This month’s business spotlight focuses on Conscious Capitalism’s guiding pillar of Conscious Culture. This is the ethos – the values, principles and practices – underlying the social fabric of a business, which permeates the atmosphere of a business and connects the stakeholders to each other and to the purpose, people and processes that comprise the company.
Hungry Harvest is working to eliminate food waste and end hunger by rescuing the 20 billion pounds of produce that’s normally discarded before it ever leaves the farm. The Hungry Harvest team, led by Evan Lutz, works with produce sellers and providers to sell fresh & delicious produce whose only crime is being a little off-size, off-color, a little ugly or a little overproduced direct to consumers through a shipment program that delivers to client’s doorsteps. Hungry Harvest also donates produce to hunger-solving organizations in local communities as well as selling their produce in a SNAP Market to lower-income families.
With such a compelling message, it’s hard to imagine that Hungry Harvest was once on the verge of shutting down. Thank you, Evan, for chatting with us about steps you take to build your culture and maintain the energy and engagement in your employees to help Hungry Harvest continue to grow and succeed in your mission.
You mentioned that Hungry Harvest almost failed about a year after its formation. Why do you think that is?
I didn’t pay attention to my employees. I have since made a commitment to spend 30% of my time focusing on the culture of the company. In the last four years, we have grown from working in my college dorm room to having 56 employees scattered throughout nine states.
With employees in different places, do you struggle in maintaining their engagement?
Yes, we struggle every day as there is a miscommunication of intentions. We constantly talk about ways to relate our everyday activities back to the core purpose of our business. We focus on honest feedback, making decisions and a plan on how to get there. We use an online communication tool that centralizes our information and discussions, which has helped.
What practices do you believe have helped to create a conscious culture at Hungry Harvest?
We have three core tenets that we focus on regularly.
- Honesty – Communicating clearly and seeking true feedback from the team to better the organization
- Transparency – Knowing the impact that each employee makes helps to motivate them and that their work makes a difference
- Vulnerability – Creating a trusting environment among team members; built on how failures and mistakes are handled
Your attention to your employees is admirable. What activities do you partake in that are aimed at inspiring those around you?
We hold numerous meetings on a standard basis that focus on the employee.
- Logic and Emotion (L&E) – What challenges are they facing? Are they overwhelmed? Do they have any current problems?
- Feedback Sessions – Allows the employee to speak openly about issues.
- Honesty Meetings – These are all-hands meetings we hold every quarter to generate ideas on how to become more effective as a company.
We also train on how to speak up honestly and comfortably. We encourage all new employees to read “Crucial Conversations” by Kerry Patterson, which focuses on persuasive and calm communication. Anyone can come directly to me if they have a problem. Not one employee has left voluntarily from the business.
It is clear from our discussion with Evan Lutz that maintaining a high level of engagement and enthusiasm in stakeholders takes deliberate and consistent focus even with a corporate purpose as inspiring as that of Hungry Harvest. Communication, reinforcement and attention to stakeholder involvement is key to building that conscious culture.