TOMS Shoes CEO Reflects on MOD Pizza's Mission
TOMS has a "one-for-one" philosophy, which means it donates a pair for each pair purchased.
How do you sustain a mission-driven company as it grows in units and geography? I put this question to Jim Alling in an interview this week, for an upcoming story I’m doing about Seattle-based MOD Pizza, where Alling is an early investor and serves on the board.
Alling knows a thing or two about mission-driven companies. He was hired as CEO of TOMS in 2015, the company known for giving a pair of shoes to a person in need for each pair bought. TOMS has now expanded into a coffee venture, in which it provides a week’s worth of water to a person in need for every bag of coffee sold.
“I love being part of a mission-driven company, and I feel like this is a company that has a mission as well,” Alling said, referring to MOD. “At the core what I’m concerned about as an investor and a board member is that they stay true to the foundation of the company.”
(MOD founders Scott and Ally Svenson are fanatical about using the platform of pizza restaurants to provide great jobs to people who need second chances. More on that in an upcoming cover story.)
How to do it? Alling talked at length on the subject, but here are a few keys: Taking the time in every single hire to attract the people who really believe in MOD’s mission. Seeking out franchise partners who share MOD’s values, even turning away bigger, sophisticated operators who don’t. And, especially, bring in the right private equity fund that preserves the mission as well.
The founder of TOMS, Blake Mycoskie, knows a whole lot about mission, too. In a piece in the January/February 2016 issue of the Harvard Business Review, he said he took a sabbatical from TOMS in the fall of 2012 to do some soul-searching. “What had once been my reason for being now felt like a job,” he wrote. “Eventually I came to a surprising conclusion: I felt lost because TOMS had become more focused on process than on purpose…After my time away from the business, I returned with renewed energy. My mission was clear: Make TOMS a movement again.”
That’s when he also, pushed by his new private equity fund, brought in Alling, whom he calls a “world-class CEO” in the piece.
In a week when Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf testified that the cross-selling debacle at the bank was essentially the fault of 5,300 lower-level, front-line employees who were fired, the discussion and thoughts brought welcome relief.