From a converted gas station in Vermont to a nationally recognized brand, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream is a company whose story has been written and reported on many times over. Other books have been written by the founders, a former CEO, and now this book comes from a writer, who casually got to know company insider and current chairman of the board, Jeff Furman.
Have you been a fan of Ben & Jerry’s? Have you eaten ice cream from a scoop shop or select a pint from the frozen food aisle at the supermarket? Have you admired them for their social mission? Have you, like me, mostly written them off because of their sale to Unilever?
I was inspired to read the book when I read this blurb:
Journalist Brad Edmondson tells the story with an eye for details, dramatic moments, and memorable characters. He interviewed dozens of key figures, particularly Jeff Furman, who helped Ben and Jerry write their first business plan in 1978 and became chairman of the board in 2010. It’s a funny, sad, surprising, and ultimately hopeful story.
As a leader, this story will resonate with you. You will find out how people worked to bring a compelling three-part mission to life. The mission includes:
Making the world’s best ice cream, supporting progressive causes, and sharing the company’s success with all stakeholders: employees, suppliers, distributors, customers, cows, everybody.
What stood out to me was the fact that the board negotiated a way to exist within Unilever and had to fight to solidify their mission to this day. That aspect of the story is an excellent example of how leaders can re-connect with our original intent. It is easy to get distracted, and in the case of the board at Ben & Jerry’s, tired. Even with structures to support their goals, mission, and vision they got lost for awhile. This story reads like a novel with plot twists. In the end it shows that a person or a group of people can always choose to reconnect and take new actions.
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Every week during 2014 I look forward to sharing books that I am reading. The lens of the leadership process will be the filter for which I recommend books. Books are powerful vehicles for providing us with inspiration and new ideas.