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I recently attended the LOHAS Forum in Boulder, Colorado. [Background: LOHAS stands for Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability.] In addition to giving attendees a glimpse into the clean, green living for which Boulder is so well-known (see picture), the Forum has been a gathering spot for companies in the natural lifestyles, green building and alternative energy/transportation sectors since the time when the mention of granola caused more grimaces than grins.

My personal mission for attending was to understand more deeply where these LOHAS markets intersected or overlapped with what I call the 'Transformational Consumer' segment that is driving more than $300 Billion in annual spending power. I wrote about that, here: The Transformational Consumer: The $300 Billion-plus Opportunity Most Entrepreneurs Have Never Heard Of.

But something else happened during my LOHAS Forum experience: I had several conversations with CEOs and business leaders who helped deepen my understanding of the corporations and brands with which Transformational Consumers crave to connect: the businesses that these non-conformist, lifestyle design addicts and wellness/wealth hackers will buy and evangelize with rabid loyalty.

Let's call these companies and brands - these lovemarks of today's transformation-craving consumers - Transformational Businesses.

I left the Forum on a newly expanded mission to formulate profiles of both the Transformational Consumer and the Transformational Business.

In the coming weeks, I will share the insights I gathered on both these issues. On the business side, I'll be sharing what I learned about what it takes to build and scale a Transformational Business - maximizing both the company's business objectives and its customers' life design aspirations - from such entrepreneurs and leaders as:

  • Kevin Rutherford - The CEO of Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day and Caldrea home cleaning lines, on how companies can engage in a mutual love affair with their customers.
  • Chip Conley - The Founder of the Joie de Vivre hotel chain, and the bestselling author of PEAK: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow and Emotional Equations: Simple Truths for Creating Happiness + Success, who talked with me about how being a 'Vulnerable Visionary' helped him turn the business around, post-recession.
  • Jonathan Ellerby - The chaplain-turned-corporate consultant who advised organizations like PespiCo, Nissan and the US Navy before developing TAO Inspired Living, a wellness-based residential community in Mexico's Riviera Maya. We spoke about the conscious leadership and progressive business practices that drive business outcomes like resilience, innovation, productivity and profitability.
  • Alexis Maybank - The Co-Founder of Gilt Groupe - which generated revenues over a half a billion dollars in 2011 - who talked with me about how she and her co-founders hacked the retail industry with flash sales.

We'll do a deep dive into each of these interviews over the next few posts, but I won't hold you in suspense about this Transformational Business profile I came away from these conversations with, as I think it provides useful context for precisely why these leaders' input is so important. Beyond these founders' and CEOs' obvious successes and model-worthy profits, beyond the definitional truth that Transformational Businesses are those that will have long-term, profit-driving emotional connections with the Transformational Consumers, understanding what makes a Transformational Business is a prerequisite to deciding whether or not this is the kind of company you want yours to be.

Elements of a Transformational Business. As I see it, Transformational Businesses are highly-functioning, for-profit companies with some or all of the following elements:

1. A higher purpose. These companies were often started out of a deep love for their subject matter and the consumers they serve. They place an internal value on some higher purpose than profits, which is often around innovating and sharing solutions that help users do the things they crave to do or reach their aspirations. This is why many of these companies win users' loyalty and love via extensive investments in engaging and serving users beyond the product or offering.

This higher purpose doesn't necessarily have to be a so-called 'social good,' though it often is related to one; it could be a commitment to driving users' fitness or personal finance goals or their happiness, for example. This higher purpose is held with passionate, desperate enthusiasm and excitement at all levels of the company.

2. A priority on organizational wellness. These companies see their businesses as a ministry of sorts. Accordingly, driving their higher purpose relies on the organization's growth, scale and survival in the face of market shifts, as well as the ongoing, delighted devotion of their employees. And all of these things, in turn, increasingly require a commitment to the wellness of the corporate culture and the companies' internal citizenry, physically, emotionally and otherwise.

3. A track record of industry innovations. One manifestation of what I call the 'two-way love affair' between Transformational Businesses and their customers is the companies' willingness and track record of hacking their industry, their product, their vertical - they tend to be willing to put every industry assumption or sacred cow on the chopping block, and to sacrifice any and everything about the way things have always been done on the altar of the higher purpose of helping their users execute their desired wellness, financial, lifestyle or career dreams and aspirations.

4. A history of surviving and thriving through internal transformations. Transformational Businesses often have a history of internal transformations, some of which create a repository of organizational wisdom and knowledge that powers (a) their understanding of the transformations their customers desire and possibly even (b) consumer-facing stories of modern-day business heroism (think: Steve Jobs at Apple or Marissa Mayer at Yahoo! five years from now, fingers crossed).

Why You Need Transformational Leaders In Your Circle - Page 4 Why You Need Transformational Leaders In Your Circle Page 3 Page 5

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