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Ted Leonsis says business can add real value by ensuring customers and employees are happy.
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At yesterday’s morning session at the Inc. 500|5000 Ted Leonsis discussed the difference between success and happiness. As a young entrepreneur he sold his magazine to a larger company and “declared victory.” But that didn’t translate into happiness for him. “I sold my company and I didn’t feel happy – I felt like I sold out. Is this the process? Is this what it’s supposed to feel like?”

The next thing that happened was worse - on a terrible plane ride where the flight was forced to make an emergency landing, Leonsis negotiated with the Almighty. “If I get through this, I promise I’ll leave more than I take. I made it off the plane, and I was changed, but I didn’t know how.” He then described how he tried to bring more happiness into the world of business.

His five key points for happiness:

1.    Be an active participant in multiple communities of interest. “Being comfortable in many communities and being a connector is vital. The most successful product I worked on at AOL was AIM (AOL Instant Messenger.) It really invented social media and viral marketing. We never spent any money marketing it.” The product helped customers connect to their communities of interest.

2.    Have high levels of personal expression. Leonsis blogs daily at Ted’s Take. “Companies that allow employees to have high levels of personal expression, and which allow their fans to do that as well are successful. We have the biggest blogosphere around our team. One of our fans comes to every game in a space suit. The more self expression, the more sales – the Capitals had sell outs their last 4 seasons.”

3.    Have a high level of personal empathy. Leonsis promised fans the Verizon Center would be the cleanest, most high tech facility around. But he hadn’t consulted with the cleaning crew. So, after President Obama visited a Mystics game, Leonsis stayed and cleaned the stadium. Eighteen months after cleaning the ladies room and mopping the stairs, no one talks about the President’s visit, but they do talk about the night the boss cleaned up.

4.     Be grateful and give back. “The act of giving back really moves you up in happiness,” said Leonsis.

5.    Articulate and believe there is a higher calling. “Not many people know their own higher calling is," states Leonsis. "The Dalai Lama came to the Verizon Center last year, and told people “Your journey is to find happiness.” We enjoyed our conversation, because it was the first time he had heard how business can make people happy, and that companies that generate happiness can increase value.”

Many of these ideas are covered more fully in The Business of Happiness: 6 Secrets to Extraordinary Success in Life and Work which Leonsis authored in 2010.

As a final thought, Leonsis said “We’ll all have reckonings. From that reckoning, you pivot and do something positive. I was programmed to be successful, but I went to the Library of Congress and read the Declaration of Independence, and they have all the draft versions as well. Every red line version had the same line about Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. So, our country is based on happiness. The second part of my career has been about making businesses happy.”


How do you incorporate happiness into your business for customers or employees? Let us know in the comments.




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