Does Your Business Have Soul?

Does Your Business Have Soul?
Ethical business
Image by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash.

I wrote a blog recently about coincidence and synchronicity which gained a lot of traction. Sort of. I know it’s all relative and when I say ‘a lot’ I mean over five times more than my normal post view average. Man, I was doing a jig. This was the big time! Almost.

I know it’s not all about the quantity and the numbers can be a distraction. I’m not saying ignore them, just don’t let them feed your ego is all. I believe it’s more about the quality, the depth of the interaction.

Having said that I’d still like to say a huge thank you to everyone who liked, shared and made a comment. Many of which were wonderfully inspiring. You all boosted my confidence and helped to reinforce the spirit of the blog; that life is full of signs and messages and connections and it’s up us to join the dots. And when we do the unbelievable becomes real. None of it’s by chance.

I took the idea of synchronicity and mindset into one of our Brand Story/Customer Journey training sessions. I wanted to explore how we could use the concept to find ways to emotionally connect with like-minded souls. And then once a connection had been made how to add value to both sides of the relationship.

Sounds a little ‘new age hippy’ some people said. ‘That’s not how we do business’, others chipped in. ‘It’s a numbers game, our bottom line is all about how many sales we make dumbass!’, opined the self-proclaimed experts.

I listened. ‘But wouldn’t you like to learn something new?’ I asked. ‘After all there’s more than one way to skin a cat. You don’t have to agree but you could at least be open to alternative ways of thinking. What’ve you got to loose?’

That was the game changer. There was actually nothing to loose but the time invested in listening. Admittedly, it was time taken away from Russian dash cam drunks and funny cat videos on Facebook but it wasn’t such a big ask.

So, we started at the beginning. What does like-minded really mean?

Collins Dictionary defines it as: people with similar opinions, ideas, attitudes, or interests. The definition goes on to list four keywords associated with the idea as agreeing, compatible, harmonious, in harmony.

So, for a company to connect with like-minded souls we first need to determine what ideas, attitudes and interests we, the company hold. That got people to thinking and very soon the whiteboard was full of words like success, being the best, crushing the competition, taking over the island, leading the pack.

It was an insight into a mindset that still held tight to an old-fashioned (dare I say that?) way of doing business. It wasn’t about connecting at all. It was all about getting the money and running. All about ‘I’m the best. Do business with me. Me. Me. Me.’  

This may have been acceptable 10 years ago, but it isn’t now.

‘OK,’ I said … and paused. ‘So how do you think our audience is going to connect to that?’

The room went quiet and filled with minds blanking out. ‘You mean we have to think about what our customers think?’

Damn right we do!

Truth is customers won’t connect to the idea of making money at the expense of morals and values and ethical conduct. They just won’t. And to be honest why should they? If that’s the message we show the world then it’s going to be a dark and lonely place to work.

Don’t get me wrong. I think people do connect with the idea of success, but not at the cost of everything else. We have to do the right thing. Be honest. Value integrity. Show love. And success will be there for us.

We need to tell a story … about us … our failures and fears as much as our hopes and success. We need to give our business ‘soul‘ to be able to connect with like-minded ones.

I recently came across an article in Forbes Magazine by Ayesha Mathews-Wadhwa entitled Getting To The Soul Of Your Brand. She asks what a brand with soul actually is. Her answer? … ‘A brand that has soul shares a passion and motivation with its customers. Instead of simply creating a corporate identity, brands with soul find ways to truly connect with consumers.’

There it was again. Connections.

So do like-minded souls find you or do you find them?

Maybe the answer lies in synchronicity on a two-way street. Right message. Right time. Right place. Here’s the thing, unless you’re prepared to step off the conveyor belt of ‘it’s always been done this way’ you’re never going to find out because the fear of change will always make it something you can do later. That is if you can find it from under the carpet you swept it under hoping it would just disappear.

I got to thinking what the implications of this could be for our business. Lawerence Fletcher suggests that the true sign a brand has soul is that it ‘goes beyond the individual and is integrated into the community. Instead of brand evangelists, where there are leaders and followers, a brand with soul has a fan base of peers. The brand is equal and parallel to consumers; it is not in the center. That’s why the idea of 360-degree marketing is a problem. It is egocentric, it puts the brand in the center of the 360.’

There was resistance to this. ‘But that’s not what we feel comfortable with,’ say the Naysayers. ‘We’ve never done business like that before. And anyway, it just won’t work!’

Oh dear!

I smell fear. Fear of change. Even though it’s clear as day change is necessary. If we don’t embrace this we’ll fail. We’ll all fail.

Richard Branson sums this up very well. He says: ‘of course an individual can make a huge difference but it is when those individuals come together with like-minded souls that they can change the world for ever, and importantly for the better.’

So I’m asking us all to change the world in the way we do business. Change it for the better. Decide what’s really important to you and what the driving force of your business is. Identify it. Nurture it. Love it. Live it. And when it becomes the culture you operate within, shout about it, make a noise and connect with people who share those values.




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Andrzej Barski

Director of Seven Stones Indonesia

Andrzej is Co-owner/ Founder and Director of Seven Stones Indonesia. He was born in the UK to Polish parents and has been living in Indonesia for more than 33-years. He is a skilled writer, trainer and marketer with a deep understanding of Indonesia and its many cultures after spending many years travelling across the archipelago from North Sumatra to Irian Jaya.

His experience covers Marketing, Branding, Advertising, Publishing, Real Estate and Training for 5-Star Hotels and Resorts in Bali and Jakarta, which has given him a passion for the customer experience. He’s a published author and a regular contributor to local and regional publications. His interests include conservation, eco-conscious initiatives, spirituality and motorcycles. Andrzej speaks English and Indonesian.

Terje H. Nilsen

Director of Seven Stones Indonesia

Terje is from Norway and has been living in Indonesia for over 20-years. He first came to Indonesia as a child and after earning his degree in Business Administration from the University of Agder in Norway, he moved to Indonesia in 1993, where he has worked in leading positions in education and the fitness/ wellness industries all over Indonesia including Jakarta, Banjarmasin, Medan and Bali.

He was Co-owner and CEO of the Paradise Property Group for 10-years and led the company to great success. He is now Co-owner/ Founder and Director of Seven Stones Indonesia offering market entry services for foreign investors, legal advice, sourcing of investments and in particular real estate investments. He has a soft spot for eco-friendly and socially sustainable projects and investments, while his personal business strengths are in property law, tourism trends, macroeconomics, Indonesian government and regulations. His personal interests are in sport, adventure, history and spiritual experiences.

Terje’s leadership, drive and knowledge are recognised across many industries and his unrivalled network of high level contacts in government and business spans the globe. He believes you do good and do well but always in that order. Terje speaks English, Indonesian and Norwegian.

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Ridwan Jasin Zachrie

CFO of Seven Stones Indonesia, Jakarta

Ridwan is one of Indonesia’s top executives with a long and illustrious career in the financial world. He holds several professional certifications including being a Certified Business Valuer (CBV) issued by the Australian Academy of Finance and Management; Broker-Dealer Representative (WPPE); and The Directorship Certification for Directors and Commissioners, issued by the Indonesian Institute of Commissioners and Directors.

His experience includes being the Managing Director at one of the top investment banking groups in the region, the Recapital Group, the CFO at State-owned enterprises in fishery industry and the CEO at Tanri Abeng & Son Holding. He’s also been an Independent Commissioner in several Financial Service companies and on the Audit and Risk Committee at Bank BTPN Tbk, Berau Coal Energy Tbk, Aetra Air Jakarta as well as working for Citibank, Bank Mandiri and HSBC. His last position was as CFO at PT Citra Putra Mandiri – OSO Group.

Ridwan has won a number of prestigious awards including the Best CFO Awards 2019 (Institute of Certified Management Accountant Australia-Indonesia); Asia Pacific Young Business Leader awarded by Asia 21 Network New York USA (Tokyo 2008); UK Alumni Business Awards 2008 awarded by the British Council; and The Most Inspiring Human Resources Practitioners’ version of Human Capital Magazine 2010.

He’s a member of the Board of Trustees of the Alumni Association of the Faculty of Law, Trisakti University, Co-Founder of the Paramadina Public Policy Institute and actively writes books, publications and articles in the mass media. He co-authored “Korupsi Mengorupsi Indonesia” in 2009, which helps those with an interest in understanding governance in Indonesia and the critical issue of corruption. Ridwan speaks Indonesian and English.

Per Fredrik Ecker

Managing Director of Seven Stones Indonesia, Jakarta

Per is the Managing Director of the Seven Stones Indonesia (SSI) Jakarta office and has more than 25-years’ experience in Indonesia, China, and Western Europe. He previously worked in senior management positions with Q-Free ASA, Siemens AG, and other companies in the telecom sector. Over the last six years, he has been the Chairman of the Indonesia-Norway Business Council (INBC) and recently become elected to be on the board of EuroCham Indonesia.

His most recent experience is within Intelligent Transport Solutions (ITS), Telecom, and other sectors within the Indonesian market. He is today through his position in SSI and by representing Norway Connect, promoting Nordic and European companies that would like to explore business opportunities in the Indonesian market. He’s also playing an active role to help create the Nordic House concept in Jakarta that will provide an excellent platform for Nordic companies entering Indonesia, where they’ll find a community that can offer support with trusted information and affordable services to enter this market.