The Integration of Love and Business

by Jonathan Cottrell


Driving and texting. Church and state. Love and business.

At first glance, one would think these things should stay as separate from one another as possible. And, frankly, that’s how most people treat them — as combinations that simply don’t mix well, each half of the given pair to be compartmentalized and engaged with on its own.

The thought of love being exercised in the context of a business environment is an especially strange one to most people. As a working society, we’ve been conditioned to rely upon our minds and keep most of our hearts outside the office. No discussion of personal matters. No hugging. No letting friendships or relationships interfere with business. And, especially, no saying, “I love you.”

The Data Suggests Otherwise

Raj Sisodia, one of the co-founders of conscious capitalism, revealed in his well-researched book Firms of Endearment that one can, absolutely, “build a high-performance business on love.” In fact, these companies that embrace love as an ideal have outperformed the S&P 500 by a factor of 14 times and “Good to Great” companies six times, over a period of 15 years.

The trend toward this more mindful form of capitalism has been instrumental in revealing the power — and, yes, performance — of businesses engaging in cultivating cultures that ambitiously connect people to each other, messy emotions, bleeding hearts and all.

But the questions remain: What should love in business look like? Do we have to use the word “love,” or should we prefer safer words, like “care”? Should CEOs and executives be known for their outward demonstration of love toward partners, employees and customers?

Embracing Love First

At the local startup Hopscratch, we’ve embraced the word “love” — and the expression of it —in some ways that intimidate some people but intrigue most. In our five-fold promise to every stakeholder who engages with our business, we lead with “Love first.” True, even Enron listed “integrity” as a corporate value, but for us, these are not just the words-on-a-wall that many companies write to make their investor documents or website look better.

Placing love first in all things means we prioritize people over profit. Within our walls is an interdependent community of people breaking down societal norms, unreserved with their love for one another and the customers who make it possible for us to work within such an absurdly different culture. As our small company continues to grow, we’re convinced that love never fails — or, put another way, love always succeeds.

We realize this is not the definition of success many think of when first thinking about companies, but we don’t see a need to compartmentalize ourselves, living one way while on the clock and a different when off it. Co-workers are the people we spend the most time with during the week, so why should we treat them any differently than we do our family or friends? Why should we close our emails “Best” and not “Love”? Why should we rely upon firm handshakes instead of friendly embraces? Why should we choose to avoid emotional topics of conversation rather than diving into the personal lives of those we work with every day?

Love is not something that requires separation from business any longer. In fact, love is perhaps the most potent possible force for good in business, capable of fostering environments of trust, radical candor, health, and even life-change right where you would not expect it: within the beige corporate walls and cubicles of your very own company. Let us love others like we try do all things in our work: with excellence.

A serial starter, community builder, and self-proclaimed cranial nudist, Jonathan Cottrell serves entrepreneurs and their communities in Love as the chief entrepreneur officer of Hopscratch and early instigator behind local movements like #yesphx and PHX Startup Week.  

Love in Business: A Three-Part Series

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