Wednesday, November 16, 2005


For two years Yves Farges and I exchanged e-mails but never met. He was traveling extensively and was unable to accept my invitation to join a Mastermind group of fellow CEO’s. When he received the press release announcing my “Buddha in the Board Room” book project, he was so pleased to have someone articulate what he himself had begun already to experience on his own life’s journey. At that point he felt compelled to write me.

We met for the first time last month, and here is his story:

It’s not unusual for people who grow up in a business family, to take it for granted that that is what they’ll be doing. Farm-Net Importers was founded by his parents in 1957. He bought it from his parents in 1999. He didn’t like working in a lab after University, so he worked for his Dad and enjoyed meeting people, but he went through a lot of introspection for two years before deciding what he really wanted to do.

He thought what if I start and then I fail. So he decided to start without any expectation of the outcome. He started in 1984 in a basement in Toronto with 10 boxes of fine foods and a good suit. That’s where his entrepreneurial journey began, slowly but methodically, much like his cooking style. He would hire sales people by asking them “THE” question, would you rather be the eggs or the bacon? You really would rather be the bacon, he told them, if you are going to succeed, because the chicken only participates, but the pig is committed.

He went on his own personal pilgrimage and gave up television, because he said he had better things to do. “Work becomes a pleasure, he says, and if you’ve got a message and a philosophy, then you’re really not doing it for the money.” A wise old grandmother with a young soul told him; “If you pursue money, it runs away from you, if you ignore it, it runs towards you.” The only way you can become prosperous is to understand money, use money as a tool and as a current. He owns three companies and all the profit is poured back into the company. When he first started he got a basement apt. next door to his warehouse and put on his suit and went door to door on Bay Street in Toronto.

Yves got that very important first customer and went from total obscurity to provincial obscurity, meaning, he became successful in Toronto, however, nobody knew of him outside the province of Ontario. He claims that it takes more energy to sell on quality rather than price.

There is however, now an awakening in North America, he says, to food, people are getting more connected to what they eat. They are recognizing spiritual values inherent in the food they eat. People eat a chocolate bar and they are getting a sugar rush, that’s it! Nowadays they are looking at fine food as enhancing their life, you are feeding parts of you that aren’t physical. Cooking for friends and family is a real joy for Yves, and he does it on a higher plane. We are filling a spiritual need to make it richer. Eating therefore becomes a “religious experience.”

Enjoy competition, he says, because when you win, you learn! That’s why he enjoys chess. As you get better and as time passes, the nature of life becomes richer and thus it allows you to enjoy it more thus experiencing it more, the experience side of life is important for growth.

He attributes the success of his enlightened journey to “Hidden Companions”. Many people he says are doing good for the wrong reason, but as you progress along the path, you realize that intellectual giving can become more elegant and much more satisfying than blowing your own horn. His first charitable gift was to the Jerry Lewis telethon in his early teens, but he asked himself the question, what did I really do here? It was a good thing to do, but is that all there is?

The act of giving is a complex equation, he says; “I think it’s very important to broaden the category of giving to include non monetary giving. When you see a car broken down on the side of the road and you stop and ask them do you need some help, that’s giving, and It’s good to do a little of that because it elevates you.” It means that your life has a little more meaning and purpose.

You realize that while you are on this enlightened path, you have an opportunity, for people that can truly give, those opportunities appear out of thin air, because those hidden companions appear out of thin air. I asked him if he felt that somehow we are all connected in this universe to all those hidden companions and whether he believes in “purposeful alignment”. Yes, he says we are all connected. “We are all parts of that web and we are all visual creatures. We are all connected through our sincerity and inter-personal relationships.” On a business note, he believes that if the marketplace is crowded there’s always room for one more, but if you only have one or two competitors you are in for the fight of your life. Yves is 47 years old and his basic premise of life has been to achieve a state of grace, and by that he means, be open and enthusiastic and enjoy what you are doing.

Small business, he says starts off as a solitary path, and becomes much more personal than the corporate world.

“You start being about your team, about your customers, about growing, and about succeeding because your concept is good. The hours are long but because the business path is a chosen personal path, it does not matter.

So, am I saying that starting a small business is like a walk in the park? Almost. It is hard, incredibly hard, yet thousands of people embark on this journey and start a small business every year. Most fail because it is not a walk in the park, but rather a pilgrimage.

You embark on a personal pilgrimage to enlighten the business world that your idea works and should succeed. You work to bend decisions in your favor so your small business and the people that work within it flourish.

You give up many things because small business requires man's ultimate capital: time.

Television lost much of its appeal to me when I launched my first small company because it was much more fun tackling the challenges that business throws your way on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. Your friends start to emerge out of the mass of customers you interact with as business becomes truly a seamless part of your life. Work is part of you on this level and satisfaction is a job well done no matter what the task is.

On this path you have company. You have your team, the people you work with. You have the customers that depend on you. You have your suppliers that value your contribution to their pilgrimage. This is quite a crowd on what many believe to be a solitary endeavor, but the reality is that you are leading many.

You also have 'hidden companions' on your business journey, and these are the good acts that will benefit from your positive intervention. When early in my business I gave product away to help out a reception for a Woman's Shelter in Toronto, it was the right thing to do and involved a customer, so the action fit. I did not do it to get more business; I did it because it was a good act. I was surprised when new business appeared out of thin air because of that reception. Product for a silent auction, free product to a young film producer that is tied to a microscopic budget, the list is thankfully long. Your hidden companions will benefit you and your actions and improve the world.”

“So business is a path, crowded with friends, and paved with ethical stones.”

Buddha says; “Hidden in the mystery of consciousness, the mind, incorporeal, flies alone far away. Those who set their mind on harmony become free from the bonds of death.”

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