“Nice to meet you. What do you do?”
“I work for Company B.”
Well lo and behold, in the Spring ’09 I was two years out of college and a marketing intern at the headquarters of TOMS Shoes in Santa Monica, CA. Now, the One for One company known solely as TOMS (pun if you want to).
At the time (and ever since) I had been reading quite a bit of books and blogs on where business and capitalism in general, were thought to be headed. (Seth Godin among them, of course.)
With giving at its core, TOMS Shoes is the epitome of a for-profit company with a social mission. TOMS is proving that it is possible to do good and still do well at the same time. Blake Mycoskie started TOMS Shoes in 2006, and you could easily propose that TOMS – and Blake - were the on the forefront of conscious consumerism. “Capitalism 2.0” as I’ve heard it called.
At the time, our mission statement read:
(Knowing correctly, that your customers can be your greatest storytellers and marketers, TOMS began by budgeting exactly $0 for advertising.)
In June 2009 the mission statement at TOMS Shoes changed.
If you look at TOMS.com now or inside the sole of any pair, you will see a slightly different sentence.
Adding “One for One.” Umpfh. Yes too, awesome punch!
Words are important; what we say - how we speak - the words we choose to use say a lot. Framing is key.
George Lakoff confirmed this for me.
When people I’d just met would ask me, “What do you do?”,
I never once said,
“I work for TOMS Shoes.”
It's important to recognize the mindset typical of your target demographic. If you're in the business of changing the world, then I would argue that "your people" probably don’t want you doing something for them or to them.
The people you're looking for work together, collectively. We look to make personal connections as we collaborate creatively, changing the world in small and big ways.
Yes, we want to both make a difference and build relationships along the way too. And we do.
I want to work with you.
("Alright, psych degree!")
Similarly, when we wear our "consumer hats", we want to feel connected to the businesses and companies that we purchase from. It's our handshake.
Of course, we hope that connection is genuine. Customers are smart - so in businesses that are too, it had better be. We customers no longer want to merely feel like consuming, heartless cogs and naturally, how we spend our dollar should reflect that.
And at TOMS, it is genuine.
Giving Partners on the ground in countries where shoes are made and given help ensure that the children, our communities abroad - first and foremost - are done right by our purchases.
TOMS gets it.
And that is where smart businesses are going - where capitalism is going. Where it needs to go.
On this philosophy alone, there is no better word to be the first word of the mission statement of a company like TOMS than the word “With."
I didn’t add the word “new” nor suggest the phrase “One for One.”
It's not a huge change either; it's literally one word. That first word. The essence is still very much the same.
But I did poke the box; Seth Godin would be proud. And that’s pretty cool.
1. Blake wanted to hear this.
As Boss Man, he worked to create TOMS as a space to allow for this ... to encourage it.
2. I hope you'll join me in realizing too, this is all just semantics.
And the real difference is how you choose to answer that pretty lame first question for yourself, every day:
"I work with ..." or "I work for ..."
"Nice to meet you. What do you do?"