Since the inception of Latitude, we have been on a mission to eliminate barriers and empower people living in extreme poverty to reach their full potential. This is a complicated process and sometimes the end game is a long time coming. But recently, we were able to experience it full circle. In December of 2011, I had the opportunity to be in Haiti with our partner Healing Haiti, to move 63 orphaned kids into their new home at Grace Village. They had previously been living in a facility where many kids were struggling with health issues because of the living conditions. When we moved the kids into Grace Village, they were absolutely ecstatic about their new home. Getting them settled into their new environment included teaching them how to use a flush toilet, how to shower and how to learn to sleep on a mattress. It was one of the most impactful moments of my life and I prayed that these children would have a bright future. Fast forward seven years to 2018. Five of these children are now adults and are working at Fleri Bakery and Pizzeria, a job creation initiative that Latitude built with Healing Haiti in hopes of providing jobs and skills to the community of Titanyen and the children who have grown up at Grace Village. Our designers created the brand identity for Fleri as well, putting their expertise to added use. It currently employs 25 people and an additional 50 re-sellers who purchase bread from the bakery and sell it in the community to provide a livelihood for themselves and their families. On a recent trip, we had the pleasure of spending time in Fleri Pizzeria with Whitney, Laika, Loody, Shadley and Ronaldo who proudly taught us how to make pizza. The children I had the privilege of teaching how to use running water had now become the teachers. These young men and women are employed, providing for themselves and their loved ones in a country where unemployment continues to be a huge barrier. It has been an indescribable gift to watch these children grow and thrive over the years. I am so grateful that they have had the opportunity to use their gifts and realize their full potential. This trip and experience was enhanced by the fact that several of our employees and two clients were with us as we baked pizza together. Our employees were able to see how their hard work had translated into lives changed and our clients were able to see the long-lasting impact their branding campaigns had around the world. Experiences such as these bring a whole new dimension to work and the culture we strive to create.
As a part of my series about how leaders can create a “fantastic work culture”, I had the pleasure of interviewingKrista Carroll, CEO and co-founder of top retail and experiential branding agency, Latitude. Latitude’s clients include some of the biggest brands in the world, including Adidas, Foot Locker, Puma, Petco and REI — to name a few. But what makes Latitude unique is that it’s a social enterprise, investing half of its profits each year to end global issues like extreme poverty and sex trafficking. To date, Latitude has invested more than $6.5 million working alongside NGO partners in over 26 countries.
Thank you so much for joining us Krista!Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My journey may be unique to others in that I didn’t specifically set out to become a CEO. I am a former schoolteacher with a master’s degree in education. But my journey to becoming a CEO was driven by a lifelong desire to do something impactful to help others and a realization that we can use business to create meaningful impact and change.
I had been working as a schoolteacher for six years when my husband Jeremy (Co-Founder and President of Latitude) and I moved to New York to build an East Coast client base for Diversified Graphics, a family-owned printing company started by Jeremy’s grandfather. Jeremy was a sales executive at the time. For five years, Jeremy worked from our apartment and I learned the ins and outs of business through involvement in the day-to-day work, including client meetings, communication and problem-solving. It was a great training ground for me.
But it was four years later, during a 2009 trip to Haiti, where Jeremy came face-to-face with extreme poverty. He witnessed the reality of people living on less than $2 per day without access to basic necessities like health care, education, clean water and proper nutrition. And this became a big moment for both of us. We were ready to do something greater.
We put our heads together on how we could make real change for those in need and work beyond ourselves. We decided to expand on our current offerings and build a company that delivered strategic, creative, digital and production services to clients, and then invest 50 percent of its profits back to communities in need.
Three weeks after that Haiti trip, we launched Latitude and I was named CEO.
We may have had to move back into our parent’s basement, but sacrifice was part of our journey. 10 years on, and today we are national experts in retail and experiential brand design with an incredible, global client roster. The best part? We have invested over $6.5 million to date in programs that work to allow every individual the opportunity to pursue their potential — without exception.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Since the inception of Latitude, we have been on a mission to eliminate barriers and empower people living in extreme poverty to reach their full potential. This is a complicated process and sometimes the end game is a long time coming. But recently, we were able to experience it full circle.
In December of 2011, I had the opportunity to be in Haiti with our partner Healing Haiti, to move 63 orphaned kids into their new home at Grace Village. They had previously been living in a facility where many kids were struggling with health issues because of the living conditions. When we moved the kids into Grace Village, they were absolutely ecstatic about their new home. Getting them settled into their new environment included teaching them how to use a flush toilet, how to shower and how to learn to sleep on a mattress. It was one of the most impactful moments of my life and I prayed that these children would have a bright future.
Fast forward seven years to 2018. Five of these children are now adults and are working at Fleri Bakery and Pizzeria, a job creation initiative that Latitude built with Healing Haiti in hopes of providing jobs and skills to the community of Titanyen and the children who have grown up at Grace Village. Our designers created the brand identity for Fleri as well, putting their expertise to added use. It currently employs 25 people and an additional 50 re-sellers who purchase bread from the bakery and sell it in the community to provide a livelihood for themselves and their families.
On a recent trip, we had the pleasure of spending time in Fleri Pizzeria with Whitney, Laika, Loody, Shadley and Ronaldo who proudly taught us how to make pizza. The children I had the privilege of teaching how to use running water had now become the teachers. These young men and women are employed, providing for themselves and their loved ones in a country where unemployment continues to be a huge barrier. It has been an indescribable gift to watch these children grow and thrive over the years. I am so grateful that they have had the opportunity to use their gifts and realize their full potential.
This trip and experience was enhanced by the fact that several of our employees and two clients were with us as we baked pizza together. Our employees were able to see how their hard work had translated into lives changed and our clients were able to see the long-lasting impact their branding campaigns had around the world. Experiences such as these bring a whole new dimension to work and the culture we strive to create.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We love the work that we get to do with our non-profit partners. It inspires us and unites us. It challenges us — and it breaks our heart. It is work that needs to be done and is worth doing. So we decided to create a model and open source talent so that we aren’t just working as Latitude and non-profit partners, but as a global creative community engaging others with our NGO partners around the world.
With a focus on innovation and design, we are open-sourcing talent (individuals and teams) from other agencies and brands to help shift mindsets, solve problems and innovate around the world’s greatest opportunities. Our platform at Latitude is designed to unite catalysts from around the world.
As an example, we have been working with our NGO partner International Justice Mission in Guatemala for several years and they are doing great work to help shape the laws and protect children against sexual violence. We noticed that they need our help to create a platform to engage the country in a conversation about protecting their greatest resource: their children.
Currently, we are working to change behavior in Latin America to drastically reduce issues of sexual violence towards girls and boys. In some areas of Latin America the issue impacts 1 out of 3 children. We have chosen to partner with an agency, La Fábrica, in Guatemala to help us create a platform to address the issues of sexual violence and flip shame from the victim to the perpetrator. We need to empower the survivors so they can become heroes.
We are in the early stages of this work in Guatemala and we know this will not be a quick fix. We love the people of Guatemala and our partners are committed to helping us create sustainable change.
We have worked in cohort style across rivers, borders and seas. Assignments range from 2–4 months and individuals can re-up for up to a year. Some of the initiatives will last many years. It’s about going beyond building the brands and initiatives we work on every day. This is an opportunity to use those same talents to radically transform humanity. We believe that we all need to have a purpose greater than ourselves and we need to live that mission through our work. Tapping into our purpose ignites greater talent and ultimately benefits our relationships and improves our quality of life.
Ok, lets jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?
At Latitude, we believe “Purpose Elevates Talent.” When we work for something greater than ourselves, we become capable of more than we ever imagined, and we are fulfilled in more meaningful ways as well.
I believe the US workforce has become more dissatisfied as we are encouraged to focus on ourselves, our own happiness and our own career development. This focus is isolating and unfulfilling. I also see an increasing focus on comparison. It seems that people are constantly comparing their reality, talent, compensation, opportunities, and so on, to one another. Comparison is the stealer of joy and the more we do it, the less satisfied we become.
We thrive when we have purpose in our daily work that supersedes our own prosperity. We thrive when the focus is NOT on ourselves. I believe we are created to make positive impact in the world, and when our daily work ladders up to something greater, we find gratification and joy.
Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?
Productivity, profitability and employee health and wellbeing are all affected when the workforce is less than satisfied. When we believe in what we are doing and find satisfaction through our work, we are motivated to work hard, give our best and go above and beyond. These efforts lead to productivity, which typically leads to profitability.
In my experience, unhappiness can be a detractor and keep me from reaching my full potential. People around me certainly will feel the effects of my mood and the outcome of my work will be affected in negative ways. Unhappiness can permeate a workplace if it is unaddressed, as it is distracting and unmotivating for all of us who are exposed.
When we see that we are capable of great work and the results are worth celebrating, it leads to a feeling of self-worth and an enhanced emotional state.
Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?
#1. Be Purpose-led
As Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankl, stated, “It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it.” Man’s Search for Meaning.
I believe that building a business whose chief purpose is around something that is bigger than a profit for stakeholders, provides the workforce in that business the opportunity to find gratification that can only be found when we are dedicated to a cause greater than ourselves.
It is in serving others that we find joy. At Latitude we exist to use business to end extreme poverty. Everyone on our team is driven each day to use their talents to serve their clients with excellence, so in turn we will be able to empower humanity. It motivates us to do our very best, even when the going gets hard, and it gives us great gratification and joy knowing the difference we are making in many lives around the globe. This is at the core of our culture at Latitude.
One of our employees once said during a very busy time for him, “When I have to work late, I just think of the kids who are getting the opportunity to go to school because of this retail campaign, and it changes the whole evening for me. I am so proud of the difference we are making.”
#2. Connect your team with the purpose
Your team needs to be able to have a personal connection with your company’s core purpose in tangible ways. At Latitude, one of the ways we do this is by giving each of our 100 employees the opportunity to travel on an “Insight trip” with one of our nonprofit partners to the developing world in order to meet the people they are empowering.
These trips educate our employees about our partner organization’s approaches to sustainable change and empowerment for people living in extreme poverty. The trips are also incredibly motivating because we get to meet the people whose lives are being changed because of amazing nonprofits and our employees using their talents in business for a greater purpose.
#3. “Replace yourself” and encourage your employees to do so as well.
Many of us find a lot of our satisfaction and identity in our daily work and this can be a double edge sword. Taking great pride in work and striving for excellence is a good thing. However, when we hold onto our roles too tightly it can limit our growth and the growth of those around us.
I got a piece of life changing advice from my co-founder and husband, Jeremy Carroll. He advised me that daily, I should try to “replace myself.”
We were an entrepreneurial organization that started with four of us. We all wore many hats. As we grew, I struggled to hand off pieces of my own role and was drowning as our organization grew. I thought that I was doing the right things for our organization by continuing to carry a heavy load. However, unintentionally, I was holding all of us back by not hiring or empowering people around me to take on pieces of my role. As I started to change the focus from “all that I needed to do” to “what can I ask and train others to do,” everything changed. Our organization grew, leaders emerged from within our team and our output became even better.
It is important that all of us in management or leadership positions stay diligent about what is absolutely necessary for us to do and what we can empower others to learn or do. This allows us to stay at the top of our game while leading to the best of our abilities. It also makes room for the leaders around us to emerge as well.
What you are doing today, shouldn’t be the same thing you are doing tomorrow.
#4. Foster an abundance mindset instead of a scarcity mindset
Model for your teams a mindset of abundance and challenge yourself to believe it every day. There is enough to go around. I do not need someone to be less for me to be more. We are better together. Give of yourself more than you think you can afford. Have a mindset of generosity. This will impact your culture in ways you can’t even imagine.
When we operate from an abundance mindset, collaboration makes sense. Sharing of our time and expertise with others isn’t a threat when you believe we are better when we all are at the top of our game. If we model generosity with our time, expertise, encouragement and resources others will emulate and it will result in a culture that is secure and safe. It will not be a fear-based culture, but rather a possibilities-based culture. You will start to focus on the solutions instead of problems, opportunities instead of obstacles.
In an abundance-minded organization, each team member becomes a multiplier rather than a diminisher and the possibilities are endless.
#5. Develop great relationships & do excellent work
We spend a lot of time at work with our colleagues and clients. We will all be happier if we build relationships and have fun together while we work hard to knock out killer work.
Our teams are built with incredible people who have great talents and love to win great work. We are inspired by our individual clients and the brands that we work with. We are grateful to be in relationships with our clients who trust us with incredible opportunities around innovation, strategy and design to engage their audiences across digital and tech, at retail and beyond. It feels good to work hard and provide excellence for our clients so they can be successful.
The truth is that if we weren’t experts in our field we wouldn’t get to experience the joy of partnering with NGO’s around the world. We are eager to present our team to brands around the world who need our help to stand-out and do great things.
It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?
The only way we can really change workforce culture is if we change the purpose behind why we work. It’s changing the mindset from the belief that the purpose of work is “to earn money so my family and I can flourish,” to a new perspective that the purpose of work is “to flourish others — my family, my colleagues, my customers, my vendors, my community…” and so on.
On varying levels, we are all blessed with talents and the opportunities to discover, develop and deploy those talents. We play no part in acquiring either our talent or the opportunity to use them. Both our talents, and the opportunity to use them, are gifts. We only control the level of effort we expend to make the most of the opportunities to use our talents. Theoretically, two people could possess the same amount of talent and put out the same amount of effort to make the most of those talents. But the one who was born into more opportunity will flourish at a greater rate. For example, if I was born in Cambodian slum instead of an American suburb, I would likely have worked just as hard using my same talents to achieve only a small fraction of the prosperity I have now.
I believe that the purpose of work is to make the most of my opportunities, to use my talents to perpetuate opportunities for others, to make the most of their talents so they can perpetuate the opportunities for others, and so on. So, I see my job as a means to perpetuate opportunities for Latitude’s designers, account teams, producers and project managers to do great work, so we as a company can create new opportunities for people living in extreme poverty — to use their talents to launch a perpetuating cycle of opportunity creation in their community.
Workforce culture will change when we view the purpose of our work as opportunity creation for others.
How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?
One of the unintended outcomes of being a CEO of an agency, without having agency experience, is that it was not difficult for me to trust people in their areas of expertise. We have hired leaders who are truly experts in what they do and my job is to make sure that they are equipped and supported to do their best at all times. I get the role of asking questions and facilitating collaboration across departments to make sure we are operating at the top of our game.
I am a learner at heart, so I love to learn the different facets of our work and organization, but ultimately, most of my time with my team is checking-in to see what people need from me or our organization in order to be successful in their role. Usually, it ends up that my team just needs me to be a sounding board or a collaborator in solving problems or approaching things differently.
I am typically not tempted to micro-manage because I know that each individual is capable of doing their jobs much better than I ever could. I believe in my team and my favorite times are when I get to witness their incredible talent and cheer them on for all they have accomplished.
I love to find efficiencies and challenge the bar we have set. I have high expectations for myself and others, however, I enjoy supporting them in their growth and development so they can indeed move the envelope. Perhaps it is the teacher in me that loves to recognize the talent in others and facilitate them reaching their potential.
I am at my best as a leader when I am asking more questions than I am making declarative statements. I am at my best when I am educated in the facts, but trust my intuition. I am at my best when I remember to lead with empathy and grace while simultaneously encouraging excellence. I am at my best when I give real time, honest, but loving feedback. I am at my best when I appreciate our team and help illustrate the difference they are making every day.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
The journey of Latitude and using business to change the world is one that has involved hundreds of people. However, the most influential person, for whom I am more than grateful is my co-founder, best friend, and he happens to be my husband as well. Jeremy truly embodies a mindset of abundance. He is a multiplier because he believes in the endless possibilities and is ready to do the crazy hard work to make the possibilities happen. He is endlessly generous and never even thinks about how much less he will have if he gives something to another. He is thrilled with the process of giving himself, whether it is his time, expertise, helping hand or resources.
The things that perhaps I am most grateful for is Jeremy’s belief in others. He believes that those of us around him are more capable and talented than we would ever believe of ourselves. And he challenges us to bring that level of talent and capacity every day. He invites all of us who know him to show up, bring it all, and make a difference with everything we have. And then we are going to celebrate like crazy together.
When Jeremy insisted that I was named CEO of Latitude I was baffled. He had the industry experience and business acumen and I was a rookie. Why in the world would I take the helm of CEO? His response was, “You are steady. You can learn anything. You are brilliant and dedicated. You have never quit on anything a day in your life. And I trust you more than I trust myself. You will always do the right thing and that makes you perfect to lead this. I will bring in the opportunities and possibilities every day, and you will figure out how to make the right ones work. We will be a great team.” He believed in me, us as a team, and the business model before it even made sense. And has been a part of the partnership and hard work to make it a reality.
His abundance mindset is a blessing to all around him and a constant reminder to believe the best, give it all, and make great things happen.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We have invested over $6.5 million in NGO programs around the world, which has resulted in the following:
Medical: 755,815 individuals provided with medical care
Food: 1.6MM meals delivered
Freedom: 3,560 people freed from slavery
Water: 24 MM gallons of water delivered
Micro-finance: 3,927 micro-loans provided
Education: 5,449 kids enrolled in school
Shelter: 252 New Homes Provided
These numbers are more than I could have ever imagined 10 years ago.
However, the real power is not in the numbers, it is in the narratives. The thousands of stories of individuals whose lives have been changed by barriers eliminated or opportunities given. Opportunities for them to use their gifts and talents to flourish their families and communities.
We have had the privilege of partnering with incredible organizations over the last ten years to create sustainable change. A few of the most meaningful initiatives we have funded are the build and operations of Grace Clinic and Fleri Bakery & Pizzeria in Titanyen, Haiti with our partner Healing Haiti. The question of goodness in the world makes me think of my friend Gerno who is in his third year of medical school to become a doctor so he can come back and work at Grace Clinic and serve the community where he grew up.
Goodness in the world also looks like freedom for the 3,560 people that International Justice Mission has freed from bonded slavery or sex trafficking in rescues that Latitude has been able to fund in India and the Philippines. Some of these people we have had the opportunity to spend time with, where we came away completely inspired at the resilience and determination of these individuals to be a part of change in their countries.
We believe in the spirit of the entrepreneur and that business can be powerful force for good. We have seen this first hand in the men and women who have received microloans that have enabled them to start businesses and in turn improve the realities for their families and communities.
We really hope that these numbers and stories are just the start of a movement. We hope that these efforts will inspire others to use their businesses and talents for a greater purpose and that our trickle will become a waterfall in others. We hope that as we continue to prove that business can be a force for good, it will have a multiplier effect by inspiring others to do the same.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Be a means, not an end.”
I think it is tempting to think about ourselves as the end. Our lives as the ultimate goal. We strive to be as happy as possible, rich as possible, experience as much as possible, achieve greatness, and on and on. What if we turned the model on its head? What if instead we see ourselves as a means in a greater narrative? What if we focus less on us and more on a greater change we want to see in the world and start to see our lives as a means to that greater end?
If we can put ourselves in a chapter in a greater, more meaningful story, for which we are not the heroine, but part of a beautiful cast, all contributing to a great story that will continue on long after us, I believe our reality shifts. Perhaps our anxieties and stressors become less pronounced. Perhaps fear diminishes. Perhaps we spend less of our time focused on ourselves or comparing ourselves to others and feeling inadequate.
When I start to feel the stress of my role, employing 100 people, providing for global clients, etc., it is because I am putting too much importance on me, and forgetting that I am one of many, and we are a part of a bigger story, and I am not the ends, but simply part of the means.
A paradigm shift can change everything. It is when I remember that I am a means, not the end, that I find joy in the journey.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
End poverty worldwide. We want to use business as a force for good. That’s why we started Latitude and direct 50% of our profits to drive change on a global scale. We want to use our talents and our gifts, our opportunities and our strengths, to inspire others and help elevate those living in the developing world. We want to inspire other businesses to leverage their success to help others succeed. Ultimately, we want to be a part of eradicating extreme poverty.
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