Tech entrepreneur John Miles’ plan is ‘love, and be happy’ By Terry O’Keefe

At first blush, building a high-tech company on a game plan of “love, and be happy” doesn’t exactly sound like a recipe for booming business success.

But when John Miles tells the story of Integritive, his Asheville-based web development/mobile marketing/interactive advertising company, it makes you wonder why every business doesn’t do it his way.

Miles grew up in a small business family. His parents owned businesses, and what he remembers most from his childhood was how unhappy they were about their chosen work. Years later, when the “start your own business” bug hit him, Miles was determined not to repeat his parents’ experience. “Love, and be happy” became the founding principle for his company.

Love and be happy for him meant a couple of things. Love the work you do and the people you do it with. Create a workplace with lots of room for fun and lightheartedness. See work as a strategy for learning and personal growth, a path for reaching your highest potential. Cultivate a daily practice — exercise, yoga, running, meditation, prayer — whatever helps maintain a healthy balance between your life and your work.

Success followed

Miles was certain that if he built a team that subscribed to those principles, success would follow. After all, if you built your company around great people, made sure that they really liked their teammates and loved their work, and if you gave them lots of opportunity to grow, you probably couldn’t help but turn out great work and a growing string of satisfied customers.

It seems to have worked out that way. Integritive, which was founded in 2001, has enjoyed considerable growth every year, even through the recent economic slump. The company recently announced the addition of Integritive2, a group set up to help clients do a better job of weaving sustainability into their advertising and branding. The hope is that talking about sustainability in this
way will also encourage clients to become more sustainable. The new division not only moves the company closer to its goal of being the first full-service, under-one-roof agency in Asheville, but it also promotes the fact that sustainability is a core value.

John Miles is committed to continued growth of revenues and profits for his company, but even there his framework is different than most. He doesn’t measure the success of his company by profits, but by a matrix of goals of which profitability is one piece. He ticks through the list: “Are we happy? Are we growing as people and as a company? Are we viable, sustainable and abundant?”

For Miles, growth also means that the Integritive philosophy will touch more people and perhaps have a greater impact on its corner of the business
world. He speaks of a growing connection with other CEOs around the country who also believe in the potential of a more conscious style of business
to help reshape the world.


There has been, it seems to me, a kind of tectonic shift of business attitudes and values over the last half-century. The old business establishment had a kind of patrician sense of responsibility to its employees and to the larger world. By contrast, the new business establishment seems unduly self-centered, more avid in pursuit of their own interests, more willing to leave the fate of others — and the planet — to the frosty whims of the
marketplace. Perhaps we all are. Whatever the reasons, the marketplace and the workplace seem decidedly more Darwinian than they were just a couple of decades ago.

But perhaps, as they say, every movement carries with it the seeds of its opposites. If so, leadership styles like those that John Miles has embedded into Integritive may be the early signs of a holistic reintegration of business and the society it serves.

One can almost hear a familiar voice in the background: “Are we happy? Are we growing ourselves? Are we growing our company? Are we building a better world?”

I would bet a lot of money that it is.

Terry O’Keefe is an Asheville-based writer and technology consultant, and a not-quite-reformed entrepreneur. He can be reached at terry@etok.net.

Originally printed in the November 28, 2010 Asheville Citizen-Times



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What happened to values-based Television

As a kid I remember looking forward to the weekly “lesson of the week” from this famous TV series by Bill Cosby called Fat Albert. Every week the Cosby kids would get into a pickle and a values-based lesson would be revealed. We need more TV like this today. Whether it was not to respond to peer-pressure or to not steal – it was always relevant, uplifting and like the theme song fun!  Bring back Fat Albert and give our kids some good clean, positive TV to watch.


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5 Tips on Selecting a Web Firm

So you need a well stocked website. One that is aesthetically pleasing, easy to navigate, easily found and can convert visitor traffic into customers.  Who is the perfect fit for this important job?   You’ve received a pile of proposal and seen flashy, positive-emotion packed sales presentations and there is still a question mark in your head. Who is the best fit for this important project for your business or organization? Here are a few things to consider on your journey:

1. Salesmanship does not equate to execution-man-ship

OK, I know execution-man-ship is not a word, but you get the idea. Just because a firm can sell really well, does not mean they can deliver on all their promises. Sometimes radical promises are made to save a cash flow shortage, or in mere excitement about doing the work, or to cover lack of staff.  Make sure, beyond the portfolio and beyond the references stated in the proposal that the folks you are hiring are able to produce a top level product for you and will stand behind it.

2. Warranty

How do they stand behind their work? You will not know this from the proposal, presentation, references or even verbally. You’ll need to track down some folks they’ve worked with where things might not have gone perfectly and find out how it was handled. Was it handled with screaming and righteousness? Or humble collapsing servitude? Or with the best interest of the client at heart?  How a firm handles a fumble is far more important to a successful project than how they handle an occasional touchdown highlighted in their case studies.

3. Due Diligence

Due diligence is not just for M&A’s and real estate deals. It is for all significant expenditures. If you are spending between $5,000 and $500,000 on your new website, you’ll want to check trusted people in your circle to find out if your selected vendor is not just creative, but they are timely, manage projects well, produce what they say and most importantly, will stand behind their work and provide ongoing support for the work they’ve built. Ask the questions: “Have you changed your technology platform? – If so, how have you serviced your old platforms and how do you plan on it in the future?” “What happens if we come to a disagreement in the process; can you give examples of how you’ve handled that scenario in the past?”

Also, don’t 100% trust the “salesman” you are speaking to. Find references outside the references listed on the proposal and see how things went. People are generally not likely to open up bad experiences, unless probed, so probe deeply.

4. Look beyond the portfolio and people page

Some firms list projects they produced but were designed by other agencies, some list work done at other agencies before they sprouted their own entity without credits given to the team that worked on it in total. Also, some firms list people on their people page that are only loosely affiliated freelance help that may be leasing office space from them and helping occasionally.

You’ll want to ask two key questions

1. Was all the work listed on your portfolio design and developed in it’s entirety by your organization?

2. Are all of the current people on your people page full-time employees of your organization?

When hiring a firm – if you want freelance talent, then you don’t need a firm. If you want a cohesive team brimming with integrity – then you should get what you paid for.

5. Don’t be afraid to switch

What is the old adage? “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again.” In the middle of a project or after or subsequent project, don’t be afraid to try another firm, if the first one didn’t supply the value you were looking for, there is someone else out there eager to give it a shot.


John Miles is CEO/Chief of What’s Next at Integritive, an Asheville firm specializing in web design & development, strategic planning, social media and e-marketing. For more information: www.integritive.com or on Twitter www.twitter.com/integritiveJM