Good People, Strong Values and the Power of Ownership

I love what Lester Thornhill is doing as CEO of Life’s Abundance, a rapidly growing premium wellness company with focus on consumable products for families, including pets. Our own business is focused on transparency and connection to core values, and we love to tell stories of companies that are doing those things well.

Here are the keys to Life’s Abundance success.

KT: Tell me about what sets you apart as an employer. When people spend half of their waking hours at work, how do you make sure they feel great about coming to work every day?

LT: What sets us apart? Our business distinction really starts with our core values.  Along with being Evergreen, the other two core values of Life’s Abundance are Empathy and Energy. They help keep Life’s Abundance focused on customers, a great work environment and constant innovation.

We are really true to those core values. They’re not just something we made up because we’re supposed to have them. It’s important to impart these values to the next generation, so they understand what we’re all about and why we’re here.

We are also totally transparent. We post every day on our ‘team hub.’ We let everyone know how we’re doing – we share successes, with graphics and numbers. Everyone knows this is a direct result of the work we’re all doing. One of the seven principles of an Evergreen company – pragmatic innovation – means hundreds of little changes that we make all year long. It adds up to these big changes in our performance.

KT: How do you identify talent? Given the market today, the talent wars are on and finding great people is a key to every organizations success.

LT: One of Life’s Abundance’s founders once ran a staffing agency. She has an unbelievable talent for bringing together like-minded people. In 20 years in business, we’ve never had a major decision that we didn’t agree on.

Our philosophy on values has changed how we search for talent. If you exemplify these core values it means you’re a certain type of person, with certain characteristics. Once we realized that some people naturally have the core values we’re looking for, we seek out that type of person. We put emphasis on soft skills, with more time in interviews figuring out what kind of person we were hiring rather than their skill set.

We can teach you skills that you don’t have – but it’s really hard to change who you are as a person. We’d rather not take that on.

KT: Tell me more about how you set yourself apart with your products. You talk about being “white-glove”. What does that mean?

LT: My goal is not a number. I want to get to the point where we have total transparency with the customer, so they understand how seriously we take product quality, all the way back to raw materials. We want to be responsible for everything we put out, so we ship directly to customers. Even though we have never had a recall, if we ever have a problem with a product, we can email or call every single customer.

If you really want to be premium, be ‘white-glove.’ Be responsible from the time it’s made to the time it’s delivered. That’s why we have such consistent long-term customer retention.

KT: You are an employee owned company. How does that change the way you do business?

LT: One example is we believe ownership thinking should include employees having “skin in the game”. We have a quarterly bonus that’s revenue-based. I can honestly say to every employee, ‘you make your own raise.’ As revenue goes up, a piece of it goes to you.

We give feedback all the time regarding how we’re doing on that bonus. Ever since we have instituted the bonus, we’ve hit it every time – we never miss. That quarterly bonus keeps getting bigger and bigger. After a while I say ‘well, let’s just take a chunk of it off and make that salary.’ Then salary goes up, and the bonus starts to build up again. People love that.

We want to stay private. It’s one of the core principles of being Evergreen. Once we become public, then it’s all about maximizing shareholder value. We want to make a profit, but it’s not more important than our mission. That’s why we’re employee-owned. Profit is just a barometer for how well we’re doing in our purpose of helping to improve the health and wellness of families.

To learn more about Kirsti’s work and to stay in touch, connect with her on LinkedIn.

Kirsti Tcherkoyan, CEO and Co-founder

OpaConnect® – A Strategic Performance Management Platform



Work-Life Balance: Integrating Our Passion

Our work does not define us. For many, work is just a job; but at its best, our work is a reflection of our beliefs and our passions. Company leaders can take it to the next level, discovering excitement and responsibility in integrating personal passions into company identity.

I was talking about this with our recruiter, Adina Zinn. Adina is a passionate recruiter and, as I discovered, is deeply involved in her community as well. The more we talked, the more I felt the value of her story, and the more I wanted to share it.

Adina is very active volunteering in her local community. She works with local groups and friends to organize community events. Adina gives freely of her time and talent, but it was the “why” that caught my attention.

Passion for Making the World a Better Place

Adina is determined to make a difference. She believes that positive social actions, no matter how large or small, make the world a better place. She has connected with like-minded people who are also committed to advocacy and positive change. Together their passion and commitment enriches the community, and encourages others to work toward community goals, to give back and think big.

The power of community is that, underneath it all, people want to make a difference. People are looking for something to connect to. One of the events that Adina helped organize in 2017 attracted 10,000 people when they were expecting maybe 1,000. At another event, nearly 1,000 people gathered to form a huge human banner spelling out “END HATE!”

Cultural Heritage

Adina embraces her Jewish heritage and practices “tikkun olam,” a commitment to contribute to the welfare of society and make the world a better place. Partly due to this connection with her spiritual heritage, when Adina speaks of her community work she says “it chose me, I didn’t choose it.”

Adina feels that the important work that we do in the world is given added weight when we feel that we’re part of something larger than we are. Cultural heritage is important to that sense of contribution, building continuity and adding our own efforts to what came before us.

Family-friendly events are important to Adina’s volunteer work, and serve as a model for young people. When families and communities come together to contribute to the greater good, it teaches kids to take a stand for values they believe in. Family involvement creates new cultural traditions that pass on to future generations.

Intersection of Work and Passion

Adina is a gifted and passionate recruiter, and she loves making connections between employers and job seekers. She finds great satisfaction in helping employers and employees find each other, and sees that as another form of the same principle: making the world a better place.

Consider a Venn diagram: where do personal passions and work interests overlap? This can be a valuable exercise for management. Is there a Venn diagram that shows where your personal passions and your work satisfaction intersect? Where does your company vision overlap with your personal worldview?

I asked Adina what she would say if she were addressing a room full of CEOs and executives. Her answer surprised and intrigued me: she said “get out of your own way.” She elaborated by saying that her community work has inspired her to overcome fears and push herself in ways that make her uncomfortable. She said if you care enough about something, you’ll push past barriers and surprise yourself with what you can do.

Company leadership can benefit from these simple lessons. The first step is to ask yourself: is there something that I’m passionate about that I could be contributing in my neighborhood? What might enrich my community and inspire me to bring that passion to my workplace? And taking the next step: what can I do to inspire my employees to do the same, and work together in that Venn intersection where personal passions and work satisfactions overlap?

That’s part of our company culture at Options4Growth, and I encourage company leadership to make it part of yours.

Kirsti Tcherkoyan

CEO, Options4Growth & OpaConnect