While visiting NASA for the first time in 1961, John F. Kennedy introduced himself to one of the workers. The man was a janitor. What did he do for NASA? The President inquired.

“I’m helping put a man on the moon!” he answered.

“The janitor wasn’t just cleaning toilets, he was part of something bigger, something incredibly important,” write Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy in Who Not How: The Formula to Achieve Bigger Goals Through Accelerating Teamwork.

The janitor had a purpose for the work he was doing. “Without purpose, our work can become shallow because it is solely about making money,” write Dan and Ben.

When a higher purpose drives us, we show up differently. We care about the work we are doing and the people we are serving. We put our soul into what we are doing.

2: There is a current-day janitorial company in Cincinnati that owns nearly 80 percent of the market for corporate janitorial services. “Their competition is completely mystified by how JANCOA does it,” write Dan and Bob. 

Why is JANCOA so successful? Because we “acknowledge the humanity of [our associates] and use JANCOA as a platform to help them live their dreams,” says JANCOA CEO Mary Miller. The company employs more than 650 full-time associates.  

Over the past six years, the company has nearly doubled in size. Without a sales team and with no advertising. 

The reality is janitors “don’t get the respect they deserve in corporate settings,” write Dan and Ben. “Given the type of work JANCOA performs, many of their [associates] lack education and many are immigrants from other countries.”

The company’s growth began when Mary and her husband and company founder Tony Miller started asking questions and really got to know their team members. 

What was the biggest obstacle to being successful at their job? they asked. Because many of their associates did not own cars, their #1 challenge was reliable transportation to work.

So, Mary and Tony partnered with local transportation services in Cincinnati to provide free transportation for those who needed it. 

The result? Team members “were less stressed about their commute, were able to get to work on time on a consistent basis, and had better work/life balance because they spent less time commuting to and from work.”

3: But it doesn’t stop there. Mary and Tony’s “primary motivation is to dramatically improve the quality of their lives in all dimensions,” the authors write. The bigger goal is to help their team members “develop a sense of mission and purpose in life.”

Mary and Tony encourage their associates to set big goals “far beyond JANCOA and to use JANCOA as the means to get there,” note Dan and Bob. In addition to recognition for outstanding performance, they pride themselves on providing many opportunities for continuing education and personal development.

The result? In an industry that averages a 400–500 percent annual turnover rate, JANCOA boasts an 85 percent annual turnover rate. Why? Because their associates love working there. “There is a culture of caring at the company,” write Dan and Ben. “But more than that, the [team members] of JANCOA become more capable and empowered human beings by working there.”

More tomorrow.


Reflection: What lessons can I learn from the JANCOA philosophy and practices?

Action: Discuss with my team or with a colleague.

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