as a father, businessman and athlete.

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Daily VIAL: Sara Kidwell & SmartDollar Team

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Daily VIAL: Sara Kidwell & SmartDollar Team

Time for a little love for our finances! I met Sara Kidwell at a conference that I wasn’t all too excited to be attending. I can't remember what I spoke about or what others did, but I distinctly remember the remarkable people I met during the breaks. Bryan and Danna from Sonic Boom Wellness who are always fun to see and learn from, and Bob Merberg, who always inspires me and is now running his own company Jozito

Then, I met Sara and we talked for an hour about SmartDollar, the commercial program from the Dave Ramsey Machine (they don’t call it that, I do), and my view of financial fitness changed forever! As I often joke, I’m a recovering actuary. Like most financial advisors and planners, we think about things logically and mathematically, which is probably why most financial fitness programs fail! Smart Dollar approaches finance from a behavioral point of view, carefully considering the habits and psychology of human beings. It’s an approach that is now close to my heart. Because contrary to popular belief and, the simple idea of paying off debt from the smallest to largest outstanding balance blew my mind, as this idea contradicts the standard "rules" for . The logic is that people gain confidence as they pay off one small debt, and that confidence breeds competence as they continue to reach their next goal. Pretty soon the debt (repayment) snowball builds up speed and people get out of debt. That’s just one example of the counterintuitive, but highly effective ways that their program works.

From the day we met, Sara has been a generous supporter of our work, always looking out for us and finding opportunities for us, even when there is clearly no benefit for her. Generosity without motive, other than for its own sake, is always so touching. She’s one of those super-connecters, and I have lost count of everyone I’ve met through Sara.

Many of the people I’ve met on her team are people that I’ve come to like and admire.  Bryan Hamilton who leads SmartDollar and is the closest thing you’ll meet to an actual walking encyclopedia, but with added charm and passion. We spent an hour in conversation at T. Rowe Price’s Annual Summit (One of the best conferences I’ve ever attended. Become a SmartDollar client and you might get an invitation) and in that hour I laughed more and learned more than I have in some time.

Christina Reckhard is a more-than-accomplished singer in real life, and a marketing whiz for Smartdollar during the day. Of course, Joss Schlessman, who might not realize this, but is one of the few people we've met that immediately understood and could see how to apply our Four Powers model, AND THEN DID IT. Thank you for being an advocate of our work and for the lessons you’ve taught me about human behavior.

Sara has grown and enhanced both my business and my personal network, and is one of my role models. Always professional, a walking representative of the high standards and amazing culture at Dave Ramsey Solutions, and a kind and caring friend.

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Daily VIAL: Chris & Angel Moreno

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Daily VIAL: Chris & Angel Moreno

Think of the funniest person you know personally, and what they add to your life. Now triple that and you have an idea what it’s like to be around and work with Chris Moreno.

We met when he was just fresh out of college and bravely arrived in South Africa to work as a salesperson for my company. After three years, he returned home having acquired some of our largest clients, McDonald’s, amongst others, and having won our highest award for Star Employees. 

So, when I moved to Dallas and was looking for a co-founder in what became Health at Work, he’s the person I called. In reality, I moved to Dallas so that I could work with Chris. He’d already been back in the US for several years, and I knew he was doing great work. I'm always amazed that he was willing to give that up to take a risk on building a new business from the ground up. For a couple of years, we’d sit in our little dark, rented office, hitting the phones and plotting to take over the world (of wellness). I don't think I’ve ever laughed more, or harder, than in those years.

Chris has the kind of smile that makes everyone around him smile back, a showman’s touch for telling a story, and a memory for the detail that is encyclopedic. It’s no wonder he is the top salesperson and consultant wherever he works.  I know both the Lockton family and business in Texas are thrilled to have him.

Chris, we always tease each other, joke around, share lots of great memories!  We only chat occasionally (much less that I would prefer), but I hope you know how pivotal your contribution has been to Habits at Work and to my life as a whole.

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Whenever I’m feeling depressed, I call one of two Morenos. Either Chris, or Angel. Angel is Chris’ dad and the reason Chris and I met. Angel is the most polished and practiced speaker I’ve ever encountered. His discipline in speaking, in life and in work reminds me so much of the great golfer, Gary Player. I’ve never met that legend, but I imagine he’s very similar to Angel, especially judging by the many people who adore and speak so fondly of him.

Angel, you are the reason why my adventure to Brazil did not end in disaster. You’re the reason why our business in America even came to be. You’re the reason why Chris and I are great friends today. That’s just three of many ways you’ve added to my life. I love spending time with you, and learning more Portuguese words each time we have the chance. You and Joyce have become like family to me. When (and if!) I ever grow up I aspire to become more like you!

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Daily VIAL: Johan Roets, Melba Amissi & Intersections Inc.

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Daily VIAL: Johan Roets, Melba Amissi & Intersections Inc.

Johan Roets leads Intersections Inc. I’m not surprised that Intersections Inc is now the only company in partnership with IBM Watson to bring privacy protection into the 21st century.

They successfully avoided getting hacked, kept all their customers data safe and continue to deliver on their promise to protect people’s identity and their privacy. Perhaps I’m biased because I love their product, but from the day I met Johan 20 years ago, he’s been an innovator, a business builder and the best of friends. He is an incredibly focused and driven individual. This was clear from the day we met in my office in South Africa. We had a one hour conversation and the next day we started a company together! The following week he’d found the first client for that company. The man is incredible to see in action. He built one of the largest and fastest growing IT and BP outsourcing companies in South Africa, then turned around an Argentinian bank while learning Spanish in the process, and is now doing the same for Intersections.

Outside of work, he is a connoisseur of life and it’s many pleasures. Hanging out with Johan is a joy and you’ll learn the lost art of the renaissance gentleman from spending time with him. He’s been a great friend over the years and is on speed dial for me whenever I’ve got a business problem that I’m battling and need a cool head and a sharp mind.

Although his contributions to my personal life and business life have been too numerous to count, there is one I want to especially call out: that’s introducing me to Melba Amissi.

As he usually does, Johan set up a meeting with little more information other than “you guys should meet”. So, we both arrived at our first meeting with some apprehension. Sometimes in life, you know in five minutes that you’re in the presence of someone that will impress, inspire and amaze you for a long time to come. We’ve known each other a few years now, and that initial feeling proved correct. Melba does many things at Intersections, but the one that will mean the most in the long term is how she has touched the lives of so many people and supported them through difficult times to get them to a place where they are now flourishing and loving life again. We get a lot out of our work, but when someone there has a positive impact on your whole life, that's a place worth sticking around. 

Melba, despite our infrequent opportunities to catch up in person, I appreciate your clarity, courage and commitment to the work we do together and am very thankful to have you as a friend and business colleague in my life.

Melba and Johan, thank you for all the important work you do with Identity Guard. I would like to express my deep gratitude to you as wonderful, kind, generous and inspiring people. I am honored to know and work with you both. Along with superstars like Ron Barden, Jerry Thompson, and Dennis Tebon and their first-class sales team, I know our privacy and identity is in good hands. I’ve come to meet and work with some wonderful people at Identity Guard: Dawn Kresslein, Marie Velez, Stephani Ruggieri, Mark Hastings, Kathy Vance to name a few, as well as many others that have since left Intersections. Thank you all.

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Daily VIAL: Joanie Bretag

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Daily VIAL: Joanie Bretag

Joanie Bretag was one of the first people I met when I moved to Chicago. She was a client of the company I was working for, and everyone always spoke about her because she was not just getting the best results in her employee wellness program, but getting the best results BY FAR.

That was ten years ago, and that statement continues to be true. When one of the largest insurers in the US looked at their data to see which companies were using their program, and if any were succeeding, they found what you might expect. Millions were NOT using the programs at all, but one company stood out: Ottawa Dental. This is where Joanie works her magic. Don’t ask her how she does it, because she will only point to all the programs and people that have helped her. I know that’s part of the story, but the part I admire is how she stands at the center of it all and makes it happen. In our company we sometimes flippantly say (knowing that there is some truth in it) that men talk about getting things done, then women get things done, then men talk about what “they” got done.

Joanie is the poster-women for this statement because, boy, does she get stuff done with very little talk.

We’ve worked for many wellness companies and one thing we’ve consistently noticed is that there is a very broad range of outcomes, from complete non-participation to superstar performance (the ones you hear about in case studies). Since that seems to be universally true, our conclusion is that it's seldom the program that makes the difference, but something that the employer who is buying the program is doing. Engagement and success is in the hands of the employer and after seeing Joanie in action, consistently over a decade, I’ve realized that just one person can explain that success.

She might disagree, but I know that her leadership and her employees will not. They’ve seen and been personally impacted by her commitment to their health and I would argue that you won’t find a healthier business in the U.S. today. More impressively, you won’t find a business that has made as much IMPROVEMENT in their employees' health which, in my opinion, is much harder to do.

Joanie is a warm, loving, compassionate human, and she exudes excitement when she speaks at conferences and with you one-on-one. She once helped lead the charge with her team to raise $65k for aids orphans in Africa as part of a walking challenge, and the pictures of the Ottowa Dental team are still up in their orphanage today. They made a incredible difference in the lives of those children.

You can tell from the length of this post that there is no shortage of wonderful things I can say about Joanie. So, I’ll end with something personal. We’ve been friends for ten years now and whenever we meet she tells me she can’t wait to learn something new from our conversation; and every time we meet, I’m the one that leaves with 20 new ideas for how to create success in wellbeing programs.

Do yourself a favor and read about Ottawa Dental or attend a conference where Joanie is speaking and introduce yourself. You’ll likely find a friend for life and learn more from your conversation with her than you'll learn throughout the entire conference. 

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