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CEO turns tragedy into branded giving

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

Boston-based apparel company Life is Good had 10 people representing the brand near the finish line at this year’s Boston Marathon. Another dozen were cheering runners on when two bombs exploded.

CEO Bert Jacobs summoned everybody to the Newbury Street offices and took count. They were one short.

Jacobs wasn’t allowed into Massachusetts General Hospital because he wasn’t family, so he went home not knowing if his employee was going to live or die. The next day, he found the guy badly burned, but grateful because he was alive.

Also that day, Life is Good em­­ployees started asking whether they could do something to raise money for the victims.

Jacobs’ first response was no but he soon changed his mind. “We’re a brand about the power of optimism,” he says. “We should be leaders of the spirit when bad things happen.”

Already, the logos “Be Strong” and “Boston Strong” had surfaced. In just under 30 hours, Life is Good employees riffed off that idea and put out a shirt that says “Boston” on the front and “Nothing is stronger than love” on the back.

They sold 75,000 in a few weeks, with all profits going to One Fund Boston.

Meanwhile, their co-worker is ex­­pected to recover fully.

Says Jacobs: “He has the right attitude.”

—  Adapted from “How We Made Boston’s Worst Day Ever a Little Bit Better,” Bert Jacobs, Inc.

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