#29 – Transitioning From a Traditional Business to a Social Enterprise

with Bernie Geiss, Founder of Cove Continuity Advisors

,Bernie-Weiss-Cove-Continuity-Advisors

After traveling and studying yoga and meditation in the East, Bernie Geiss returned to work in North Vancouver. Transitioning back to Western life, he entered the insurance field, where he eventually founded his own financial services company. But Bernie found himself yearning for a company that truly reflected his values and principles, which led to his company’s transition to becoming an impact-driven business.

Cove Continuity Advisors focuses on honesty and accountability, interacting with clients with complete transparency. They are now B-Corp certified, members of 1% for the Planet, and Bernie has become increasingly involved in First Nation reconcili-action projects and even nationwide legislation on the issue.

In our episode, Bernie shares valuable insight into the experience of a traditional business transitioning into an impact-driven business and what this means for the operations of the company as well as for him personally. He highly recommends reflection and third-party guidance, and gives us his guide on how to go about finding the right advisor for your company. 

A few takeaways from our conversation:

  • While each company faces challenges, choose which you will face: challenges of profitability or challenges of principle and authenticity.
  • Outside, third-party guidance can provide an objective reflection of you and your company, which can help you make progress and celebrate the progress you’ve already made.
  • Find time for internal reflection with yourself and your team to keep your principles at the core of your company: what feels right, what feels wrong, and who do you want to be as a company?

Show Transcription:

0:00 (Cory) — Hey y’all. It’s Cory here with the Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Podcast hosted by Grow Ensemble, a digital marketing training and consulting company that helps better businesses and better business people expand their impact through expanding their presence online. And yes, we did change the title of our podcast. I appreciate you noticing. On today’s episode I’m speaking with Bernie Geiss, the founder of Cove Continuity Advisers, a certified B Corporation in North Vancouver, British Columbia. Bernie takes us on the journey to what Cove Continuity has become today. We talk about everything from his five years traveling the world, practicing and studying yoga and meditation, to now here in 2019 where Cove Continuity is one of the leading insurance brokerage agencies and impact advising firms in Canada. We talk about the benefits and appropriate practice of seeking and receiving outside feedback and guidance, how traditional businesses can transition to impact-driven businesses, and so much more.

01:16 (Cory) — I cannot wait for you to listen in to this excellent conversation with Bernie, but before you do, if you are uncertain as to whether your impact-driven businesses, digital marketing strategy will grow both your business and your impact, I recommend you head over to grow ensemble.com/assessment to check out our little free self assessment tool that we’ve assembled for social business leaders like yourself to see how your current digital marketing efforts stack up on what sort of online growth strategies will get long-term results and actually help you expand your business’s impact to the levels that you hope. It’s a great way to build out a little bit of a to do list or perhaps get a rush of confidence if you and your business can check off some of these boxes on our Grow Ensemble digital marketing essentials. Again, that is growensemble.com/assessment. Anyways, let’s get onto the show.

02:19 (Bernie) — I started in the insurance business about 30 years ago. Unlike the story, you know, I really enjoyed the podcast that you did on Bodhi Surf + Yoga, your interview with Adrianne. And what I was really struck by is the difference between the origin story of a company like Bodhi versus a company like Cove Continuity Advisors. The main reason is because we’re a traditional business. I started out in the insurance business 30 years ago. I was an insurance agent for a large Canadian life insurance company. I had just come back from spending five years traveling around the world, studying yoga and meditation, living in ashrams in northern India, living in a Buddhist monastery in Thailand, and spending time wandering around as almost a homeless person for a number of years practicing yoga and meditation in very remote parts of New Zealand in Australia. So I’d spent a lot of time alone.

03:13 — And when I came back to Canada after that five year period, I thought, well, what am I going to do with my life? I had very little money. I decided to apply with a major life insurance company to go into life insurance because at the time, back in the 80s, there was a real estate boom going on and then there was a collapse. There was also a collapse in the stock market. And I wanted to choose an occupation which was not necessarily cyclical. And the life insurance industry seemed like the right one because when people, when the economy’s bad, people become more security-conscious and when the economy’s good, people like to tuck things away for a rainy day in the future. So it was a very logical thinking process that I went through. It was not something that I was attracted to because of the glamor of the business because there was very little glamor. There is very little glamor in the insurance business. I didn’t have any formal education or training.

4:09 (Cory) — It’s wild that you traveled abroad and had the experience of living such a different lifestyle than is typically encouraged on this side of the world. And it seems in a pretty uncompromising way. You were able to make that adjustment returning to Canada.  I’m interested, was there any challenge of obstacle in that transition that you think kind of set your trajectory going forward once you got back to Canada and the Western lifestyle?

04:34 (Bernie) — I got rejected by a large insurance company in Canada, which typically doesn’t happen if you have a pulse. So for me it was an education and I decided, okay, well what do I need to do to become an insurance advisor? And they said, well, go get a job, get a driver’s license, maybe get a bank account, you know, just do the things that normal people do and when they want to show that they actually exist in the Western world. They didn’t say it that way, but that’s what the implication was. And he said, oh, and by the way, get a suit and to come to your next interview. So I got a job working for Nature’s Path a nationwide natural foods with Arran Stevens and Ratana Stephens. I ended up cooking in their restaurant in Vancouver.

05:15 (Bernie) — Later on they invited me to be an inside salesperson for Nature’s Path. Arran Stevens was just starting, just starting his cereal brand than they invited me to be an outside salesperson. So I drove around the province and went to large supermarkets and tried to get them to sell health food, non-alcoholic beer, Yves Veggie Cuisine, which is a popular vegetarian meat replacement product. So that was back in the 80s. So it was a very different space. After being there for about 14 months, I went back to London Life and I said, oh, okay, well you look like a person so maybe we’ll hire you. That was the beginning of another 14 month period, which was one of the most difficult times in my life. As you can imagine, you know, wandering around the world, meditating and doing yoga and then working and being a vegetarian and working in the natural food industry; getting plunged into the world of business and finance in the 80s, which was a year of tremendous, but would you say a tremendous prosperity for a period of that time, interest rates started going up.

06:24 — It was a very difficult economic time and I was an outsider, so I came into the industry. I did, did my best. I did very well in the first year, but I knew I didn’t like it. I went off to join a very prominent brokerage agency in the city for insurance after, you know, requesting, having breakfast with three of the top people in the city, got invited to join their group, lasted about two years there. Then I realized also that the entire work ethic did not sit well with me. During that time. I organized probably one of the largest international yoga conferences in Canada at the time. I took 150 people up into the mountains to a mountain lodge with a group, spent the time doing yoga meditation, getting to know and spending time with all the friends that I had made when I traveled in the East.

07:16 (Cory) — I find it interesting that you kept the practices you had adopted in your travels and continued to live and share them once you were back. I’m curious, especially with such a big event, 150 people, how do those practice continue to impact you and your way of living and working back at home?

07:34 (Bernie) — So coming back from that a yoga retreat, which was in 1989, I realized that I needed to do something which more clearly reflected who I was as a person. So I left a brokerage agency and I went out on my own. I worked out on my own. I decided that I was going to do business the way that I felt that it should be done, which is that I don’t use sales tech-I didn’t use sales techniques. I rejected those. I didn’t believe in the manipulative way of selling. So carried on on that basis for a number of years and it became-I became successful. I developed an approach to doing planning versus just selling insurance, which was quite an anomaly in those days. So I developed a financial planning program in excel that became quite sophisticated and I ended up doing my first fee for service planning engagements back in 1991, which was an extreme rarity in our industry at the time.

08:34 — In fact, nobody else did it. Everybody made their money by commissions, which I also did from selling insurance. But, uh, for me it was about doing the right thing and putting the right products in place, being completely transparent and accountable. And that was a way for me to align with the values that I had had developed or had come to know as who I was over the years of my practice. I continued to practice meditation I still do to this day in my practice has evolved since that time. And eventually I formed a Geiss Financial Services, which evolved into Sparhawk Financial Services, which was the mythical knight of a series of books by David Eddings. And I thought that was pretty cool. And so I named the company Sparhawk, eventually became securities licensed. Fast forward, eventually decided I didn’t want to be in the securities business, sold my investment business, focused on insurance, moved out to Deep Cove after meeting my wife and having some kids and I want it to be close to where they went to school.

09:38 — So I moved our business into a small community outside of Vancouver called Deep Cove. It’s a dead end into a very beautiful little community right on the ocean. And operated Cove Financial Planning out of that location for about 10 years. Realized that we needed to have bigger space. We had skunks under the house that we converted to an office. We had wasps in the attic, we had very little heat. We had, it was very rustic, but it suited us. And so we moved into a more corporate space back in 2009 closer to Vancouver in this, the premises that we’re in now. But what it did was gave us space to create an environment that really reflected what we wanted. Where we wanted to spend our days.

10:25 (Cory) — That is something that I spend a lot of time thinking about, we surely spend so much time where we work, but what kind of steps did y’all take to make your workspace a space you enjoy being in? And what experiences allowed y’all to keep developing within that philosophy and goal?

10:42 (Bernie) — We have a workout room, with a treadmill, stationary bike, shower. We also have a full yoga and meditation room. We have a yoga* instructor who comes in once a week to teach a class. The meditation room is used at any time by anybody who wants to just check out of whatever they’re doing, to have some alone time and we encourage it very much. And then in 2015, it was even 2016…2013, I met Michéle Soregaroli who is a business coach who got to know me through a friend and she said, you know, I look at your business, Bernie and I know I’ve come to know you. And one of the things that is really clear to me is just that your business does definitely doesn’t reflect outwardly who you are as person and the values that you operate by and who all of your staff operate by. And I think you need to tell that story. And that’s where we decided to rebrand Cove into Cove Continuity Advisors.

11:46 (Cory) — As you decided to rebrand, what was your focus? Rebranding is often a change of name or maybe a logo, but it seems like y’all were embarking on a rebranding to the core. What kind of questions did you ask at that time and what were some of your focuses and goals as you started that transition?

12:07 (Bernie) — We went through a very extensive deep search about what our commitments are, what our purpose is, and we came to the purpose of, we want to lead a fundamental shift from unconscious entrepreneurial-ism to enlightened continuity. And that was a way for us to integrate the philosophical side of what we all deeply believe in with what was going on in the world. That there’s this unconscious entrepreneurial-ism, which is this desire to earn profits and to save money and to consolidate and concentrate wealth in the hands of a small group of people to the exclusion of many people who are working for those people. It was through Michéle and that evolution of rebranding that we discovered the B-Corp movement. We, I did this, I went through the certification process, the assessment and realized, you know, I think we’re pretty good, but I don’t want to do this because it’s possible that I’ll get rejected.

13:01 — And I remembered my time at that large insurance company who took everybody with a pulse except me. And so I thought, well, I’m going to go through the assessment. I’m going to pretend it doesn’t matter. And if we can’t pass the assessment, then I’m okay with that, which I probably wouldn’t have been, but we ended up scoring fairly high and I got quite excited about it and I started exploring how could we become a better company. So unlike Bodhi, which started out as an impact impact business model, we were a traditional business that was trying to become an impact business model. So that brings us to 2016 when we finally certified as a B Corp. We’re very excited about that. We’re the first B Corp Certified insurance-related business in Canada. We became a member of 1% for the Planet through that process and we’re very excited to be a member of 1% for the Planet, pledging 1% of our top line revenue to environmental activism and advocacy.

14:03 — We also started to discover and talk about, you know, what we wanted to do in our community and our kids were very fortunate and they were brought up with not really lacking anything. I don’t think we consider ourselves ultra wealthy are wealthy, but they went to a good school. They had good food, they had a family that loved them. And we thought that their desire to go off and do, to do work in the Dominican to build houses with their school was a great idea. So they did that. But what we realized is that there are many organizations that send money and resources overseas to help communities that are in need. And I bow down to those individuals and organizations. But one of the things that became, has become really evident in Canada is that through the Truth and Reconciliation Action Committee that was held in Canada, there was a discovery and the publicizing of a tremendous injustice that the indigenous people of Canada had experienced.

15:07 — And my wife and I thought, wow, you know, rather than send our money overseas, why don’t we look at what we can do locally to help First Nation communities and indigenous peoples walk through or, or become yet it’s a difficult way or it’s a difficult thing to express because helping is one of the things that we would like to do. But more importantly, we want to create a bridge between the immigrant communities that we live in and the indigenous communities that we also live with.

15:42 (Cory) — It’s always amazing when you look around your own community and you find these issues that have been right in front of you for so long, possibly without even noticing them. So, finding your role or responsibility in facing those issues I know can be difficult, albeit extremely important. I’d love to hear more on how y’all found that and how it developed. I know y’all have ongoing efforts building that bridge.

16:04 (Bernie) — There is a segregation that has taken place over the years. I don’t know if a lot of people realize this or understand it, but the apartheid in South Africa was actually modeled after the way that the Canadian government had planned to deal with the indigenous people of Canada. So our history has a very dark side and we obviously as immigrants have a tremendous amount of privilege.

16:33 — I being a white male have that, you know, traditional privilege and I feel that we have to use that to do the best work we can to include others that are not as privileged. And also to help our community embrace diversity. So in approaching a teacher at our kids’ high school, we express that we would like to direct our resources to creating inclusion and diversity within our community with indigenous people. And so we arranged to do the first ever Reconciliation Action Project, which involved taking a large group of students. Well, it wasn’t a large group-taking 12 students to a First Nation reserve in British Columbia where we did a weekend action project of actually doing work. So we help rebuild a community garden. We picked up garbage that was dumped by other outside community members in the ditches around the reserve.

17:39 — We did a restoration project or activities around the community, a community center. And during that time we spent time with the elders learning about their culture and learning about the stories of their experiences of residential schools and settlements, which we found extremely difficult to listen to. But the expression and the bravery and the openness by which these elders were willing to share was truly remarkable. So it was a very moving experience for us as the sponsors of this project and also the students, the teachers, and the community members. So we had made a decision that we want to do this on an ongoing basis. We want to do this in the future. We did a two other action projects before we created a new society called the Kileepi Piseese Reconciliation Society, which is dedicated to creating a partnership between B Corp companies, the education system and First Nation communities. And so that got launched this year and we have a project coming up in the fall. So we’ve evolved from a business which is very traditional and have tried to bring our values that we hold dear to our hearts on a personal basis and permeate our entire business with those values and also extend those values outwardly to our community. And towards the environment.

19:08 (Cory) — That has me really curious because you know, you seem so based in principles, you know, maybe familiar with your own values and you have this business coach come to you and reflect that you know, your business, your organization is not a reflection of those. So it’s interesting to me as you, you know, you bring that up, it seems as if you’re going through a journey, a bit of like finding your way as to what was the proper way to business in such a way that felt good to you. I’m interested, what do you think was the constraint perhaps in that period of time that you know, maybe had your business, your organization like having a gap between the values that you embody, the principles that you embody and what actually manifested into reality.

19:52 (Bernie) — That’s a really great, great question. And it’s an important one. And it’s I wrote a piece called Confessions of a Reluctant Environmentalist. You know, I can’t take credit for the creativity and coming up with a name because I borrowed it from Yvon Chouinard book. Let My People Go Surfing: the Confessions of a Reluctant Businessman. And I came from that other, that other perspective. But to answer your question is that when operating in a traditional business space, there’s a tremendous amount of fear that if we express our true values and our personality, that we’ll be rejected. And I experienced that when I went to apply for that first job in the insurance industry. So basically what happens is that we get– we convince ourselves that in order to be successful in business, we need to project a persona and a way of doing business, which is acceptable by the outside.

20:44—So there’s a huge shift that takes place when we discover that we want to get more out of our business personally. And we also want to contribute more with our business. And there’s two ways that I look at becoming successful in business. We can go out and do market research and figure out what other people want and then we can mold ourselves to deliver what other people want. And that to me, was the way that I was operating as a business person. And I can tell you with great sincerity and honesty that it was a very hollow and empty feeling. So in having that conversation and having an outside person give us the support and confidence that maybe there was space for us to express ourselves more true, more authentically and more genuinely. And then it was a matter of deciding, okay, well what are those values that we feel really are important to us?

21:42 — And we came up with the creator, the motto, creating space to breathe, space to breathe. We want to create space to breathe in. Everything we do, we want to create it in our interactions with each other. We want to create an interactions with customers. We want to create that with partners, with our suppliers. We want our community to have space to breathe. And what we mean by that is we want to have, create an atmosphere where people are comfortable enough that they can just take that sigh and that deep breath and feel safe and secure. So to answer your question, if you come back to your question is that I believe that I was operating on the basis of how I thought that a business person in our industry needed to operate and therefore adopted the traditional approach to sales, to marketing, to product presentations, and then discovered that maybe there’s a better way.

22:40 — And that journey to find the better way has been extremely rewarding and has led us in a whole bunch of different directions. So if you were to ask me, you know, what does our future look like? I can honestly say, I don’t know, but I’m really excited to go there because when I look back at where we’ve come, uh, even in the short time since we’ve been B-Corp certified, I realized how much more we all get out of being part of Cove Continuity Advisers as owners, employees, and how much we’ve been able to accomplish. That’s just been outside of our core business as well.

23:14 (Cory) — You know, I’m sure. There’s, there’s a lot of folks in the early days of, you know, running went what they hope to be an impact-focused business in some capacity or in, you know, some sort of traditional service style business. You know, like you mentioned Cove began, and wondering, you know, like how do I balance perhaps what seems to be maybe most authentic to myself and the business that I want to run, with maybe some of the real tangible, maybe early stage business issues, especially in service of business development and ensuring that you do have the projects and clients and things like that coming into sustain, you know, this business. So I’m, I’m curious maybe if you have any input as to I guess looking backwards, you know, thinking, I guess, how do you not compromise, you know, on those, those values in the early stage when maybe might feel like you’re kind of against a wall a little bit in trying to, to keep the business alive and grow to the stage to, you know, open up more flexibility?

24:16 (Bernie) — Well, that’s a really good question because even where we are today, we are confronted with that all the time. As a new business, as a company that wants to move towards becoming an impact-based business, you’re going to be constantly faced with those decisions. And the advice that I give is that you need to have a foundation of values to check in with that you really believe reflect who you are, that you can test those against internally. And that’s why meditation is so important to us because it gives us an opportunity to reflect inwardly, to ask the question. Like I’m faced with these business decisions all the time. And in some cases they are very disturbing in terms of the implications of following a certain path, yet they’re very inviting from a profit perspective and time and time again, we’ve just reviewed internally both as a group, but also individually to say, what would we feel really good with? 

25:20 — What is the way that we would want somebody to look at the way we operate it and say, wow, they really stuck by their principles. And I don’t think, I don’t think where you are in the profitability part of your business matters in taking that approach. I think Bodhi has taken that approach right from day one and they’ve run into the challenges that they’ve run into. I didn’t take that approach from day one. I ran into challenges along the way. I think we just have to pick what we want our challenge to be. Do we want our challenge to be, you know, meeting our profitability targets or do we want our challenges to be dealing with our own internal conflict about being inauthentic. And I think the first one is easier to deal with. It prevents us from overspending, it makes us think about how we spend our money, it helps us think about, well, if we’re going to spend money, what impact we want that money to have in terms of the companies that we support, et cetera.

26:27 — I think the internal dialogue and the internal reflection needs to happen right out of the gates and each person is going to find what works for them and what what they feel comfortable with and whether or not there is a compromise in their decision making process. So we were the first company insurance company in Canada to become commission-transparent. This is a huge deal because I can tell you that insurance commissions in Canada are very large, and to tell somebody how much money you’re making based on the sale of a product to them is there is a certain amount of fear that if they find out how much money I make, they’re not going to want to do business with me because they’re going to think they’re being ripped off. So when we, when we launched our initiative to be compensation transparent in early 2018 we had a lot of fear because we thought, how do we justify the value that we bring to clients to make up for the amount of compensation we’re being paid.

27:28 — And the reason why we went that direction was because we had clients asking how much we make and we decided, okay, well if somebody asks a question, we’re going to tell them. And in some cases the compensation was very high and we needed to tell that client that well it’s very high. We would get paid the same or we get paid the same as if you bought it from somebody else. But here’s what you get as a result of doing business with us. We had some negative feedback from our industry, but what it made us, what it makes us feel like is that we don’t have any secrets. When we tell people what we get paid, it completely changes the conversation. We still fear that it will make people change their mind about taking our recommendations. But what we do is we tell them the compensation we get from all of the recommendations and the recommendations that we make are not the highest compensation products.

28:22 — And in fact, that leads to the second position that we’ve taken as a business is that we won’t sell a certain product in Canada because it’s completely consumer unaccountable, but it is one of the largest in selling products in Canada. And we believe that the sales are driven by the fact that the compensation is so much on these, on these products that advisers are constantly put in a position: Well do I recommend this one or this one will, this one pays twice as much compensation, so I’m going to sell this one. So we’ve taken a position that we won’t sell that product. And when we present our compensation disclosure along with the principle that we won’t sell this product, which is the highest paying product. It’s almost like this shift happens sitting there with the client that suddenly they realize we’re on their side and after a few incidents like that, that fear of disclosure diminished.

29:18 — It just, it disappeared. And we realized, okay, that was a great thing to do. But we hummed and hawed about making that decision and we still second guess ourselves on the product. But we always come back to our first principles, which is we want to be transparent and accountable and we want to do best for our clients. So, and we want to provide space to breathe. And so the decisions in business, we’re going to, everybody’s constantly going to be up against those. And I think what’s important to understand is that nobody should use an outside person as the judge of their actions if they are along the lines of trying to become a better company. Because you can always find fault with somebody else. But don’t listen. Always just listen to yourself. Do what you think is important, do what you think is necessary.

30:09 — And I apply that to the idea of trying to be better. So you know, if, if, if a company decides that they want to too, be unfair with their, with their customers or clients, they should use outside people’s judgment to measure themselves and then listen to them. But in the case where people are trying to do good and trying to use businesses as a force for good, I think they have to watch their and listen to their own inner voice. And it’s, some of the decisions are difficult, but I encourage them to try wherever they can to follow that side of it versus always falling back to, well, from a business perspective doesn’t work because that is a tape that we play to overcome our reticence to make a difficult decision.

30:54 (Cory) — And so you mention this: reflecting upon your values, your principles, your inner voice. What does this look like for you? You know, you’ve already mentioned that the practice of meditation, perhaps that’s it, but maybe are there any other, intentional, very explicit practices that you, and your team with Cove Continuity maintain to cyclically or periodically reflect on: what are y’alls values and principles in encountering tough decisions?

31:24 (Bernie) — Well, it’s hard to, but I’ll just give you an overview of how we operate today. So in 2016 when we came a B-Corp and we certified, suddenly you’re holding yourself out as a company that has met a certain standard. So as soon as you do that, you have entered into the practice of becoming accountable. So I would encourage everybody to explore that certification. One of the reasons is that you learn a lot about how to be accountable and it becomes intentional. There is the idea that if I become B Corp certified, that people will seek me out because I am a better company, but that shouldn’t be the motivator. It should be to try and become better. So that is an intentional practice. In 2016 when we certified, I got questions from other businesses, our customers, our clients, suppliers, what is this B-Corp thing all about?

32:18 — And I like to believe that I’m really good at insurance planning and also tax planning and all those things that go around. And I muddled my way through the B-Corp certification. So I’m not, I didn’t feel like I was the person to tell people about how they could become a better business. So I tried to minimize those conversations, but then I realized that there is a definite curiosity and a need out there for people who want to know how to, how do you do business in a better way. So I met a person who was looking for a place to call home. And by the way, she was also an introduction through my business coach and Kristy O’Leary joined our team in 2017 as the lead of our impact advisory division. And what we now offer as a service on a fee basis is we offer helping companies improve their social and environmental footprint by either assessing where they are today and simply improving or help them walk through the entire process to become B-Corp certified.

33:26 — And I’d like to, I see this division, we added a second person to the division we added, Brianna Brown came to us as somebody who is very passionate and who is doing an amazing job with Kristy. And we certified some very large traditional businesses, which was amazing. So obviously we started out as a traditional business. We became certified. We started intentionally thinking about how we could be a better business and then we added this division. So circling back to your question, is that from an intentional perspective, we try and do the same things that we are helping other companies do, which is assessing where we are on a regular basis. Having meetings as a team. We had one last week where we’re having another one in a couple of weeks where we’re going off-site, we’re getting together as a team and we’re talking about, you know, who we are, what are we doing?

34:25 — What do we want to be when we grow up? You know, what are the things that excite us about the successes we’ve had? What are the things that we’re not so proud of? So that constant evaluation and reevaluation of who we are as a business, who we are as an organization and how we relate to one another as individuals, I think is a practice that needs to be very intentional. For us it’s become very natural. We have weekly meetings, uh, once a week we get together, we all meditate together for five minutes. We used to be half an hour, but we realized that in our business space, it runs into our daily schedules. Some of us are regular daily meditators that meditate on our own. Others go into the meditation room on their own versus doing it as a group. So we sit around and we talk about, well, how do we want this to manifest?

35:19 — We do a weekly meeting, we talk about the successes of the last week. We talk about the success or the things that we have as priorities for the following week. We share about our weekends. So we will sit down and we start our meeting by going around the circle and everybody’s sharing about what did they do on the weekend. And, uh, so we’ve evolved practices over the years that have been meant to bring our humanity into our business. And so from an intentional perspective, that really works. But I also think that it helps to have outside guidance. And I’ve mentioned our business coach a number of times and I can’t stress that we have a tendency to get very down on ourselves. We think that we are the norm and that can be good or bad thing. We operate at a very high standard and we think that everybody else out there works at that same standard.

36:14 — And we get surprised when people do stupid things. We also think that when the way we operate, because it’s the same as everybody else, when we see examples of businesses that are not operating very well, we all will throw ourselves in that same bucket and we’ll say, oh, are we like that? I think it really is important to have a third party objective person outside of our organization come in and be able to share with us and for us to be able to share with them what’s going on and for us to get outside feedback on our progress. And that’s where you take an outside person and you invite them in as an advisory board, you invite them in as a coach. So reflection internally is important, but to also to have interactions with people that we trust and that share our values to give us feedback is super important. 

37:07 (Cory) — You know, where might you recommend, you know, maybe someone who’s interested in seeking some outside guidance, like where would you recommend they start looking?

37:14 (Bernie) — That’s a very good question because I have been involved in various types of coaching for almost 20 years or over 20 years. And so first of all, I think that there are a number of coaches within the B-Corp community that understand the values of what it means to be a triple bottom line company. That is absolutely essential. So I think a question in interviewing a coach or an outside consultant would have to be along the lines of what do you understand about B-Corps? What do you understand about the triple bottom line way of doing business? And I would interview people and organizations. I’m very fortunate in that over my 30 plus years of being in the business, I’ve met all kinds.

37:59 — And I’m very fortunate in that I’ve attracted to me some really great people one way or another, and one of our values or one of our commitments, one of our strategies is to be a magnetic space and lead people through an evolutionary process. Continuously innovate, optimize relevance. When we talk about be a magnetic space. And lastly to build the perfect social network, what we really want to do is we want to be around like-minded people. So in doing the exploration about finding an outside consultant or finding an outside advisor, make it fun, make it an exploration of getting to know people. And I think that when the right person comes along, they’ll have the right qualifications. They will click with you as a person. And that is really important. And they’re empathetic. They want you to succeed, they care more about you than themselves. I think it will become obvious and you have to meet people.

39:04 (Cory) — And so I know you mentioned earlier about the future for Cove Continuity. You may not know what it looks like, but you’re excited, excited to be there. Looking forward a little bit. Do there seem to be any particular opportunities or maybe challenges on the periphery that y’all are focusing on breaking through and what might those be?

39:24 (Bernie) — Well, we’re just doing our recertification this year and we’re going to be spending some time next week or the week after talking about this very question. But if you had asked me that question four years ago, I would never have been able to imagine that we have an impact advisory services business, which has been extremely successful. Our reputation is better than it’s ever been. We’re working with companies that are big brands in Canada. We have created connections with people who want to do business with us. We have some goals in terms of our advocacy, I don’t know if you realize this, but British Columbia just passed benefit company legislation on May 15th of this year. And that was an initiative that I started in October of 2017 and by December of 2017 I met with the leader of the Green party in British Columbia who just happened to hold the balance of power in our minority government, who just happened to be absolutely ecstatic and excited about the idea of having benefit company legislation in BC.

40:33 — And there were a whole bunch of, and it just so happened, so as of May 15th of this year, we have benefit company legislation in British Columbia, which we’re very excited about. So the first in Canada, it’s the first in the British Commonwealth around the world, and it was voted on unanimously by all parties, by all members of the legislative assembly, so it was unanimous vote. And it was also the very first piece of legislation, private members bill that was put forward by an opposition MLA that got passed into law in British Columbia in our entire history. So it was a demonstration of collaboration, of inclusion and diversity among the people involved that truly is a remarkable. So I spent a tremendous amount of time involved in that and I think, wow, that was a really great thing that happened. And I feel really great to have been involved.

41:21 — And I think what are the possibilities that we could do as individuals in the future? I don’t know. We have some things that we want to do. We want the Kileepi Piseesi Reconciliation Society be wildly successful, to be doing First Nation reconcili-action projects around the province with a bunch of B-Corps. From a business perspective, we would like to see compensation transparency be a regular, be a regulation in the insurance industry, Canada. So we have some advocacy and some activism goals that we’d like to see as far as Cove concerned. I would like us to be an impact business model, which means that our impact advisory services business is a greater proportion of our revenue than our traditional business. Yet our traditional business is wildly successful working with clients who want to allocate capital to social and environmental-to solving social and environmental issues and the environmental crisis that we all face.

42:23 — And we’re starting to get that we’re starting to get clients that are coming to us because of who we are as a business, not simply because we told the best story about why we are the best insurance agency in the country. They’re coming to us because our values aligned. And so if I think about the future of Cove, it’s having a continuous flow of new customers that are seeking out not only our services from an insurance perspective, but are using us as a catalyst to help them do something really special in the world.

42:56 (Cory) — Wonderful. And before we wrap up here, Bernie, is there any place particularly that folks should check out to make sure we keep up with the future of Cove and in the future of what kind of impact y’all are going to continue to make?

43:10 (Bernie) — Yeah, absolutely. We have a blog email that goes out on a semi regular basis that we try and focus on, you know, the important issues that we’re looking at and that our clients are looking at. But we deal a lot with issues, which aren’t insurance related. And our blog can person can sign up for our blog at coveadvisors.com* sign up. You’ll get that on a regular basis. Also I’m on Linkedin and I try to remain active there as well.

443:44 (Cory) — Excellent. We’ll link up to everything in the show notes. Once again, Bernie, thank you so much for taking the time.

43:48 (Bernie) — Thank you very much Cory, for having me.

43:51 (Cory) — Hey y’all that’s a wrap. Really hope you enjoyed this episode of the Grow Ensemble podcast and as a reminder, if you are a fan of the podcast, please let us know. Hitting subscribe and leaving a review in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts greatly influences other folks finding our show. As well don’t forget we have full show notes over at growensemble.com where I’d also advise you sign up for our newsletter. There you will be able to keep up with new releases, giveaways that we launch, and any events we host. Thanks again for listening in.