“It drives me crazy when company talks about community or sustainability just because it’s good for business, not because it’s inherently the right thing to do.”
That was the moment I sat back in my chair, thinking to myself that going green, or donating to a charity, would be exactly something that I would do because it is good for business, not because it is right.
As James Boettcher, the owner and Chief Idea Officer at Fiasco Gelato, pointed out the logos of the sustainability organizations that BOXWOOD (a restaurant that is clearly green because it is the right thing to do) belongs to, the wheels started turning.
Several distinct memories of James in high school came rushing back to me—memories of James defending people who perhaps didn’t fit in, or who were being bullied for no good reason.
I remember there always being a distinct line in the sand with James, a clear definition of right and wrong, which I clearly did not appreciate until two weeks ago when we sat down for lunch at BOXWOOD.
On the southwest corner of Central Memorial Park sits a nondescript building that is home to a restaurant that is anything but ordinary. As far as “green” restaurants go, BOXWOOD is one of the most environmentally responsible restaurants in the country. It is the only LEAF level 3 certified restaurant in Canada.
Known as the casual cousin to the renowned River Café, BOXWOOD prides itself on using local and sustainable ingredients. You can eat confidently knowing that none of their ingredients have ever touched a pesticide or been genetically altered.
Like many local restaurants, they source meat and ingredients from local producers that are also share the philosophy of sustainability. The interesting side effect is that the meat from producers who do it “right’ like Spragg and Bowden Farms always tastes better than what you would get from the mass production feed lots that supply most of the meat consumed in North America. One could say it tastes like it should. And yes, they use Fiasco exclusively.
In addition to everything BOXWOOD does to serve sustainable food, they take the farm to table philosophy and close the loop by composting their vegetable waste and putting it right back into their own garden. We like businesses that have a 360° philosophy.
Back at Fiasco, they are also taking a 360° approach to their business, using the same composting philosophy to be a zero waste facility and what will eventually be a rooftop garden by 2017 at their new building, which is under construction. This is a somewhat interesting concept considering that gelato is not commonly known to be one that uses fresh herbs and produce, but they use a ton.
What is even more surprising is that the practice will end up making the company more profitable. However, knowing James, profitability isn’t his motivation, it is a byproduct.
Success as a byproduct of doing what is right has worked out pretty well for him. Though he is humble about his success, as you dig deeper into James’ resume, you start to uncover accolade after accolade.
For example, just last year James and Fiasco were awarded the Breakout Business Award during Small Business Week., and The ATB We Grow Alberta winner of 2014. He was also the person who convinced Naheed Nenshi to sit down and have a serious conversation about bringing food trucks to Calgary—a conversation that clearly went well. That accolade has made him the city’s unofficial food truck ambassador through his YYCFoodTrucks organization. He also was Top 40 Under 40 in 2013, and is now on the Board of Directors for the Calgary Chamber. Even though he has the accolades, they don’t seem to be what drives him.
It turns out many businesses try to do what is right because it is good for business. They lead with the business strategy first and do what is “right” because it will help them do more business. Think about big banks who plaster their logos all over charity events. It is hard to argue that they don’t do so more because they have a sense of obligation than a sense of stewardship. James does the opposite, he leads with what is right, and that is why his business does so well.
When I questioned James a little bit further about his life philosophies, James brought up an author named Simon Sinek and his book Start With Why. James, unlike many business owners has a clear definition of what his why is, to enrich people’s lives. This is what propels him to do what he does.
Unlike James, I have always had a hard time defining my why. Why do I do what I do? Is it for the money, for the accolades, financial freedom (whatever that is)? I’ve never been sure, until I started looking deeper into the book James recommended.
Over the course of two days I immersed myself in the question of why, I even took an online course that Sinek teaches, and at the end of the course I was pleasantly surprised.
Back in 2005, just as I was finishing university a friend had convinced me to start journaling. As my new statement of why started to take shape, it started to feel familiar. When it was finally complete, I went to my bookshelf and found my very first journal.
On the very first page of that journal was a vision statement that a much younger self had written almost 10 years to the day earlier. That vision statement mirrored the why that I had found thanks to James suggestion that I pick up Sinek’s book.
The why statement that I spent those two days writing read as follows. “To inspire others to succeed so that they can give back to their community beyond what they ever thought possible.”
The vision statement I wrote 10 years ago reads “To study success and wealth building so that I can inspire and teach both myself and others to give back beyond what we ever thought possible.”
While the new statement is clearly more refined, it turns out my why hadn’t changed much, it just got lost for a while.
Thanks James for helping me find it again.