Leading with Purpose with Brooks Running’s Jim Weber — 2022 CEO Summit

As the CEO of Brooks Running, Jim Weber knows a thing or two about the importance of staying on the path — the path of purpose. 

During the opening session of our 2022 CEO Summit, Jim shared his personal journey of leading with purpose, as well as the steps Brooks took to determine its own Higher Purpose more than 20 years ago. By continuing to center every business decision around the company’s north star, Brooks has grown from an early-stage challenger brand to a trusted, established brand with a dedicated customer following and an annual revenue of more than $1.3 billion. 

We pulled three takeaways from Jim’s segment that will help guide you on your own journey of Higher Purpose. 

Define your purpose 

When Jim joined Brooks as their CEO in 2001, the company didn’t have a clear “why” or “who” to guide its business decisions and long-term trajectory. Lack of purpose was also evident across the board, from revenue to employee engagement and customer growth. 

The team at Brooks realized that defining their Higher Purpose could “link all the interests” of the company — their why — “to the company’s stakeholders,” who they determined were, first and foremost, their employees and customers. By orienting their core stakeholders around a clear purpose, the team was looking to  catalyze growth, evoke action, and provide an enduring sense of shared ownership in the company’s path forward.

For the Brooks team, purpose goes beyond the parameters that often exist with mission and vision statements. Jim shares, “Purpose, in the way we’ve constructed it, really has no finish line. There’s really no ‘arriving at’ purpose.” 

The Higher Purpose of Brooks Running: “Inspire everyone to run their path.”

Simple. Clear. Evokes a sense of emotion, challenge, and forward movement. Encompasses their commitment to inclusivity. 

With their north star set, Brooks was ready to start its Conscious Capitalism journey. 

Purpose in action 

Purpose, in the way we’ve constructed it, really has no finish line. There’s really no ‘arriving at’ purpose.” 

Jim Weber, CEO, Brooks Running

On Jim’s first day at Brooks Running, he wrote on the whiteboard in his office a quote by Benjamin Disraeli, “The secret to success is constancy of purpose.”

With a newly defined Higher Purpose, the Brooks team began to make every decision based on their purpose. Jim knew that great brands are “built over time, and consistently, and executed well.” So, with each decision, they worked towards building a purpose-driven brand. 

They shifted from offering a full line of athletic gear to only offering the best running gear — decreasing their product line by 50% and their revenue by 40%, and “and we never looked back,” said Jim. 

From there, with a purpose that was meant to inspire everyone, they worked towards developing a community. Their community today includes anyone from an Olympic or marathon runner to someone who is simply putting one foot in front of the other — as Jim shares, “walking is slow running.” 

No matter what distance a Brooks customer may run, Brooks became dedicated to celebrating every run by not only giving their customers the best possible product to support their journey, but the community to cheer them on. From the materials they source for their products to creating a Conscious Culture by implementing feedback from employees — at every level of the company, they acted on their purpose.  

Stay the course 

Under Jim’s Conscious Leadership approach, by staying focused on their north star, Brooks Running has become a purpose-driven brand that cares about its employees and has a dedicated and growing customer base. They have established themselves as a leader in a highly competitive industry by continuously positioning themselves from a place of purpose, versus profits. 

That’s not to say there have not been challenges, though. In Jim’s 20-year tenure with Brooks, he has guided the company through the Dot Com Bubble of the early 2000s, the 2008 Recession, a consumer shift in 2016-2017, and then the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. 

Each of these events affected their industry, their company, their employees, and their customer base in different ways. But with each challenge that arose, Brooks dove deeper into their purpose, whether that meant investing in research to ensure they were designing the best products or leveraging a global community of runners during the pandemic to encourage people to focus on their health when there was so much uncertainty in the world — their Higher Purpose has guided Brooks Running and their actions through every challenge.

Jim closes his session by reminding us that there is no stopping point when it comes to purpose. He shares a story about a young coworker who tragically lost her life, and that she had a bumper sticker at her desk that said, “Life’s short. Run long.” 

“It’s just a great reminder that it’s not about the finish line. You’ve got to enjoy the journey and the people and the relationships that you have along the way.” And once you find your Higher Purpose, it will lead you on that journey.  

Registration is open for the 2023 CEO Summit

Conscious Capitalism, Inc. is excited to announce that registration is now open for the 2023 Conscious Capitalism CEO Summit. The CEO Summit is our premier experience for CEOs, presidents, and founders committed to elevating humanity through business. Nominate yourself or a peer to attend →