I Am Writing A Book. This Is My Prologue.

I am writing a book. It is titled CRAP: Building a Modern-Day Business Around Modern-Day People. Yep, you read that correctly.

I have decided to share the prologue, What You Are About to Read. Although several chapters are already written, I feel that engaging with my colleagues and friends on the subject topic will help shape the book. Thus, I am looking for feedback on what you would personally find to be an interesting narrative within any given chapter that piques your interest. I must admit, I feel vulnerable but equally as excited to pursue a longstanding personal goal. Happy readings.

What You Are About to Read

I’m obsessed with learning. Many of my close friends and colleagues may argue that it’s to a fault. An inherent biological compulsion drives me to understand how and why things are the way they are. It’s as if I’m in a perpetual state of digesting information to satisfy a brain craving. Just writing this makes me question if I’m suffering from an undiagnosed addiction. What exactly classifies as an addiction?

Oh no, it’s happening.

There is, however, one question that has simultaneously beleaguered and motivated me for the past 15 years. Previously undigested by my insatiable craving and potential addiction, it serves as the foundation for this book. The question is this: how has the business world evolved to a point where companies are now perfectly fashioned to deprive employees of their basic human needs? More specifically, our psychological needs. With approximately 36% of waking hours spent working, why do so many spend it at a place offering monetary compensation in exchange for fruitless monotony?

Here’s why. Employers have mastered the exploitation of our persistent struggles to satisfy our physiological and safety needs. Logically, what do we have to worry about if we get paid to show up and complete a task? If a job feels transactional, it’s easier to achieve and control uniformity. And uniformity is good for business.

Or is it?

Every business seeks to maximize profit. I take no issue with that. Without sustainable profits, a business is not likely to survive the unrelenting modern-day pressures applied by technological innovation and globalization. But what happens when the persistent pursuit of increased profit fuels decision-making and swallows organizational culture? You get a finite mentality that inevitably impacts performance and, consequently, longevity. In fact, over the past 60 years, the average tenure of an S&P 500 company has declined from 33 to 24 years. And according to leading economists, 12 years is in sight. Mergers and acquisitions, private equity, and innovation indeed play a pivotal role in the continued decline. But organizations also merge, acquire, invest, or innovate with the sole intent of increasing profits. No matter how you slice and dice it, net income is in the driver’s seat.

The thought of this perpetual rat race is exhausting. The unremitting pressure business stakeholders impose upon themselves to quickly and constantly deliver an increase to the bottom line requires an exorbitant amount of focus. Ironically, this means there is no energy left to expend on the one stable factor that positively influences business performance, and subsequently, profits — the basic human needs of employees. High functioning teams composed of personally and professionally motivated resources is at the heart of any top-performing business. Yes, some outliers maintain natural economic moats—for now. Yet, the lion’s share of long-term sustainable growth businesses, of which there are few, bond over a single common denominator — the commitment to helping employees achieve self-actualization by prioritizing basic physiological and psychological human needs. If, and only if, employees reach their full potential, can a business expect to reach its own.

I got a little ahead of myself. Let me take a step back. I graduated from Texas Tech University in the fall of 2007 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Shout-out to my parents for timing my birth so that I could enter the workforce at the start of the worst economic recession in modern history. To make matters worse, I was, and remain, a pretty awful engineer. Engineers are built to meticulously seek finite answers, whereas I am, apparently, genetically predisposed to ponder infinite questions. Nonetheless, I accepted a job offer from a multinational engineering and construction company and relocated to a remote construction site in South Texas. This is where my learning of corporate culture began.

In the interest of time, let’s fast-forward to 2013. The boring nuances of my life story are not why you’re here. There I was sitting at my desk in a man-camp trailer in the Ras Al-Khair desert of Saudi Arabia. That’s correct, Saudi Arabia. (Okay, some parts are not as boring as others.) I was a cost control engineer, otherwise known as a bean counter, building an intimate relationship with Microsoft Word and Excel. For three years, I spent most of my days chasing, capturing, and analyzing large data sets to produce weekly and monthly reports for executive management. I was living Saudi Arabian Office Space. “It’s not that I’m lazy. It’s that I just don’t care.”

When I was not battling with graphs and charts, I was often listening to my colleagues’ disdain for uninspiring daily routine. The company this, my boss that. Yet, this was not unique to me, the company, or even a consequence of being in a remote desert in Saudi Arabia. (Okay, perhaps some of it was). This was business culture status quo, and it was crippling me. Each progressive day of work became increasingly difficult to find any sense of purpose. I had to make a change. This did not mean moving to a new but similar company only to land in the same predicament. I wanted more control.

That leads us to today, where I find myself the co-founder and CEO of Nexus PMG, an organization dedicated to reducing our carbon footprint by supporting the development and financing of large-scale renewable infrastructure projects. My purpose? I want to build a better world. But building a better world starts with building a better business. And building a better business requires an intense focus on building better people. This means dismissing outdated corporate norms and being comfortable with the unconventional. This requires a deep knowledge of human behavior, motivation, generational shifts, and self-actualization.

I invite you to join my pursuit of building a business designed specifically to satisfy the hierarchical needs of employees. One constructed to provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment. One that strikes the appropriate balance between organizational and personal goals to elevate business performance. A business where sustainable profit is the organic result of enabling employees to be the best version of themselves.

Here’s a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of what lies ahead. 

In Chapter 1, Maslow & the CRAP Framework, we visit Abraham Maslow’s priority of human needs essential in the pursuit of self-actualization. Yes, we are going to get our psychology on. When we fundamentally comprehend human behavior and needs, we can reverse engineer a business framework intended to satisfy them. I have titled this framework “Continuous Re-Evaluation for Advancing People,” or CRAP. In short, this chapter consists of nothing but CRAP. This will be fun.

If, for some reason, you are still reading this book, allow me to introduce Chapter 2, Back to the Basics. People are genuinely exhausted from the constant fear of losing their jobs. Rightfully so. Without income, we risk endangering our basic physiological and safety needs. And yet, even as unemployment reaches historic lows, our physical health and well-being continue to decline. What gives? In this chapter, we learn how our workdays are systematically depriving us of our basic physiological needs, despite the perception they are protecting them. We will dive into topics of human behavior such as sleep deprivation, hydration, diet, compensation, and technology addiction to better understand how to build a modern-day business around modern-day life.

From here on, things get weird—but stay with me. We move out of the physical realm and into the world of psychological needs, starting with the need to belong. In Chapter 3, Purposefully Purposeful, we explore the concept of a just cause, that which gives work meaning. If a business does not have a purpose, its employees can never belong to something. Our need for belongingness is traditionally satisfied by family, friends, and community. But why should our place of work offer anything less than interpersonal relationships united through a common purpose? In this chapter, we will discuss the importance of establishing a just cause and analyze a case study showcasing its impact on employee performance.

As complex emotional creatures, we need love and affection. Maslow made it very clear that this is a key part of human motivation. In our personal lives, we fulfill this need through compassionate and empathetic relationships with the ones we love. But there is no time for compassion at the office. The workplace is not an episode of Barney, get your job done—right? In Chapter 4, Return on Empathy, I call bullshit and we instead examine the profound benefits of being an empathy-driven business. Compassion is a key variable in driving employee performance. It should not take an episode of Undercover Boss to realize such a truth. In this chapter, we will discuss what it takes to integrate empathy into your brand and explore the evidence that empathy is good for business. Oh, and if you disagree with me on this one, you are probably an asshole.

Next up, our esteem needs. There are several constituent needs involved in achieving a sense of self-esteem—the respect and admiration of others, confidence, and achievement, to name a few. In theory, work culture is tailored to satisfy such needs. In Chapter 5, Culture Is King, we explore establishing a culture that attracts the right talent and maximizes the assembly of high-functioning teams. In the event you are uncertain, both are good for business. However, I have no intention of misleading you. There is no formula for perfecting workplace culture. It is the reflection of a business’s personality, which like human beings, is rightfully unique. The appropriate work culture is one that captures that uniqueness and renders it the foundation for motivation.

Chapter 6, The Education Paradox, is my personal favorite. Over the years, education has adopted a cruel and negative connotation. Such undertone is largely due to the mountain of debt that now comes attached to institutional education. What’s worse, our education system invokes a mentality of being content with having learned enough. Yet, continuously educating oneself is essential to preserve self-esteem, and once again, good for business. Hence the education paradox. For most organizations, compulsory boring-ass corporate training programs offering a certificate “signed” by the CEO serve as an excuse for continued education. News flash: no one is learning a damn thing, and self-esteem is declining. This chapter will address learning initiatives, primarily low-cost techniques, that extend beyond job-specific training courses—learning that promotes self-esteem while simultaneously improving performance.

The final chapter of this book encompasses all the others. Maslow did an excellent job of prioritizing our motivational needs, but the nuances of our priorities transform with each generation. What is top of the priority list for the incumbent generation is unlikely the same for the successor. Thus, organizations must learn to continuously evaluate ever-evolving generational dynamics to unearth and embrace the existential driving forces that shape and motivate each. In Chapter 7, Attack of the Millennials, we will examine one of the greatest generational transitions in modern history, and the undeniable impact on businesses caught flat-footed. Doing so will allow us to better understand the business significance of maintaining acute knowledge of the motivational factors that drive each generation.

Before I progressed with writing this book, I asked a very close and trusted friend to provide honest feedback. A momentous conversation ensued that ultimately influenced its content. He defined three things as essential. First, my personality must be reflected in my writing. Second, my journey building Nexus PMG must be woven into the narrative. Third, “don’t write your book as if we live in a fantasy world”. This last one stuck with me. The truth is that you can’t motivate everyone. Human beings are vastly complex and there is no one-size-fits-all organizational culture. That’s why this book is not a cookie-cutter roadmap. This book is designed to offer ideas and inspire thoughts on how to better your business by motivating as many employees as possible.

There you have it—one big piece of CRAP. Let’s begin.

Ben Hubbard

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