With our focus on making it easy for people to do the right things, we change the dynamic for everyone, including our founders, leaders, and employees.
A feel-good t-shirt and accessory apparel brand founded by 2 brothers in 1994, 'Life is Good' took a simple yet sometimes overlooked idea and nurtured it into a burgeoning business. Illustrating an inspiring can-do story the world needs more of, their brand and their unique approach to office culture is something that we can all learn and grow from.
What is unique about your company?
Every company, every brand, every organization is unique. What makes Life is Good unique is that, unlike many founder-led start-ups, we’ve grown and thrived, still dedicated to the same mission, with the founders still here to inspire us daily. While we love change and the challenges that come with it, we are clear and focused on what will never change. We have co-created a brand and a belief system with a timeless message expressed through original art and shared with the world on “canvasses” known as t-shirts, hats and other products.
What are you most proud of regarding your team?
I am grateful (and proud) to be part of several teams.
The Good Vibe Tribe is our name for the global community of Optimists who believe what we believe: Life is good and optimism is a choice. When we choose to see the good in ourselves, others and the world, we have a healthier, happier life. I’m excited to have found “my tribe” and to know we transcend any label normally applied to humans. And maybe extraterrestrials, who knows.
The Life is Good team — 180 of us — work to spread the power of Optimism. We are a tiny force for good in the world. I love the range of smiles and stories I get when I tell people where I work. I’m proud that we always strive to use our Superpowers (Openness, Gratitude, Courage, Fun, Humor, Creativity, Compassion, Simplicity, Authenticity and Love) at work.
The Optimistic People Team is our name for what other companies call Human Resources. There are 5 of us and, together, we make it easy for our people to do the right things. I think of us as the oil in the engine of Life is Good. We don’t need to be the shiny paint or the hood ornament on the vehicle of our brand. We get to quietly and seamlessly make everything else work well.
The Playmaker Team — our social mission of 25 years supports those who are the “playmakers” in the lives of children struggling with the impact of poverty, violence and illness. Every employee is trained to be a Playmaker. This amazing connection strengthens our culture and our commitment to one another in ways words can’t express.
In your view, what was the biggest challenge your business ever faced and what was learned from it?
We have big challenges every year. Bring ’em on! They make us think and debate and challenge and learn and be intentional about our actions. Not comfortable but very necessary.
The biggest challenge we face — and we’re rising to the challenge every day — is staying true to our vision and mission. We have so many options to use the Life is Good name for causes, on products, in the news — and we are strategic about what to pursue. We choose the conversations we join. We choose the business we will walk away from because it may not line up with our values. We’ve made mistakes and have learned at least as much from them as we do from the good decisions we’ve made.
How do you maintain positivity amongst your team?
I have a secret algorithm I use when hiring team members. It’s something I learned as an imaginative 8-year-old desperately trying to make magical potions from household ingredients like cornstarch and toothpaste.
You can’t get out what you don’t put in. We hire people who are happy, curious and smart. Happy people look for reasons to be happy. We have plenty for them to see. When you work with happy people, you’re more likely to be happy, too. Happy is magical in the workplace. Smiles are the international symbol of “I’m glad to see you!”.
Curious people ask questions constantly and they usually start with “why”. They are the root-cause finders and the problem-solvers a scrappy brand needs to get stuff done. Smart people, if happy and curious, make us feel good about everything. Human nature, genetics, the future of the world. Gotta have them around. When you work with smart people, you learn constantly.
If we hire well and bring smart, happy, curious people to Life is Good with those three characteristics, they will smile, learn and grow. The company can’t grow if people won’t.
What are some misconceptions about your area of expertise?
It depends on who you ask. Sometimes the function formerly known as HR gets a bad rap. We may be viewed as the corporate version of the principal’s office or the police station. We are often the most heavily-regulated function and it can be daunting for an entrepreneurial leader to navigate all the laws and potential legal hazards of hiring and employing people. With our focus on making it easy for people to do the right things, we change the dynamic for everyone, including our founders, leaders, and employees. It guides our choices for technology, workplace enhancements, communication — everything. Autonomous is an example of one of our better choices. By designing affordable, functional, ergonomically correct workspaces people love to use, we created a huge win for our team.
Tell us about a defining ‘aha!’ moment where your company experienced growth — financially or culturally.
I love telling this story! We were in the second year of the search for our first ever President. We sought a leader who would grasp the depth of our message and social mission. Someone who demonstrated all ten Superpowers. A leader who had led businesses and people to accomplish more than they thought possible. We found her under our noses. Lisa Tanzer had been a volunteer for our Kids Foundation from inception. She went on to create a successful career in marketing, branding, and leadership. We hired her to run marketing for a year and got to know her through the way she led the team every day. As the search progressed, we found ourselves comparing every candidate to Lisa. When we announced her promotion to President, everyone jumped up and cheered! Since she became President, we have achieved measurable improvements in our culture, our business results and have reinstated a bonus plan for every employee.
How would you describe your company culture in a sentence?
The conversation is the culture and is co-created by everyone who works here, every day.
What can you tell us about your company that we couldn’t find out anywhere else?
Lots of us love to sing and make music. Few of us are any good at either. We have a house band at work. The members (and the music) change as people come and go. We’re hoping for a sax player soon.
Why did you choose Autonomous?
We were looking for one source that could provide simple, attractive, affordable, adaptable, ergonomic, height-adjustable, non-staining, durable workstations and seating for 180 people who never agree on anything. Sound like fun? Nope.
The office furniture in our Boston office was gorgeous and uncomfortable, impractical, hard to use, impossible to clean and generated more complaints than any other aspect of our work environment. In Hudson, New Hampshire, our workstations had been around for decades and it showed. Our quest: make everyone happy with one option.
We scoured the globe and found Autonomous, then a start-up with a great product. To our delight, our CEO loved the modern look and before anyone could ask any questions, we made the commitment to standing desks, egonomic chairs, standing mats, ergonomic stools, filing cabinets, cable trays and more.
In our next Culture Survey, our people told us how much they appreciate their new workstations. We achieved the impossible and satisfied everyone except one dude who insisted on keeping his old chair. Not bad.
How do you envision the future?
That is one of my favorite questions! I believe in the innate goodness and unstoppable creativity of humans. Our future, like our past, will be full of surprises that, today, we can only imagine.
Just 15 years ago, we had a separate device for each of these activities: making a call, reading a book, taking a photo, listening to music, navigating a city, paying for purchases, measuring our heart rate, composing a song, watching a movie and shining a light on our keyhole at night. Now? We do it all — sometimes simultaneously — with one device that fits in a pocket.
The problems that plague us as a human community today will be solved by the generations taking the baton from our hands. I believe optimism will be the fuel for our fantastic future.
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