[email protected] 1 - The 7 Foundations of a Healthy Business

[email protected] 1 - The 7 Foundations of a Healthy Business

A house built on a solid Foundation can withstand nearly anything nature throws its way.   A business is no different. Although the Foundations of a healthy business are not as visible as those of a house, they are equally critical to the business’s ability to thrive and to withstand the natural forces that are competing against it.  

I have been working for about 40 years now, ever since lying about my age to get a job as a busboy when I was 13 years old.  I really, really wanted to buy a car by the time I was 16! In the 4 decades since, I have worked in many different businesses, some profitable and inspiring, some not so much. Over the years I began to notice essential components that they all had in common, components that I eventually began to understand as business foundations.

My official career in business took off about 30 years ago when I opened a Chinese restaurant, with my college roommate, instead of going to Medical School.  My mother was not amused. Her dreams of introducing me as her… “son, the Doctor” went up in smoke, straight from the wok! What neither of us realized at the time was that the next few decades of my life would deliver an education just as profound as medical school, but instead of it being about the human body it was about humans in business.  

The good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between!

I had the occasional regret along the way, especially as my good friends began graduating from Medical School and their mothers could actually introduce them as “my daughter - or son - the Doctor”!  But those regrets didn’t last long once I heard their horror stories of life in health care in the US and as I fell more in love with business. In particular, I fell in love with the people that I had been blessed to work with and the systems that are all essential to running a healthy business.

What ultimately became clear to me is that just as the human body has 7 foundational systems that all need to be running well to provide optimum health, a business also has 7 foundational systems that need to be running well to provide optimum health for the organization.  

While the human body has these 7 foundational systems:

  1. Circulatory.
  2. Digestive / Excretory.
  3. Endocrine/Exocrine
  4. Immune / Lymphatic.
  5. Muscular.
  6. Nervous.
  7. Renal / Urinary. 

A business or an organization has these 7 foundational systems:

  1. Purpose
  2. Passion
  3. Personality
  4. Heart
  5. Voice 
  6. Vision
  7. Values

Over the course of the next 7 weeks, I will focus on one Foundation at a time describing not only what it means to the overall health of an organization, but the symptoms evident in an organization if the Foundation is not running effectively.

I’ll also be sharing real-world examples of organizations I believe have all 7 Foundations operating at their highest levels and some that don’t and will contrast the differences! 

Last week I mentioned that one individual in particular, Herb Kelleher, former CEO of Southwest Airlines, has been my role model for many years in terms of how to lead a big business with love.  There is also one organization, in particular, that I hold up as a role model for how a business could and should be run - having fully integrated all the 7 Foundations and with the corresponding results to prove it. A business that I had the tremendous honor and privilege of serving for a few years earlier this… century.  

I am referring to the one and only Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan - named “The Coolest Small Company in America” by INC magazine in 2003, while I was the Managing Partner. A well-deserved title that I can assure you had nothing to do with my contributions… 

Read the full article here:   https://www.inc.com/magazine/20030101/25036.html

I had the distinct pleasure of working for this organization and over the next few weeks I will share more about their amazing organization and many of the unique ways in which they built a culture second to none, with an unparalleled focus on the 7 Foundations.  Even though they weren’t called the “Foundations” by Zingerman’s, they were absolutely present in practice and expression.

Next week we will examine the very first foundation, the foundation of the Foundations you might say, and what Simon Sinek might argue is our most important as we Start with Why - also known as our first Foundation:   Our Purpose.

Until next time: 

Consider what is the Purpose of your current business or organization?  Can you articulate it? If we asked other members of your team, could they?  What if we asked people outside of your organization, your customers, your vendors, your neighbors?  How similar would the responses be?  


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