Compassion Is Strength

Cole Harmonson

Woman running

Running a Business is Not a Rat Race

There’s this perception of capitalism that it’s compete or die, win or lose. That the fastest path to success is to be the most cutthroat. But that doesn’t work if you’re in it for the long run.

How do I know?

I see that every day with our El Paso office. They’re so far from that cliché. And they’re our top performers in every way. They close more deals. They have fewer problems. They even have more satisfied customers. The results are in their numbers. And we rarely – very rarely – have any problems with any of their accounts.

Now here’s the kicker: our El Paso VP – Lorena Bolivar – and her team are all women. We didn’t go and tell her to hire all women — in fact, I just told her to hire whoever she needs. That’s just how it ended up.

Don’t get me wrong. She’s hired men in the past and I’m sure she’ll hire them in the future. It’s just that lately, she’s seeing more of what she needs to help grow the business in these women.

In banking and finance, it’s still a man’s world. Only 38% of staff and only 20% of executives are women. This matters — not just for diversity’s sake, but because a gender-balanced team simply performs better. I know this because I’ve seen our team in action.

So what can we learn from our best performing team?

The women on Lorena’s team have learned to bring those qualities we think of as masculine: driving by objectives, competing, getting results, achieving things. But they also tend to bring feminine leadership qualities that bring value to today’s business challenges.

What may not be so easy is for men to learn to incorporate the values we think of as feminine. Business consultant Janet Crawford is super busy providing this kind of training to corporate America. In a recent Forbes Magazine interview, she says:

Both men and women can exhibit feminine leadership qualities, but the tendency…is for women to embody them more. These include a host of characteristics such as long-term and global perspective taking, nurturing, empathy, conversational turn taking, credit distribution, inquiry, networked thinking, etc.

So, there are tons to be gained by achieving a balance. We do ourselves and our clients a disservice when we operate in a one-sided manner. At Far West Capital, we know we’re stronger when our values are more balanced.

We learned the hard way that balance is better

Several years ago, we went through some serious growing pains. We were all drive and deals, and we were killing it—or so we thought. Lulled by our success, we failed a client big time. After we repaired our relationship, we had to heal our business. So we tore it down and built it back up around some serious core values we call the Far West Five.

Sure, the Far West Five is built on excellence and execution, but we couldn’t fulfill those without team, passion, and transparency, which just so happen to align with our more “feminine” values. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Far West has flourished since we rebuilt it in a more balanced way.

Because we don’t just pay lip service to values, we’ve operationalized them. Here are three approaches that are built into our processes:

1. Cooperation

Team is our number one core value: “We contribute all we have and we recognize that together we’re more than we are apart.” Everything we do is about working, learning, failing, and succeeding together as a team. Even on the sales side, they work together and share lessons because group learning betters us all.

2. Collaboration

Of course, you’ve got to cooperate to collaborate. We do weekly goal-setting exercises and have daily standup meetings where the team can talk about what they’re doing and where they might need help, and the rest pitch in.

We also have our very own CRM so that anyone in our office could help any client at a moment’s notice. Our Matt Smulski, who’s got an excellent growth mindset, started building a tool for himself to keep better track of his clients. Then he showed it to Lori Vosefski, who used it and contributed her ideas on how to improve it. Now, we have this custom-built tool that works perfectly for our needs, but it might never have grown beyond Matt had he and Lori not worked together.

3. Compassion

This is the biggie. It’s not just our tagline: We really do help our clients unleash their potential. And we absolutely could not do it without a deep sense of compassion. We’re not just crunching numbers for clients. We’re helping them fund their dreams. We can’t do that unless we’re just as passionate about their goals as they are.

We see that passion in our El Paso office. That’s because Lorena is such a strong leader. She sets the tone for her team’s success using a stakeholder approach, like Whole Foods CEO John Mackey promotes in his book Conscious Capitalism. She’s not just concerned with whether her team meets their numbers, she’s also concerned with how they feel and how they make their customers feel. That’s all about compassion.

Let me take this further…

If you want to do better with your numbers, you have to incorporate more compassion into your operations. Compassion’s not a quality you hear a lot about in banking, but for our business, it’s essential.

To me, compassion requires a ton of strength and a ton of courage. The most compassionate people know what it’s like to get their ass kicked. We all eff up and we all have our stuff. Sometimes that’s what really makes you grow — as a team member and as an entrepreneur. But to grow, you’ve got to look at your stuff, and you can’t do it in an environment where there’s no compassion. That’s where our difference comes in.


Cole Harmonson is the CEO of Far West Capital, a company that funds the goals of high-growth entrepreneurs. Know a great company in need of capital to unleash their potential? Send them here and we’ll give them a call. 

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