As founder of InfoTrust, a digital analytics consulting and technology company, and the company’s Basket Brigade, a program that delivers Thanksgiving meals to local families in need, Alex Yastrebenetsky thinks he’s on to something.
Is it because the InfoTrust Foundation was approved as a 501(c)3? Sure. Or perhaps it’s because InfoTrust won the top spot on the 2018 Best Employers in Ohio? Yes. Or, just maybe it’s because he’s asking every one of his employees to decide which charity, if any, they wish to support—and he’s doing this as a way to support company growth and teamwork. Definitely.
Alex has always believed in the power of a shared purpose—a Why—to fuel company growth. “The most important question any entrepreneur must answer is ‘Why?’ To run a successful company, you must have a compelling Why for yourself and your team,” he said in an Inc. interview with EO.
In 2018, however, he’s taken this focus to a new level. Alex explains his theory like this:
Fact: Based on an extensive study from Google, one of two characteristics of high-performing teams is social vulnerability—meaning that team members feel comfortable sharing what they truly care about and are open in conversations with teammates.
Fact: All thought leaders in the world agree on one thing—the organization must have a shared sense of purpose, a “Why”, in order to scale and be a happy place for the team.
Fact: The most effective way to accomplish global philanthropy is through a “plan globally, act locally” framework.
Basket Brigade used to be my “thing.” That’s my Why. I also want children’s hospitals to be empty. But these are my Whys, not everybody else’s. I suddenly thought, what if we don’t have to separate what matters to me from what matters to every member of the organization?
What if we ask every employee of the company to look deep inside themselves to discover what matters most to them. We all have a human need to contribute. What do they choose to contribute?
So, our Basket Brigade now encompasses everything from Thanksgiving meals to school supplies for children and feminine hygiene products for women’s shelters. We also ask that employees share who they want to help—only if they want to—as a way to embrace social vulnerability (that key component in building a high-performing team).
Aside from my personal feelings about contribution, I think we can make giving good business. After all, giving is not if we do not run a profitable business.
We are up 62% YTD as a company. We are up almost four times from last year in terms of our Basket Brigade’s impact to families. Our charitable work has expanded globally, with shelters and food pantries in the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, India, Dubai, and Nigeria receiving contributions from our staff.
There is not enough hard data yet. My theory is currently built on passion, gut feel, and emotion, but from a business point of view, I hope the impact on employee retention and engagement and, most importantly, meaning and personal satisfaction, is going to be the driver that will help us improve our bottom line so we, as a company, can afford to fund this.
The educated idealist in me hopes we can accomplish our goals on all fronts: Take care of our team the way we already do—free lunches, paid insurance, etc—take care of our community at the levels we have been and even more, and still run a profitable business.
It’s a challenge, but it is also a goal worth pursuing.
Alex Yastrebenetsky is the founder and CEO of InfoTrust, a digital analytics consulting and technology company helping marketers use data to make smarter decisions. He is also an EO Cincinnati member. Read more from Alex on topics ranging from women who code to supporting working parents on his Infotrust blog.