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Just Say Yes!

While attending a strategic meeting in New York, I was asked by a fellow participant how a specific company had come to be so successful. I thought for a moment and then replied, “They always say YES!” I explained how this particular company has been asked by some of the largest organizations in the world to find solutions and do seemingly impossible things, and how they always say YES! and then go about figuring out how to achieve the desired results.

My answer must really have resonated with the other people present, because by the afternoon, the importance of just saying YES! had become a key theme of the discussion. In fact, it even carried over to a train ride the next day, when a colleague began to talk about how we sometimes just need to give an affirmative answer.  Then I remembered how many times the power of YES had worked for me. This was particularly true when I sold my pet food company, Pet Promise, to Nestle Purina. What I realized, when looking back on the due diligence process, was how often I was told you can’t do this or that, because labeling laws won’t let you, or the color of your packaging won’t work (I wanted zen colors), and it was very apparent to me once again that it was much easier for people in that big company to just say NO! rather than YES! to anything. Now, I’m not saying this is true of all the employees of Nestle or any other large corporation, just that it reminded me of my own personal experience in overcoming that built-in resistance. The culture of Pet Promise, on the other hand, and our organizing principles always made us more inclined to say YES! when presented with any legitimate request or suggestion.

So, what if we started using this most powerful word as it relates to some of the real problems facing us today – for example, like saying YES! To finding a more expedient and Earth-friendly method of handling Los Angeles sewage sludge than shipping 50 truckloads per day to Kern County to dispose of.  Or to eliminating the generation of carbon into the environment without impacting jobs or growth. Or to packaging that can be re-used over and over again. Perhaps if we all took a more positive attitude toward our ability to bring about such solutions, we could create and implement a “circular economy” that would provide every product  designed with an after-life destination. A circular economy, that is, with jobs and factories built around reprocessing all materials to their highest and best use, rather than one that uses up valuable resources while generating more toxic waste and climate-altering greenhouse gases.

When you stop to think about it, wasn’t saying YES! to impossible undertakings – from the construction of the Panama Canal and the Hoover Dam to the total economic conversion that enabled us to emerge victorious from World War II – what once made America the greatest and most can-do country on Earth?

Think about it, and then just say YES!



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