Paul Thompson founder of Transportation Insight with Emmanuel quotMannyquot Ohonme founder of Samaritan39s Feet

Beyond Charitable Giving: Creating a Culture of Servitude

Nov. 25, 2014
Transportation Insight founder Paul Thompson uses his company as a vehicle for servitude, encouraging a culture of meaningful giving from the top down.

There are no trust falls at Transportation Insight. Or elaborate human knots. Or name games.

But there is feet washing.

When it comes to team building, Paul Thompson, chairman and founder of Transportation Insight, wants to make a lasting impact. He wants to change lives.

That's why Thompson sent his entire leadership team to foreign countries on shoe distribution missions with the nonprofit Samaritan's Feet.              

"It sets your perspective of how you view your job, your life, your world,"  Thompson says. "It will change the rest of your life."

Thompson, who has taken each of his children individually and his family collectively on similar missions, over a three-year period sent his leadership team in pairs to low-income areas in Africa and South America.

Transportation Insight's leadership team volunteers with nonprofit Samaritan's Feet, distributing shoes to and washing the feet of those in need.

There, the managers worked alongside Samaritan's Feet, distributing shoes to and washing the feet of those in need. They were called to inspire those they helped, to instill hope in those with challenging futures.

The experience, he says, fostered a sense of teamwork among his executives in a way that other activities couldn't; it bonded workers together in a meaningful, emotional way.

Changing the DNA

"I think at the end of the day it changes the DNA of your company,"  Thompson says. "They come back not trying to make their department the best. They come back trying to make the company the best."

Beyond using Samaritan's Feet as a team building mechanism, Thompson also has dedicated his entire company to the mission of the nonprofit.

The staff of the North Carolina-based third-party logistics provider not only organizes an annual back-to-school shoe distribution event for the local community, but also donates its time and service whenever Samaritan's Feet receives a large-scale shoe donation, typically from a major retailer.

Transportation Insight handles the logistics of transporting the shoes from retailers' warehouses to Samaritan's Feet distribution centers, putting the nonprofit's needs before those of its customers.

"They become priority one,"  Thompson says.

In that way, charitable giving becomes more than a line item; it affects the culture of the organization.

"You develop an internal DNA of an organization that is very different from the traditional corporate 'every man for himself,'" Thompson says.

Instead, the workplace adopts an attitude of servitude and becomes driven not by a pursuit of success, but by the search for significance. The team learns to take inspiration and extract meaning from helping others instead of the self or the bottom line, Thompson says.  

The company is able to use the logistics expertise it dedicates to manufacturers across the country to give back. Rather than just making a financial donation, it uses its in-house know-how for more than just turning a profit, but for making a difference in the world -- a practice any business can replicate.

About the Author

Ginger Christ | Ginger Christ, Associate Editor

Focus: Workplace safety, health & sustainability.

Call: 216-931-9750

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Ginger Christ is an associate editor for EHS Today, a Penton publication.

She has covered business news for the past seven years, working at daily and weekly newspapers and magazines in Ohio, including the Dayton Business Journal and Crain's Cleveland Business.

Most recently, she covered transportation and leadership for IndustryWeek, a sister publication to EHS Today.

She holds a bachelor of arts in English and in Film Studies from the University of Pittsburgh.



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