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



Calling All CEO’s

Prominent CEOs are standing up against racism, and the country is taking notice. Reactions have been overwhelmingly positive. This support has reinforced a powerful idea: that a company’s values can influence communities and the nation.

I’d like to address my fellow CEOs, and issue a Call to Action: examine your core values and engage your workforce. This is important stuff. Your company values matter in a new and exciting way: they’ve become a key component of your company’s capital. It’s an opportunity to expand awareness of what your organization stands for. Especially now, core values are essential to who you are and what you do. Your identity in the marketplace takes on new meaning.

Ask Questions and Listen

There’s power in what you stand for. CEOs, I urge you to do some soul-searching. Open up the conversation. Get people talking up and down your organization. Ask questions that can lead to growing your core values – and LISTEN to the feedback from your employees. Let your people know that you really want to hear from them. This simple exercise taps into the intellectual wealth of your workforce, and can provide you with guidance on your company’s identity.

Here are some basic questions to get the conversation started:

  • What are the core ethics that you want your employees and coworkers to embrace?
  • What do we want our company culture to look like? What would it feel like in the office, what would you see people doing and what would you hear them saying?
  • How do we want to be perceived by our communities? What roles might we play in community leadership?
  • What are some examples of outreach and service that we can provide?
  • What other questions should we be asking that might be relevant to our business, and to our place in the community?

The goal is to have these conversations throughout your organization. Small teams, large teams, departments and divisions, company-wide meetings: it’s all fair game.

Be Proactive. Every company is different, and the process of discovery will lead you in your own unique direction. Take the lead in finding out what that direction is. Start the conversations and keep them going.

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