An oil painting hangs on the wall and below, a beautiful row of books lean against one another, lining the background with an air of art and poetry and inspiration. Steven sits casually in his office chair, wearing a blue shirt and a friendly smile. An entrepreneur by day and a painter by night, his voice has a deep and mellow rhythm to it that feels like it should be guiding me home on the car radio during my evening commute. It’s the voice that all great storytellers possess; calm yet commanding, gently drawing you into their orbit with their generosity of spirit and captivating energy.
We immediately fall into easy conversation, almost making me forget that he’s in the coastal radiance of San Diego while I’m watching the leaves fall alongside the mercury of our crisp Canadian Autumn. We’ve met before, but not face-to-face. We’ve met through words and through art and through a mutual belief that the world can be a better place. Yes, social media first introduced us to each other, but on this day, it’s Steven’s latest written creation that brings us to this new setting.
The Impact of Purpose and People
The Beautiful Business: An Actionable Manifesto to Create an Unignorable Business with Love at the Core is Steven’s second book and a labour of love in its own right. Being published on November 11th, 2021, this stunning creation is what happens when you combine the heart of an artist with the soul of an entrepreneur. It’s what happens when you believe that beyond the metrics and the profit margins and the bottom lines that come with capitalism, there lies something far more essential to consider; purpose and people. The title alone is captivating, sharing the idea that even business can be made into a work of art.
Essentially, The Beautiful Business is a road map to help leaders redefine their current notions of success by embracing what Steven calls their own “human artistry” and shaping a business that aligns with their life purpose. Through three core tenets—belonging, magnetism, and integrity—readers are invited to examine what it means to expect more out of their work relationships and their relationship to work. As Steven so eloquently puts it, “it’s a beautiful thing because, all of a sudden, we all grow towards this thing called wholeness. And wholeness can mean a lot of different things, but in business terms, it could be an integrated way of living, moving, working, and contributing to the world.”
Embracing Belonging, Magnetism, and Integrity
In the context of The Beautiful Business, belonging considers how we’re connected to one another and how we can not just raise our hand to a particular job, role, or function, but raise our hand to a cause.
Magnetism is the belief that businesses shouldn’t be chasing customers, but rather, they should be attracting customers. Magnetism allows the business to act more like the flame instead of the moth.
Last is integrity; the integrated system of beliefs, actions, and the manner in which a company serves their customers.
Together, these three tenets are what enable businesses to live and breathe a sense of humanity. When businesses and consumers are drawn to common values and feel a sense of connection, magnetism becomes a natural by-product.
Book writing isn’t new to Steven. In fact, the inspiration for his new book actually lies in the pages that sit behind him. A single chapter from his first publication became the blueprint for this entire manifesto. And while he’s already had plenty of experience with the writing process, he also acknowledges that he isn’t exempt from the lessons of the process.
“The writing process itself is a discovery of what you think you know or think you believe. And the writing process is a hard-earned articulation of these things. You can build an emotional bridge for your imagined reader. There’s a person out there that I’m really trying to connect with intimately, which forced me to clarify and even become more courageous about some of the things that went into the book.”
Of course, like any great story, there were a few ordeals to encounter along the way. Steven’s current perspective of business was deeply shaped by his own experience witnessing the darker side of capitalism. After having worked with some of the biggest corporate names in the U.S. through his marketing firm, Steven noticed the amount of time and money being poured into gaining profit and visibility with little or no thought being invested in the people on either end of the product. Ultimately, after some deep consideration and practical time analysis, Steven felt a shift was occurring towards his own beautiful business.
“It was that awakening, that time analysis awakening, that made me realize this was not a life that I wanted to live. Even though I said, ‘I’m an entrepreneur and I get to have the freedom to make the choices,’ but really, I had built a little prison for myself. And it was the trappings of great financial wins and all that kind of stuff. But it did not add up to a life that I want to live.”
Infusing Soul into Business Leadership
In 2017, he changed the foundation of his business to use both his knowledge and passion to help organizations identify their own heart and soul in a way that could be cultivated to create deeper purpose and meaning.
Speaking of soul, Steven admits that it’s not a word that you see very often in business leadership books. And he recognizes the chance he’s taking by talking about soul and love and artistry within the context of the corporate world. But The Beautiful Business is all about having hard conversations and braving deep waters.
“Why don’t we talk about soul at work? We can we talk about it in poetry or music or love or romance. We talk about it in our personal relationships and our spiritual gatherings, but work is still human stuff, which includes soul. It has to be included in the world of work. It’s all spiritual at the end of the day. Even though we might not talk about it overtly, when we’re talking about putting love into the workplace and creating belonging and even magnetism, these are mystical forces that are really hard to measure.”
When I ask Steven why he believes this work matters, he pauses for a moment. After a deep breath, he replies “my fear is that to too many people, it won’t matter…” The air lingers between us for a second longer as we let those words resonate.
Why Meaning-Making Matters
“I see mounting evidence of more and more people heading towards this life of meaning making and I think it matters because a beautiful business is about creating meaning for yourself in your own life, clarifying your own personal value system, putting that into the business, and helping other people discover their own.”
There is so much raw honesty lying within his answer that you almost want to bottle it up as a reminder of exactly why it does all matter. Because that truth, that vulnerability, is what makes humans so messy and beautiful at the same time. And humans are the heartbeat that bring businesses to life.
So, it makes sense that an artist would come along and decide that beauty is by no means limited to any given canvas. It makes sense that an entrepreneur would come along and know that true success extends far beyond anything that can be measured.
And when asked what the ultimate hope is in the end, it makes sense that he would respond exactly like a poet…
“A life worth shaping is an act of human imagination, which turns it into artistry. Artwork, at the end of the day, are artifacts that are created by human hands in order to move people from one state of feeling or thinking into another state. And I think a business can do that too.”
The Beautiful Business: An Actionable Manifesto to Create an Unignorable Business with Love at the Core
The Beautiful Business encourages entrepreneurs to reclaim their business and life as a fundamental creative journey that enables their people and their business entity to continually evolve and thrive.