Florent Schmahl, Chief of Staff of highly purposeful agtech company, Growcer, shares his journey and learnings along the way as he shifted his work from being focused on developing hard skills to now pursuing purposeful work. Over the years he’s has time to gather his insights on finding the work that drives you and how important it is in today’s labour market pressures.
Then the other aspect of purpose is like, if you don't believe in the importance of purpose. So if you don't see how it can help you attract talent or help you build a culture or help you grow, it's probably gonna be pretty hard for people to even see why they will show by your solution. And, and like, I think purpose helps you tell stories and people buy stories.
In this episode Florent helps translate these questions of purpose into a team setting and how to find that drive if your place of work doesn’t feel like it has the most impact in the most pressing of issues. His main piece of advice is focusing on problems instead of tormenting with questions of passion. Listen to the episode to hear to the rest of Florent’s insights!
Chief of Staff at Growcer
Florent Schmahl is the chief of staff of Growcer, an ag-tech company empowering communities to grow fresh, hyper-local produce year-round through its hydroponic modular farms. Florent grew up in the French Alps surrounded by farming, and after a decade in e-commerce and tech, he returned to his passion for food. Florent thrives on building mission-driven teams and today, communities have used 45+ Growcer farms to grow more than four million servings of local, nutritious greens across Canada.
Then the other aspect of purpose is like, if you don't believe in the importance of purpose. So if you don't see, you know, how it can help you attract talent or help you build a culture or help you grow, like, it's probably gonna be pretty hard for people to even see why they will show by your solution. And, and like, I think purpose helps you tell stories and people buy stories.
Hello and welcome to Unicorn Leadership Podcast. This is where we interview leaders on their journey of building high-performing teams and becoming effective leaders. We, we learn about their insights, their tools, their mistakes, and their stories of triumph in how they got to where they are today. My name is Fahd Alhattab and I'm the host of this podcast. This podcast is brought to you by Unicorn Labs. Um, you can learn more about Unicorn Labs, where they transform managers into leaders that create high-performing teams that scale all through unicorn labs.ca. I'm really excited today cuz we've got a great guest with us. Today's guest is Al, the Chief of Staff of Growcer. It's an AgTech company, agriculture tech company that's empowering communities to grow fresh, hyper-local pro produce year round through hydroponic modular farms. I got to tour some of their farms, the hydroponic farms, and, and it's a really cool experience to see how they produce how, how they, how they grow produce all year round in these, in these shipping container farms.
Florent grew up in the French Alps and surrounded by farming. And after a decade of e-commerce and tech, he returned to his passion for food and excited to share this conversation with, with Flo. Cause it was experiences and passion for building mission-driven teams. And that's really the topic here, the importance of having a purpose as a leader and as a company, as a team, as an organization. It's interesting because sometimes it feels fluffy and sometimes we talk about purpose or missions as part of companies, and you get some eye rolls and you get, yeah, well for sure we got a mission and purpose. But as a business we also gotta maximize stakeholder value. You gotta, you gotta bring in money, you gotta bring in, bring in the funds. Can we have purpose and profit? And if we look into a lot of the work that's been done by some of the most effective companies in the world, we see that they do balance those two dynamics.
And Jim Collins actually writes about it and built to Last and in Good to Great, he talks about the duality of purpose and profit. Our ability to not chase one or the other, but to dynamically chase both simultaneously, but not letting either one win. Not going to to purpose so much that you become a nonprofit, but not becoming so profit focused that you lose your purpose. But it's the dynamism of being able to hold both. But perhaps the question is why, why have this purpose in the first place? And I think more than ever teams are realizing the importance of it because of the world that we live in, in an abundant world, in an abundant economy where tech jobs are available and talent is hard to higher. And perhaps that's been flipped a little bit or corrected in the recent economic situation, but there still seems to be an abundant need of tech talent.
When you give people choice, they start to rank priorities. It's, it's interesting cuz when you speak to some older generations about the changes between this generation and the next, right? The what, what millennials want or what Gen Zers want, they'll often mention this idea of purpose or they want something meaningful. , but back in the day, we took a job that that fed us and we took a job that was able to provide what we needed. And that was enough. And perhaps that was enough in a world where there wasn't a punted jobs, there were, there wasn't such opportunity where you could go off and start your own thing and, and build your own e-commerce shop and build your, do your own , side gigs and make a hundred grand doing it where you where it's possible to be the the entrepreneur.
If you're gonna choose to work for a company, it's not gonna be just because a great salary. Now, it's still important, but it's gonna be because it aligns with your values and because you see it as a way to connect you to your ultimate purpose, the goal that you have now, a lot of folks are still searching for their purposes. So they jump around from jobs trying to find problems they really care about until they find a company that's working to solve a problem that really invigorates them. And that's where this gets interesting. Companies have to try and uncover that purpose. And often the purpose can come from the founders. The original reason they came to create the company, sometimes part of the original reason is the, is the profit, right? It's the the opportunity to market opportunity. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
You need the economics of the market to actually be able to successfully create a startup that's going to scale. But can the founder and the leader tell a story about why they chose to start the business? What goal did they have? What problem were they trying to solve? And so often we say that we need, we, we, we, we tell people they need to know their why in order to succeed. But I also want you to understand that whys are slowly uncovered for a lot of teams. They might have a why that's clear right now. Or maybe it's a little fuzzy. It's, it's a little bit like a fossil. We've gotta dig it out. We've gotta slowly dig it out and take time to refine our whys and figure it out and we'll find the language. But we need to explore why we're doing what we're doing. And that's really what we get into in this conversation with Flo. How he found his why, how he found his purpose, and how he uses purpose to really drive opportunity with Growcer. So let's hear another quote here from Flo to get us going.
I started to, you know, felt a lack of purpose in the why I was applying the skills to work too. And, and I really wanted to, you know, take a step back and, and, you know, realize and understand where I wanted to, where I wanted to go. And you spend 70% or so of your, you know, awake time dedicated to work whether it's for yourself or for a company. And so I, it fell, you know, that the natural revolution was to put that 70% of time towards something that was resonating with me personally. Something I could be proud of and, and something I could, you know, look at what I accomplished at retirement time whenever that happened. And see, you know, I had an impact in something I care about.
In this episode, Flo and I discuss on how you can reframe purpose into more manageable bite-sized chunks. How to help your team do the same through frequent reminders of the mission that you're on together. How to reengage purpose in the midst of a modern, a modern workplace, you know, phenomenon such as, such as the great resignation or such as quiet, quitting and even the economic situation that we're, we're currently seeing ourselves in. How do we orient our team to understand the purpose and the mission and get them moving towards that? So without further ado, let's welcome flow and let's dive into our episode 12 of the Unicorn Labs podcasts.
Hello Flo, and welcome to our Unicorn Leadership podcast. I'm really excited to have you here with us.
Flo help me out. I'm saying Flo, but help me out. How do I say your, your, your full name here. I'm reading your last name in front of me and I wanna make sure I get it right.
It's a pleasure to be here. Thanks. , thanks for having me. , do you want the French version of the English version?
I want the authentic French version, the real version. Okay.
The real authentic. Yeah. So the name is Florent and, yeah, if you're Canadian it might, it might sound like Florence. And last name Schmahl. That's Australian.
Okay. Florent Schmalh.
Fantastic. Fantastic. Well, Flo, I've known you for a little while and I, I've got see the amazing impact you've had on Growcer where you work now. , maybe to just kick us off, tell me a little bit of your role at Growcer and what Growcer does.
Yeah, for sure. So I'll tell you my role at Growcer. I chief of staff primarily we're overseeing everything revenue and, and working with the leadership, leadership team around like how do we scale the team from a culture standpoint, org chart standpoint and, and strategic direction of the company in time of new area of development and growth. , Growcer is a Ottawa based ATech company. Started five ish years ago by career and Aliki working on really focusing on food security. It's a big problem in Canada and how can we have a solution for food security leveraging technology. And currently we are focusing in developing what's called modular farm. People have might have heard the term container farm. , basically those are like container size box that you are, you plug to the electricity and water and will grow food year round anywhere anywhere in the world and no matter the climate. So yeah, we are pretty obsessed about trying to you know, empower people across the world to grow food locally and sustainably.
That's awesome. That's fantastic, Flo. I love how you got right into it. You knew you were, you knew your lines, you , you knew how to pitch it. Well, this is good. Well,
This is sales season, so I go to pitch sharp .
That's it. That's it. That's it. , we're gonna dive more into Growcer in a bit, but flow, flow. I wanna learn little bit about you. So, so you and I had you know, we had with our team had a little bit of a pre-interview and we, we talked about a few different things. And the topic that we settled on for today is really finding purpose in your work that drives you and you felt really passionate about that. So I'm gonna waste no time and I'm gonna kick us off into there and just say, you know, we hear a lot about purpose. A lot of people talk about purpose, a lot of companies talk about purpose, you know, it's an interesting one that's out there. A lot of people spend many time, much times, you know, searching for that purpose for themselves. So tell me how, you know, for you, and I know it's a big question, but how do you find purpose in your work that drives you? How has that journey been for you?
Yeah, purpose is very a loaded term and I think it means different things for different people. And, and for me, I would say it's really been a journey. , and as I reflect, like now I'm, you know, um, early thirties and, and if I reflect in my personal career so far, like it had different meaning. Um, when I came out of Uni University, really my purpose was intellectual curiosity. So really wanted to be involved in area or project where my mind was challenged, where I feel like I was learning things. Almost the why I was doing it didn't matter as much of what I was doing and I wanted to really feel like challenge. But as I kinda grow older and kinda started to, you know, develop some more art skill, when you come out of business schools, you have a lot of concept in mind, but not really art skills.
Um, I started to, you know, feel a lack of purpose in the why I was applying the skills to work too. And, and I really wanted to, you know, take a step back and, and, you know, realize and understand where I wanted to, where I wanted to go. And you spend 70% or so of your, you know, awake time dedicated to work whether it's for yourself or for a company. And so I, it fell, you know, that the natural revolution was to put that 70% of time towards something that was resonating with me personally. Something I could be proud of and, and something I could, you know, look at what I accomplished at retirement time whenever that happened. And see, you know, I had an impact in something I care about. So really for me today, purpose is what I personally care about and what I'm personally passionate about.
Or I dunno if the word passion is the right term, but like, you know, climate change and the change we see happening in the environment is something that's frankly stressing me out and not have a baby daughter. And, and I'm, you know, it sounds cliche, but we're a bit worried about the type of world she's gonna get into. , and I know that we are the chance and this opportunity in our generation to have that be that pivotal moment where we can start building the path for more sustainable future. , so, and climate is gonna be the largest industry in upcoming 50-200 years. So like, it's a very good timing to be kind of passionate about that. Personally, I find. And then it was a matter of finding, you know, what in this big kind of climate industry really resonated with me.
And, you know, I'm coming from a farming background and food has always been very important. So my purpose, you know, it's again a lot of self-reflection. It took me, you know, six to eight months doing a lot of readings, a lot of exploration to find what really drives me until I came across of, you know, this notion of like, you know, food and climate change and we need to change the way we access our food in the near future in order to feed the population. And from there I came across the tech, like the technology being developed in order to a, achieve this goal. And then came across Growcer, realized they were in Canada. So it, it was not a snowball effect of like good stars aligning. And, and you know, I was like, well, you know, that's it, that's what I gotta do. and then, you know, it was looking after the spot for me at Growcer
That's awesome. Flo, I really like how, you know, you partially what what you took the word purpose and you made it have a little less weight in the sense that you said, well, I needed to find something I care about. Because I think sometimes when we think of purpose, people think like, we need to have a singular purpose, right? What's the purpose I live my entire life for? And it becomes very difficult to actually answer that question because it feels so heavy, it feels so permanent when you have to answer that question or purpose. But you said, I dug into what I personally drives me and what I really care about. And I like that kind of simplification because you can have multiple purposes in life. And what we're saying here is that you need to care. You need, you need to care about the problem you're solving about, you're solving.
And if you care and you find something that you really care about, that over time, passion and purpose can actually develop and clarify and grow from there. And, and, and what I like you mentioned is that, you know, it was really a personal journey. You went on your own journey, kind of look into and discover and study and explore what you liked. Because the bigger question I want us to get to Flo, cuz this is the question you've gotta deal with as chief of staff at Growcer, is, okay, you found your own purpose and this is, you know, where you're at, but now you've gotta struggle with how do you help your team members and how do you help your staff find purpose in what they do? Because I believe you recognize that if, if, if the purpose in the team is clear, then the challenges and the issues of kind of this quiet quitting and all this stuff aren't as are big of a deal as much. Right. Would, you know, agree to that. So how have you translated the fact that you've been able to find your own purpose to helping team members and your team and your, your company as a whole at Growcer find purpose?
Yeah, I mean, you're right. Like purpose is very personal. What drives you to a certain job or doing a certain things is, you know, we hold our own reasoning to it. Um, you know, like for me it's climate change. The other day I was, I met someone and using , e-com and Ad Space and he was saying, you know, I found my purpose cause I love madman and I love hats and, you know, that's what gets me and I'm super excited about it. So like it's, and it was cool cause like I'm not interested about it, but I definitely respect his passion for it. So when we have team members coming in at Growcer, I will say we have this chance that the, the mission speaks for itself. And like, you know, 90 time, 90, um, person of the time when Interview people, like they mentioned practically that, you know, they are, they applied those, I'm talking to them today because they, they resonate with the mission.
But what's really important is, you know, we want to make sure that maybe first impression that they get during the moment, they like apply, stay true when they're onboarded and they are, you know, maybe three, six to 12 months down the line. And the mission is important and, you know, making sure like the company design to mission is important, but really checking into what then individually, like people are driven by, in, in, and, and what get them going every day is really important. So I think getting to really know people, people, drivers is really what helps you. And, and that takes a little bit of time. , and that's really where the role of manager really is, is like, don't take, especially if you're like a mission driven company, like Growcer is, like don't take for granted that people are here and they know this is the only reason that get them going in the morning.
You just want to dig, get to know them a little bit better. And then from there when you understand like maybe what get them, you know, going is like creating new product or finding new, developing new playbooks for sales or for marketing or it's like setting up internal communication process between teams like, or like, you know, helping the, you know, I always compare a building company to building your house. Like, you know, some people love to do the drawings and some people love to do landscaping and some people obsess about, you know, the distribution, whatever is what get them going. Everybody wants a nice house, but people have different thing that passionate them about it. It's just finding that, that aspect of it and then really making sure they feel heard when you have the opportunity to, and a chance to chat with them on a one-on-one basis, so whatnot.
Yeah, I really like that. I like, I like how you've, you've, you've pulled in the mission here, right? You said that, you know, fundamentally Growcer's mission has been what's loud and clear to attract the right people. So Flo, gimme a, what, what is, what is Growcer's mission? And I mean, I don't expect you to have a word for word, but what, what is like for, for our audience here, you know, who is listening? What is Growcer's mission?
Yeah, well, we, we wanna make, you know, farming more sustainable, more accessible and, and, and what we call year round. So being able to farm and grow food locally, no matter the weather, no menu, time of year, no matter the season. , so really what, when people come or apply to Growcery or interest in joining Growceries, they're like, you know, I really like this idea of like empowering folks to grow food locally sustainably and making accessible for them. We do a lot of work with and we are really grateful for the work we do with indigenous community across Canada that really help us understand, you know, the disparity and the discriminations there is in accessing food within Canada as well. So people are very sensitive to that. And for some, for some team members, it's the main driver for them. , so that is the mission. We are on a Growcer and that seem to resonate with a lot of people in the team.
Yeah, you know, I think, I think, I think companies who can have such a distinguished mission have a clear advantage in being able to motivate and attract the right people because it's, you know, you're clearly stating what you stand for. And I think it's key here, you know, just for the nomenclature, I think for people to understand, you know, we've done another episode where we talked about vision, and vision is really about where you want the company to go. Where do you see things going? What does the world look like in 10, 20, 30 years because of your company? But mission or purpose in this case is why you do what you do, right? Why is it that we're gonna get together and work? And it can't be purely around, you know, making money. It can't be purely around you know, improving shareholder wealth. And, and, and, and it's not to say that making money can't be a driver, cuz it, it obviously is, it's why we're not running a charity and we're running a for-profit business.
Like, and you are still running a startup, but it's, it's, it's the, it's the profit and purpose that combination of the two that you can find a gold mine. If you're, you're able to actually create that, it's really powerful. So Flo what would you say to companies that are, that are struggling with that? Because maybe their business, why they do what they do isn't as clear cut? It's not, we're not in farming, you know, you know, maybe we are a marketing agency, you know, or maybe we're, um, we do FinTech and we help businesses better understand their numbers, right? It, it, it, it, they struggle with real purpose when it's not like we're helping people pr create food and we're helping people live sustainably and we're fighting climate change, right? Which feels like a big mission that, that we can really rally behind. Sometimes people struggle with a purpose because there's not a clear connection. What do you say to those companies? Should they invest in trying to understand a purpose? How can they go about, you know, really clarifying that for their team and their staff?
Yeah, I mean, purpose is important, I think, in, in any organization regardless of its mission. And like, you know, it's in an example we share with the company I'm working at currently, like, you know, the alignment between purpose mission is clear. , but like prior to joining Growcer, I was in a marketing type agency. , and so, you know, there is probably nothing less sexy to outside world that like building and selling ads even. And I found a lot of purpose and passion doing it for four years. And we built a team and we had to acquire talent. And what I found being kind of the, the anchor point or like the guiding pool that people were able to gravitate and or at least resonate around was adding I think a leadership team that was obsessed about the problem. Like, almost no matter what you are trying to accomplish or what is your day-to-day looks like or you know, what you do for, for your job.
Like being able to, as you just said earlier, like understanding the why you're doing it, really put helps, um, people really get together and, and, and rally behind the cause. So at my previous organization, like it was, the company was called Shoelace. And the problem that the the fund was obsessed about was, you know, ads sucks. I can term like, you know, we get bombarded with ads over and, and, you know, we really have a negative appreciation for them. Like, you know, if I ask you if I had you like ads we were in first century, maybe just no. And, but you know, most business today and most common business most as everybody depends on ads to grow. So like, making ads irrelevant for the audience was really kind of the problem was seeing about, and that's really what we were using a lot in the culture and people and in our funnel.
Like, you know, like if you be, if you are, you have the hard skills for, had you understand the notion of ads, but you think like the, the way ads are being kinda done and, and, and, and, and created today kinda sucks. You know, you join us and we're gonna try to make it better. We made stickers of it and we were like, we, you know, we were pretty kind of proud about it internally and kind of people felt like they on this mission to make ads sucks less. And that was kind their purpose.
Yeah. Yeah. I like that. Flo, I like what you just did there because I think, um, you've done, you've done another reframes, you've had two reframes here. Your first reframe was, you know, if you're trying to find purpose, find something you care about, instead of making it feel so heavy, what do you care about? What pushes you? The other reframe you made is that, you know, if we're struggling with purpose, why don't you just find a problem? You really care about a problem that makes you angry and pisses you off, right? Like that's a good friend of mine jp, he's a founder of Spark Path. He has these challenge cards for for , students and people who are figuring out their career. And he, he, he says he wants to shift the conversation no longer about careers and finding a job or finding a career that you like, or even asking the question like, what is your passion?
Where people kind of like, I don't know, my passion is to chill and hang out and sit by the fire, right? Like, I No, he said, what challenge or what problem do you really care about? Because if you identify a problem, you care, maybe you care about the, the problems we have in our education system. Maybe you care about climate change problem. Maybe, maybe you care about poverty, maybe you care about, um you know disease control, right? Like there's different problems, a refugee crisis that we're having, right? Like if you care about a problem, then you can find careers around it that allow you to find purpose. And so you kind of flipped it there instead of finding purpose. Is there a problem there, a problem that at your company that you really want obsess over and is really important to you?
I like that. Like that reframe. And, and the other p piece that you brought up earlier, Flo, that I wanna get back to is you said, you know, it's important that when they show up to the interview, they're, they're kind of like, yeah, I believe in the mission, but then six months into the job they gotta know that there's actual integrity, that we actually work towards the mission and it's not just some bullshit that we talk about, right? Cuz a lot of times we have these values on the wall and this mission and vision and, and it doesn't actually mean much and it doesn't show up in the work that we do. Um, so, so I guess my question to you is, how do we create a purpose full environment? So what do you do in your rituals, in your routines, in the environment, in the work, the day-to-day that continues to bring the purpose upfront? Cuz sometimes you're dealing with customer service, sometimes you're dealing with supply issues, sometimes you've gotta, you know, and it doesn't always feel like you're moving the mission forward. So, so what do you do at your team to really bring purpose front and center for the team consistently?
Yeah, no, it's, it's a great question. And you know, as you get into the weeds on the day-to-day sometime you cannot forget, you know, why, what am I doing here and, and, and why am I doing it? And, and it's really the role of, you know, the I would say the, when you have a, a company that's well in fiber, a mission, it's like almost you have to rely on your coworkers to remind you the why. But I will say primarily is the role of the, of the executive team or the founders to really remind people why they all here and why they're working so hard. And, and like to, to me it's always been like really focusing on that like few little like keywords or that slogan that really triggers people. So at my previous job I mentioned like, you know, ads, you know, stop making adsd, that sucks.
And like when people kinda lost the reason why they're doing, it's like, Hey guys, remember like, you know, we, we are not just an ad company. We a better ad company cause we think all the other one have wrong. And here is why people are, oh yeah, you're right and let's get back into it. And like here, you know, for example, like it's all about, you know, hey we, it's hard. Like you know, if it was simple, people have done it. We have found solution already to provide food that's sustainable and affordable for people no matter where they are. But like, you know, that's the challenge we are on. And that's the problem we're trying to solve. And you know, we are probably the best team right now to, to crack that, to crack that problem. So let's, you know, let's keep going. Um, but helping, putting perspective into it, but anchoring down to like, remember why you're here and you know, I, if you were in meetings with, with my team, like you will hear us just repeating to ourselves, what's our mission? Oh yeah, that's our mission. And, and then, and then it helps also refocus when you have conversation, when things go on tangents and sideways. Like, why are we doing here? Like, this is what we are doing. And, and people just ultimately there is no debate on that, otherwise we have to rethink your entire mission.
No, I like that. I like that it's a, you know, a constant reminder of why you're there. And, and I love, I love using the, the ads that you know, the ads suck kind of problem. Cause I, I, you know learning about the founding of Google similarly, you know Larry Page and Sergei Brainer said, search engines suck. That was their thing. I was like, I can't find what I wanted to find. Like search engines suck. It wasn't, I didn't know what was reliable. There wasn't a good way of knowing if the information they were getting was reliable. And, and that really drove them to, to make the information available through search engines. And, and that was a constant, you know making the world's information accessible was, was their mission, their purpose. And I like how you kind of come back to that.
The other bit that it reminds me of is, is you know, you look at companies with phenomenal cultures and the mission and the cultures in your face, right? So, so Pixar is always a fun example, but everything they do is in your face. Like, like the, the staff there. They've got the characters, the different sayings, the different, the mission is constantly apparent. It's in the staff room, it's in the boardroom. You talk about it, you bring it up. And I think you said it, there we're, we're reminded of why we do what we do by our own staff. So even as executives, sometimes when you forget your staff are there and, and, and you're there, um, you know, I think that's a tip for all our managers that are listening or leaders that are listening is that are listening. Ask the question, why are you here?
Why are, why, what, what's keeping you here? What, what is, what is it that drives you? Cuz if we can help them uncover it by saying it out loud, we can also know it and help really hone in on it. So I really really, really like that. So, so Flo, you've had a fun journey in life. You've, you've, you've traveled, lived in a number of different countries you were a back country skier. I also I was told you got followed by a grizzly bear. So I'm, add a little bit of story here, have a little fun. Let's get some depth here. Flow. Tell me, tell me about a little bit of life. Tell me about the grizzly bear. Was he ? Where did that happen? Where was that?
Well, it was pretty recent. He was so like, you know one thing that I find really, um, really cool as you kinda age or get more experience, you know, working, you get to understand know yourself better. , and, and I know a few things about myself. The first one is, you know, I need to work in a place where I'm align with, you know, the, as we've been talking about, like the purpose of the work, it needs to resonate with me. I need to feel really passionate about what we do. , I know I need a team that's like, you know, very also kinda as stubborn and passionate as me about it this way, you know, we can, you know, we can stay focused on the goal and the price. , but you know, the other thing also know very well is that I need to unplug .
Like, you know, I can work really hard, but if one or twice a year I cannot fully unplug and disconnect and, you know, get back into the middle in nature, like I'm, I'm gonna likely burn out. , and you know, when you have one or two burnout under your belt, you know how you start to be better at preventing them. , so yeah, couple time a year. My wife is keen enough to let me go on some, you know back country adventures and, and back in May I got the appoint to go to Yukon in Alaska doing some some back country touring and camping Glacier and whatnot. And in couple of occasion you know, we wake up on the morning, go to our tracks, go to go down our little mountains and funny enough, you know, each time we look back at our tracks, they were always the same tracks of Grizzly bear, also in the same, in in, in the same in, in in the exact same spot. So it was clear that they were they were angry follow there that was gonna looking to to connect with us. And we just were looking enough to to just miss the appointment
That's awesome. That's fun. I love that. I love that you weaved in kind of the importance of being able to unplug and you know, even when we're purpose driven, you know, even when we've got a mission that we care about, you know, we still gotta be able to take some time away. Um, and I think, you know, this is what we're seeing across, you know, across the board with these trends of, you know, quiet, quitting, you know, trends of, you know, people just the, the great resignation. You know, what do you think is causing it? Is it a lack of purpose or are people leaving jobs that, you know, they feel like don't, don't have purpose, is that people aren't taking enough time to rest? Um, and, and, and that's a, that's a key piece. So they're simply taking time away. How do you feel, you know, your goal as a chief of staff who's trying to retain the staff, you're trying to retain the culture there. Um, how's that impacting you guys? Are you seeing any impact of it? And um, how do you find purpose plays a role into some of these bigger trends that are, that are taking place?
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think this is a, a really good question. And I think there is two part in your question. the first one is, you know what my ex you know, the great recession, the great, um, I forgot the, the determination resignation the great resignation, the great Recession is coming, the resignation is happen. Let's,
Let's hope. No, great recession is coming. We, we had that in 2008. Let's, it, it'll probably be the great stagnation. I think that's the new to some people are calling the great stagnation. That's gonna be interesting. Yeah, that's .
But I think, yeah, to your point on the great resignation, I think what the pandemic and the lockdown gave us solid the opportunities to take a step back and, and, and, you know, we got unplugged from our day-to-day routine and, and we got to look around, okay, you know, what am I doing? , and you know, what do I like, what I don't like in my life? What do I wanna rebalance? And because it was so long, I think we all got to go through some personal introspection and really come out and, and learning what do we really like and what fascinates us. And, and you know, for some people it was a career change. For some people it was doubling down in what they do. For some others it was, you know, going back to study like we, there is unlimited amount of wild scenario that happened and unfolded.
Um, so I would say, yeah, that was mostly disability for once in a generation or, you know, human first time in, in your history, just we all at your point to just unplug and take a step back and then, you know, get back into it with a fresher mindset. And then I think Growcer for us, we, we kinda start to grow very, very quickly, start at the start of the pandemic. So I think, you know, we mostly benefited from the great resignation. So like, people applying or coming to, to join the team probably came after doing that personal work on themself and saying, you know, this is the next move I want to take. Have been very comfortable in this great job for many, many years and it was really rewarding. But now I wanna, you know, add more kind of personal meaning to my to my professional life.
And, you know, that's why this, the sentence always years like, this opportunity came at a great time for me. Mm-hmm. so if you unpack that, you just mean, you know, like in their personal journey, that was just what they were looking for. Um, so I would say we can benefited from it. Um, then once again, you know, we should not take it for, for for granted. Like, because also people at the time to really reflect on the lives they wanna have, they also come with some expectation and, and they probably, um, they be less lenient on on or less willing to do compromise around how they want their life to, to go. So like, if they trust you to join your organization and, and, and trust that this will help them reach a new stage or a new place in life where they want to be, like, I think it's the, the organization is accountable to to toward them, to provide them with that with that purpose or that drive and, and that growth that they're looking for.
So, and it's something we, we are realizing now at Growcer, we are now in the aftermath of the pandemic, thankfully, and you were there, we had this amazing retreat early in, in, in, in in the summer is like, you know, we have all those people that probably joined because they were looking for more me, like personal connections and, and purpose in work is that now how do we, you know, how do we maintain that? How do we kind of build a culture around that and, and how do we go to the next stage of growth? So frankly, at this stage, I think we, we are still figuring out and learning and the, the best way we, the best way we, we, I think we found so far is trying to be as transparent and, and with the organization being as, you know, vulnerable in the area that we haven't figured out.
I always tell the the team, you know, we are startup, we've figured out only 20% and we have 80% that's still unknown and this is probably where we're gonna fail and, and fell again. And, and, and also through it. So, um, yeah, I think, you know , if the mission is clear and if the communication is like, you know, I would say genuine people are looking for really genuine connection now. And if you are, have a genuine conversation with your staff, genuine conversation with your colleagues, you know, and the mission is clear, people should have some sort of, you know, motivation and purpose going to work every day.
Yeah, yeah. I think that that, that you've, you've married the two really well, right? We have genuine purpose behind what we do and have we created space for relationships because after this pandemic, we're really, you know, people want relationships. They want community of other people who are on the similar mission or similar purpose that they're on. And, and they're looking for those communities. And I think that speaks a lot to people, you know , many leaders and companies is that people are searching for community of other people who are solving similar problems. And they, they want that they're coming to you, they're leaving other jobs to look for who's helping solve the problems that I care about. Cuz that's what I want to join. And, and, and so put the problems that we're solving up, up and up, you know, up front up, up and center so everyone can see this is what we're going after.
And I really like that. So if we were to break some of this down into steps flow, right? So let's say I'm a CEO, I'm a VP talent and our team, we've got some, you know, we've got some cla clarity on our purpose, you know, probably needs a, another kind of session where we get everyone together, talk about some purpose stuff, but how do I start to get it out of my team? You know, am I having during my one-on-ones? Am I, you know, you gave me a really good question asking people about their, their personal missions. Is that what you recommend is that, you know, managers sit down and ask their team members, what's your personal mission in life? What's your, why is that the path they should take? What do you think is a path they should take to really bubble up if they're not really in a very high-purpose environment right now and a high-purpose workplace, what do we do to, to make that switch over? What are some concrete steps we can recommend to people who are listening?
Yeah, I mean, I would say you probably have two scenarios. You have the scenario where let's say you are bringing new new talent on board on your team, and you probably one to validate from the get-go during the first few interview that, you know, like, here is why, here's what we're doing here. This is the problem we obsess about. Like, in trying to assess the alignment between the individual and the, and, and the company. , and then, you know, making sure that you know, you during your like, you know, first three months end of the onboarding period, like, you know, do a check mark. Like, you know, we told you this was something we're obsess, obsess about. Like, do you know, are we true towards, from your perspective, does that resonates with you? How is your kind of passion toward what we are passionate about, um, like looking like at this point?
And never like, yeah, taking it for granted, like always checking up with, with folks like making sure that there's always misalignment. I know during, you know, performance review or 1 0 1, like as, as much as I do opportunity to, I ask people like, you know, how do you feel about what we're doing here? Like, are you still, are you still clear on the mission? Are you still, you know, passionates you drive you? Where is your, where is you kinda passion level at? And , and then I think the other scenario is that like you already have a formed team and you're kinda realize that, you know, you probably have a good culture, that's why you can keep your people together, but you know, fully your work and this is edited. And, and then if you can count on a strong culture, you can probably just open up and be like, listen, this is, remind them why you maybe started the business in first place.
Maybe that was five years ago, 20 years ago, and say, this is what I was entrepreneur at some point. And I said, that business and that's what, you know, why we here together today? And I wanna refine that like initial kind of drive and passion and kind of built on it and, and, you know, set the path, the path for the next, you know, five, two or three or five years to come and work with your team to see what really kinda excite them. Going back to my previous role when we, you know, when we were in ads, you know, mainly saying that the ad sucks, like the, that's not something necessarily that the CEO came up with in that slogan. Like he was like, he knows something was bothering him around, like he wanted to make ads more relevance. Um, but like finding Canada, that tagline that people read, read about it was really, I remember during a, a team wide meeting we were I think exploring the notion of category design and what does it mean to like create a new category in a space in the SaaS space and whatnot.
And it was kind of playing with this notion like, you know, ads are not personalized enough to people. Is it bothering people? And then someone say, yeah, well, you know, ads sucks. People hate them and we are just here to make them better. And then people were just like, hell yeah, this is what, and then, you know, I remember he was like a really energetic moment and then from there we just grasp on that on the people's side and just like, yeah, this is what's gonna really be like people should get tattoo of it. , everybody joint should get tattoo. So I will, I will, I will probably,
You know, do you have a tattoo? Do you have a tattoo that says ad suck? ? No,
I have a sticker on my laptop. That's as far as I was able to take it.
Um, but yeah, I would say, you know, either you're building the team hiring a lot, just making sure, you know, at the interview process you try to assess this align like alignment between mission and personal, kinda drive for the for the talent you're bring on board and then doing some recurring checkup with them, either your manager or the HR or however you people check with each other in your organization. But if you already have a team that's establish, you know, hiring, let's say lot new people right now, like it's using that team and kinda opening up and, and seeing where you're at right now and, and telling them, you know, would love for us to find what drive us for the next, for, for, for the next few months or the few quarter, few years ahead and, and reminding them why you started the business. I think people love, they always tend to forget that, you know, before being that like 40 or 50 people CEO of funder, like you were just like, you know, in your dorm room, in your garage or just in the street obsessing about a problem. And you sold really hard for a long period of time on your own before you afford to have other teammates. And reminding that origin story and retelling that story I think as a lot of power to motivate your team and, and help maybe collectively find a purpose.
Yeah, I love that. I think that's a great call out for a lot of our founders is, is really learning to tell your origin story, learning to, and, and finding your authentic voice in telling that story. I think you probably have told it over the years in so many different ways to, for funding or for, you know, initial recruitments and it kind of got lost and at times you've gotta come back to what was the moment. And, and I find that a lot of origin stories, you know, our founders start to report them and not story tell them. And what I mean by that is that they kind of go through, yeah, we did this and we did this and we did that and we were trying this and that. You end up reporting on what happened, but if you tell the story, you actually bring people into it.
You bring them into the moment you realize there was an opportunity, the moment of struggle. And you know, I, one of my, one of my favorite books to recommend to a lot of young founders is Phil Knight's memoir Shoe Dog. Um, because I think he does such a good job of telling his origin story and it's fun. It's, it's casual, it's super easy to read but it tells that origin story. And I remember after reading it, I was like, I am, I want to only buy Nike, right? Like, I feel You feel like such a, such a Nike fan and a champion because you, you understood their origin story, you understood the human behind the brand. And I think that's a really good way to start creating purpose in our organizations if we don't have it yet, is that refining that origin story.
I really like how you've, you've noted that there, that's really good. So we've talked a lot about different pieces of purpose here on what we can do to start it. Um, now let's look at kind of, I want the opposite, the drawbacks. I get a, I get a lot of people in business flow who will say, this is bullshit. Okay, all this purpose stuff, a little waste of time, we gotta make money. We need employees who are gonna work. Yeah, yeah. We can do a bunch of purpose stuff, but like to them purpose either feels like you end up with a statement like, we're gonna save the world, right? And then you're like, it's so high. Like what is this? How does this even impact our business? Or they write purpose statements that are extremely descriptive. Our purpose is to provide farming equipment to farmers who need it, right? And, and, and so you end up describing what you do perhaps. So you get kind of the ends of, of people who who've maybe done this exercise or they've seen and they're really like, ah, I don't know if this is for me. What do you, what do you say to that? What do you say to the kind of the traps that you can fall into when you're searching for purpose? And how do you convince the people who are naysayers who are like, mm, not sure this actually impacts my business?
Yeah, this is a an excellent question. Cause I think we started in a conversation like a purpose is, that's term that's like super loaded and thrown around and, and especially now where, you know, where millennials are looking for, you know, meanings in their life and meaning their work. But like, and it gets, you know, kinda discredited because it's either overly used or, you know, it's an easy thing for like media or to like, you know, to like point at. But I would say there is, there is 2 elements to it, like can, and um, the first one is that you don't want, you want your purpose to really be aligned with, you know, what you are doing and something you can tangibly have an impact on. So like, obviously I wanna change the world, like probably everybody does, but like, you know, is the solution or like the product you're selling actually like is direct impact to save the world, probably not.
So like being quite, you know, honest with your kinda the what your solution and product enables to do. And then from there, you know, remind yourself, you know, why you created it in the first place. And what probably wanted to solve that was probably not to change the world. It was probably pretty more, a lot more specific than that. And that got you quite excited. So like really try to stay in that, in that mindset. Um, and, and yeah, avoid the greenwashing and all that blah blah for sure. , cause it's gonna just, you know, it's gonna be negative point toward your brand equity, toward your culture, toward everything else and, and be be more specific. Um, but then the other aspect of purpose is like, if you don't believe in the importance of purpose. So if you don't see, you know, how it can help you attract talent or help you build a culture or help you grow, like, it's probably gonna be pretty hard for people to even see why they will show by your solution.
And, and like, I think purpose helps you tell stories and people by stories, whether it's acquire acquire new customer, bringing new talent on board. So like, for example, for, for us, you know, and at Growcery, like we put that mission and that purpose like rightful and center of every story we tell, and we obviously try to align that story with, you know, whether we're talking to a, um, with a first nation chief that have like food security and food security mandates for his community and how, you know, what we do can empower them and what stories they can tell whether it's a school, whether it's a farmer looking, can diversify. Like we always try to tell a story that carry our mission, but aligns with the person we are, we are, you know, talking to. So, you know, if you don't really believe in your purpose, you don't really believe in why, why you are talking to them like they're gonna, you know, you don't want them to make up the story and you don't want, like, they're like not gonna be super and motivated to like continue conversation with you.
So that's really where purpose really helps you. Cause like, you know, quite frankly, really helps you promote your business, really helps you getting out there and really honing why you, why you're doing it. Whether it's, you know, you as an individual contributor in organization or an organization itself going out there to the world and, and, you know, saying very loud, why is it here and why is it legitimate to be here?
Yeah. Yeah. I think you've honed in flow on a, on a really key skill set for leaders, you know, in, in addition to, um, the importance of identifying a purpose, what we're saying here is you've gotta be able to tell a story. Effective leaders have to be really good storytellers because if you don't, someone else will fill in that narrative for you, right? If you don't tell the story of the purpose of what you're doing, then other people will say, oh, they're just doing it because they want this. Someone will fill in the narrative and connect the dots for you if you don't actually tell the story and connect the dots. And I think that's extremely important. And, and if you don't believe in something, then how do you move someone? How do you move someone to take action if there's no core belief in what you're doing?
There has to be a belief in what you're doing that can actually move people. And I think you've really honed it in there at the end there. So really like that. Flo, we're, we're, we're, we're, we're just about done here with, with ours, but I wanted to give you a chance to kind of share with us, you know, if, if we get a strip back from a lot of our conversation around purpose, you are leading a startup that's growing, that is doing really well, and you've got some great founders that you're working with. , what is, you know, some advice you have for all our, our, our people leaders out there who are dealing with right now, all the, the kind of environmental changes, the great resignation and, and quiet quitting stuff, overp employment also. Um, and, and, and the looming recession. What's some advice you have for their leadership practice beyond just purpose? Cuz we've obviously spent the entire session talking about that. , but what are, what are some kind of key advice and pieces for you to, to kind of end this episode in a nice little bow? Some, some key takeaways for them?
Yeah, I mean, it's clear that, you know, since 2020 we've entered and chartered territories, we've low the, the micro and micro government really, really changing. So we don't have the luxury to just look back on how other have done it like 3, 5, 10 years ago to just like, you know, draw from, you know, either example or just, you know, copy and paste what used to work will work again. , like everything has been, has been, has been shuffled around. So I would say it's really going back to the fundamentals. , and, and to me the fundamentals are, you know, to build a strong culture is, you know,
Be genuine with your team. Like , be, you know, internally, you don't need to, you know, you know, it's not like you're selling to investor, you know, need to like put like, you know, you know, fireworks and, and nice makeup around, around, you know, let's say telling your story as a funder. Like, be vulnerable. Be genuine. And that's really what I think gets people excited. People, you mentioned it and I cannot agree more with that. I'm looking for a sense of community. , they want to, they want to be together, especially after two years of being separated. I think the only thing we, the thing we cra right now is like, yeah, that like human connection and then that sense of, you know, working together as we word use that word many time for, for, for a strong purpose. But I, I think a, a company that maybe at this point, like, you know, is not sure to, you know, end all the culture or not sure where, where to take things next in term of, you know, motivating their employees.
It's like, you know, people give you 70% of their wake time. And I think the, the least we can do is being, you know, having a human to human connection with them and, and then being very genuine. And then from there, you know, not everything is, is, is there's not only roses in any business, whether we're at a stage and whether it's within your team or a greater company. And then as I think as a manager or as a leader, you need to, you know, people deserve that, that honesty and that transparency saying, you know, we are doing great, but here is where, you know, we call user improvement. This is where we fell and this is where we're gonna learn. And, and, and I think this type of, this type of genuine communication is what really get people together. And then the rest, the rest story.
That's awesome. I like that. I like that. I like how you've wrapped things up here for us. , Flo this was a really fun conversation around purpose, around how you found your own purpose. How, how it's, it is partially a personal discovery and a person time that people should take on their own to understand. But we as employers, as you just said, you know, people are giving us 70% of their wake time. We owe it to them to create community, to help them find that purpose, to give them purpose that they can join in. And, and I love the two reframes that you gave us, right? You gave us a reframe around, you know, purpose can just be things that we really care about or purpose can be problems that we have, that we really want fixing and, and really allowing our teams to identify those problems and identify that purpose. And finally bringing community together to solve it. You got us a lot of really good insights, a lot of nuggets. I really enjoyed this conversation. Flo, thank you so much for being here with us. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, your grizzly bear stories um, and everything in between.
It was a pleasure. Fahd as always. Thank you so much for having me.
Awesome. Thank you. Thank you Flo for that wonderful , conversation. A wonderful interview for sharing all the insights, um, from everything around what drives people in their work to trying to answer some of the existential questions of, of life purpose and how you went through your own personal journey of you know, reframing purpose as a journey, uncovering purpose over time, and really translating that into the work you do in recruitment and building teams and building high-performing teams that are trying to solve some really big problems. Thank each and every one of you for listening all the way through to our episode. We love our listeners and if you've got any questions, you've got any topics, um, please feel free to reach out to us on any of our social media platforms or directly to me on my email firstname.lastname@example.org.
That's it for today. If you love the episode you can find the show notes. You can find the transcripts on our website, unicorn labs.ca/podcast. Be sure to rate us to share it, to review it to send it to a few friends, a few colleagues, and a few others that you think could benefit from our episode. And to leave you with this one thought. As we end off, what purpose are you uncovering today? Have you reflected on it? Are you working towards it? Are you slowly molding a life of purpose towards a problem that you wanna solve, a cause that you want to attach yourself to, or an idea that's bigger than you, that you are moving forward? That's all. And we'll see you next.