March 2019

Dear Reader,

This month, Benifactor took a step forward in our efforts to be cool and launched our social profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. And, chances are, you were notified of this letter thanks to our newly formed email list.

If there’s anything you’d like to see, including me wearing my daughter’s age 6/7 dress, message me on any of those channels or email ben@benifactor.com.

The initial vision for Benifactor is just shy of three years old and, just like my kids when they were about that age, it’s starting to form its own personality. We have established core values, a framework for management that lets our general managers take ownership, and a stabilized structure that allows us to grow into our adult frame.

Through communication here and on social media, I’m hoping to leverage the protégé effect. Or, in the words of the Stoic philosopher Seneca, “While we teach, we learn.'' Last summer I made the leap to publicize my monthly letters that I started writing in April 2017. With that change, the tone had to adjust, and a new layer of accountability was set to emerge by opening the content to anyone.

To requote my October 2018 letter, “I want our community to be on display and be attractive to potential new hires, and I want to provide a sense of accountability to the alumni that have worked here and gone on to bigger and better things.”  

So here we are.

Today, I wanted to write on one of our more curious of the 5 Ps within our management framework: Protectionism.

Last summer while we were debriefing the year that was and preparing for the year ahead, former General Manager of Charity Electric Jonathan Horvatin said, “I want a nationalistic CE.”

What I heard was, he wanted CE to go national, and so I wrote that down. Thankfully, he clarified what he said and the result was both astonishing and brilliant.

Nationalism, as an ideology, is generally popular with the Donald Trumps of the world—those promoting “America First” and other xenophobic or jingoistic behaviour—but it has its merits. It’s trying to unify a group around a central identity and defend the weakest of the group from the strongest of the outsiders.

Talk to any politician who espouses nationalism and they’ll be promoting hand in hand the concept of protectionism. The purpose of protectionism is to protect the most vulnerable locals who would otherwise be overwhelmed by global forces and to ensure that those elsewhere don’t reap unfair advantages from the efforts forged by the locals.

And while identity can be used for malicious purposes, with identity forms a clarity of purpose.

Protectionism forces clarity. It requires an ongoing study of where your boundaries end and another’s begins. If procreation is pursuing the unknown frontier, protectionism is understanding its borders.

In the same way some of us can suffer from codependency, our little conglomerate was forming unhealthy dependencies as well. We all work together, and it’s generally good to have a sense of mutual obligation to support one another; however, we must understand the difference between healthy interdependence and unhealthy codependence.

In a nutshell, our management framework has a pillar dedicated to understanding how our actions affect others.

A colleague recently said to me, quite frankly, that not all change here has been good. I would affirm that statement wholeheartedly. I’ve had serious missteps, often acted without full clarity, or moved forward without a deep understanding of how it would affect others.

Entrepreneurialism is at the core of Benifactor. Each summer we’ll be launching a new business with five already in our portfolio. Next month I hope to share with you our next business along with discussing our fifth P: Procreation.  

But it’s this counterbalance to unbridled entrepreneurship that I’m most thankful for. Progress comes at a cost. If those costs can be mitigated through increased clarity and communication, then I think our organization will benefit immensely.

We generally see more success as a collective or, as a friend recently said:

“you can only jump so high on a trampoline alone, you need others to double bounce each other to greatness”.

Frontier, Charity Electric, Good Marketers Group, Glass Register, and Capstone can achieve more as an ohana. And to quote Lilo Pelekai, “Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.”

However, what family tends to lack is biodiversity. Too similar and a single virus can wipe everyone out.

In our case, we’re working to emphasize our differences so as to avoid a black swan event. If Frontier loses a key client, it shouldn’t correlate to significant losses within Charity Electric or Glass Register. They shouldn’t also be pursuing the same contracts.

On a broader level, Benifactor’s next business can’t be a marketing agency as hiring “Good Marketers” is reaching deep within a shallow pool. And as great as Victoria is, we need to forge out to Calgary and beyond to avoid growing our roots too deeply within a single location.

The culture I’ve grown up in, and continue to flourish in, praises the new as a virtue. My desire with Benifactor is to celebrate the benefits of innovation and entrepreneurship while respecting and affirming the emerging and the established. There is a vulnerability in announcing this desire so publicly, but I hope the additional accountability further ensures it lives out within our organization.