Tom Chappell Q&A
YOU’VE OBVIOUSLY EXPERIENCED A GREAT DEAL OF SUCCESS IN YOUR LIFE. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT, AND WHY?
Greatest accomplishment… Partnering with my wife, Kate, we have raised a large family hoping to impart values that help provide leadership to others. Of our 5 children, 4 new businesses, a recording artist, have been born to do good and do well. My greatest challenge has been to support my children and my wife’s art endeavors while creating and building two entrepreneurial businesses. I’ve been extremely fortunate in my life, to have multiple successful businesses and remain in good health but my children and family has always been my greatest accomplishment.
LIKE EVERYONE ELSE, LIFE IS NOT ALWAYS SMOOTH. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT A SETBACK OR TRAGEDY YOU’VE ENCOUNTERED, HOW YOU DEALT WITH IT, AND THE IMPACT IT HAS HAD ON YOU?
My greatest setback has been the influence of alcoholism on my life, personality, and relationships. With the help of AA, my life was restored to my original personal values and my personality changes in the process became my greatest asset to who I am today. At age 75, I have 30 years of continuous sobriety.
By the mid 1980’s, Tom’s of Maine was growing at an annual rate of 25 percent, yet I felt something had been lost. I wasn’t living on the edge of something creative. I felt dead inside. In 1986, as a practicing Episcopalian I enrolled part time in Harvard Divinity School. I continued running Tom’s of Maine while pursuing a four-year master’s degree in theology, immersing myself in philosophical teachings during my commute to Boston twice a week. The experience helped revitalize my core values, along with the company’s mission. I began inviting philosophy professors to speak with the board of directors, I committed 10 percent of Tom’s of Maine’s pretax profits to charity, and encouraged workers to spend 5 percent of their paid work time doing volunteer service.
DO YOU SET ASIDE “ME-TIME” IN YOUR CALENDAR, AND WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME TO RELAX?
I deal with the inevitable disappointments in my business career and personal life by regular a daily service to my recovery program. Without question, I have learned through daily life that God is available to me and I need to pay attention to the signals from God that direct my life.
Yes, I do set aside time for relaxing, it’s important. I enjoy the outdoors from time to time and I like to spend time with my family.
WHAT’S THE MOST MAGICAL PLACE YOU’VE DISCOVERED WHERE YOU CAN GO TO CHILL OUT?
Existentially, operating my wooden 40 foot lobster boat yacht alone across a windy sea on my way to Monhegan Island where my wife and I live in the summer is my favorite pastime.
DOES PHILANTHROPY PLAY A ROLE IN YOUR LIFE, TO WHAT EXTENT AND HOW?
Kate and I dedicate our philanthropy to education, environmental conservation, and entrepreneurial support of research into sustainable fishing practices off the coast of Maine.
Yes, it has for many years. When I was leading Tom’s of Maine I committed 10 percent of Tom’s of Maine’s pretax profits to charity, and encouraged workers to spend 5 percent of their paid work time doing volunteer service. At Rambler’s Way, we share 10% of profits and 2.5 workweeks per employee (or 5% of employees’ yearly work time) with local environmental conservation, human need, arts, and education organizations.
WHO IS ON THE GUEST LIST FOR YOUR IDEAL DINNER PARTY, PRESENT OR PASSED?
Our dinner guests are all creative pioneers in the many avenues needing change in our society.
CAN YOU OFFER ANY WORDS OF WISDOM TO YOUR FELLOW THROOMERS?
What builds meaning in my life is working with others to help facilitate worthy aims. Helping others realize their aims paradoxically provides miraculous solutions for my pursuits that came with Grace.
You have to learn the business that you’re in, the category that you’re competing in. The feedback and the wisdom I have from my years of experience is, manage by values and be deliberate about how you take that into the marketplace.