Most of the mentoring I received in business came from my life at Il Fornaio, Authentic Italian restaurants. I worked with them for close to 9 years. In the time that I was with them, we grew from seven to 24 restaurants. If you haven’t ever been to one and you love REAL Italian food, visit the one in downtown San Jose at the Sainte Claire hotel, or if you are in San Francisco, go to the one at Levi Plaza just off the Embarcadero. They are two of my favorites, and they are all beautiful.
The food at Il Fornaio is outstanding, and the camaraderie you will feel even after one visit will have you coming back perhaps as early as the next day. In my years of working with this company, I always felt so blessed to be around amazing, smart, and generous people. The vibe between all of us that worked together set the tone for the vibe within the restaurants. The CEO was adamant that the Partners (as we were called at the time) commit to the Mission of the company. Each year he would host an offsite meeting with all the Partners to remind and refresh everyone on the mission, the core values, and the company’s strategic objectives. It was a way to navigate the ship with all 24 restaurants and the large staff within each of them to move in the same direction. And it paid off, as every year the company did well; the restaurants were thriving and full of life. There are so many great Italian restaurants to choose from, but Il Fornaio even today stands out amongst them all. What we were selling was much more than just Italian food. I attribute a good part of that to my CEO’s commitment to that Mission especially in the way he chose to bring us all together to own it for ourselves and collectively with each other.
Il Fornaio is not the only company that pays attention to embracing a mission with its employees. Apple Computer is another that comes to mind. Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple, undoubtedly one of the great visionaries of our time, passed away much too prematurely. He leaves us with countless gifts that will extend for generations. How blessed we were to have him and his creative genius right here in our own backyard. I’m enjoying all the morsels of his life, his philosophy, and his work that are coming out these days through the media. Steve without question embraced his company and the people who worked in it. While I never attended any of Jobs’s presentations, I understand the he was highly motivational, very inspiring, and a great storyteller. The Apple conferences held each year were greatly anticipated in hopes of hearing Steve speak. I have a copy of Steve’s commencement speech at the 2005 Stanford Graduation. Google it if you get a chance and you’ll agree that Steve can inspire people. He knows that achieving success takes more than just delivering a good product. According to Camille Gallo of Entrepreneur Magazine, Steve made certain that the Apple retail stores would not just push boxes, but enrich lives. Even further she notes that Jobs knew that people care about their own hopes and dreams and not so much about the product itself. Therefore, he suggested, if you help your customers reach their dreams, you’ll win them over. And, most likely for life.
Maybe you know of companies that operate in this fashion. Maybe the organization you work for honors this type of philosophy and carries out a Mission that ultimately makes a worthwhile impact on individuals and the way they live. If so, that is terrific! Bikram Yoga San Jose is no different. We are an affiliation of Bikram Yoga College of India, and privileged to offer a product created by Bikram Choudhury. It too is far more than just stretching in 26 different ways. The sequence in the heat and humidity has a powerful influence on the choices we make for the betterment of our own lives and the many others that contribute to it.
When we first opened here in San Jose, I followed my mentor’s steps and created a Vision and Mission statement. You’ll see it hanging in the bathrooms. Every staff member will see it in our manuals. You’ll hear me begin each meeting with that Mission. It was about 5-6 years ago when we created our 2nd version of our mission with my business coach, Alon Sagee. He is a corporate player turned yogi sharing his experience and wisdom with many yoga business owners. He has the most effective way of interpreting the principles of a business to the unconventional world of yoga. We created what he calls an “invitation” which is a more detailed Mission of who we are as a community. This begins our current website. However, we are evolving. Alon is back on board and over the last few months, we created a new mission (see below) that takes into consideration what we’ve become in the last NINE years.
In preparation for our new studio, we are back out there doing Health Seminars to Silicon Valley companies promoting and explaining the benefits of yoga. While Bikram Yoga is a global business and yoga is now practiced among millions, to my surprise there are still many people who do not know much about yoga and know nothing about Bikram yoga. Really – no joke here. It’s wonderful to introduce new people to the yoga. You can see their hesitancy but you can see even more the curiosity and the willingness. It validated to me that we have lots of work to do in getting more and more people to discover yoga. We are so lucky as our audience is really everyone – 6.8 billion of us. We’ve just scratched the surface.
I took Andre’s class recently. He is just a terrific instructor as you all can agree. He was helping a new student (we’ll call her Karen), and showing such compassion. What I noticed most however, was not only his genuine smile as he talked to her about a pose, but her smile back to him! Whether she heard about us through a health seminar or some other means, that smile starts the story. Having encouragement goes a long way, as the chances of her coming back are greater than getting no smile at all. And, once she’s attended a few times, her story begins. We all remember our first time. And, we all have a story to tell about the yoga and the amazing effect it has had on us. If Karen comes back, it’s you members that she will interact with and watch. It’s you members that will motivate her to do class 4, 5, 6, and so on.
I share this with you as our new studio is no longer a place that I built. Yes, true the first time around, but now, this second evolution is the place we built – together. This new mission statement was created with YOU all in mind as my peers now, in our quest to continue our own personal evolution of being more of all that we can be; as well as the quest to create a wider connection to the many others that long for the same impact this yoga has had on us. As you know, our recipe isn’t changing. We are still very much 26 poses and 2 breathing exercises. We’ve just gotten a whole lot nicer looking and a whole lot bigger to reach out to kids, neighbors, family, and friends, and to become a beacon of light for society to see. There are many wonderful things happening in the world today that are liberating people. We are one of those wonderful things that are bringing people out of the dark. Our small piece influences a greater peace.
We will never know. We will never really know to what extent BYSJ has been instrumental in making the world a better place. Since our inception, we welcomed change, and quickly learned that the power of transformation reaches far beyond any of us as individuals. Our original intention of holding a space to encourage our dreams has created tangible freedom, love and a connection to one another that has surpassed our wildest expectations. Over the years we’ve blossomed from a simple, warm community into a supportive extended family that is an example for those who are ready.
There is a movement happening now… We’ve heard hundreds of stories of how this yoga has impacted lives in infinite and miraculous ways. We don’t really know how it works; we just know that yoga makes everything better. Because of our participation together in co-creating the spirit of BYSJ, we can now empower many more to live the best version of themselves through the practice of yoga.
As our facility expands, so do our hearts. With abundant laughter, camaraderie, hard work and compassion, we continue to support our dreams, truth, and peace. Our new and larger studio is simply a reflection that we can make a difference, and that all that we are doing individually and collectively is important. We are grateful for the courage and commitment. Now, together, let’s lead the way.
You will see this mission on our website, new marketing materials, and in the new yoga studio. In addition, attached to this newsletter this month is a testimonial form. I am so appreciative to many of you that have shared your stories with me. Now, I’d like to ask that you share it with a greater audience (specifically our website.) It’s your stories that support the belief that change can happen. Yes, its word of mouth that has helped us to grow so much and so fast. But, it’s the compelling stories that each of you has to share that entices new members to walk in that hot room more than just once. Thank you for taking this time to share.
We will be opening mid-December. I will have firm dates in our next newsletter along with a greater amount of detail on rates, schedule, Grand Opening events, and promotions. In addition, we will have a closing ceremony on our home here now. Please be sure to attend all of these things. Like my CEO at Il Fornaio, consider this to be that important trip where together as Partners we bond and own individually and collectively our new mission for years to come.