Finding True North: Rios Tropicales Sets a Compass for the Future

05 Jul Finding True North: Rios Tropicales Sets a Compass for the Future

By Shannon Farley

As a company, finding your True North is not easy. Uncovering the compass to guide your entire team through the good times and the bad, and to give reason for your existence, is a challenge … and yet, a worthwhile and noble quest.

A vanguard in adventures and conservation in Costa Rica for 33 years, Rios Tropicales rafting and adventure company recently embarked on a journey into this uncharted territory.

For the first time in 33 years of operations, on June 6, Rios Tropicales closed their office on a weekday, took their rafts out of the rivers, and gathered the entire company along with key business associates to ponder the existentialist questions of: who are we as a company? Why do we exist? And what future are we creating together?

Led by Rios Tropicales owner and co-founder, Rafael Gallo, whose passion and love for his company and what they do is so compelling that it brought together 65 employees and associates from all over Costa Rica on an early morning in the “river rafting town” of Turrialba to engage in this new mission.

Gallo had attended the 2018 Conscious Capitalism Conference from April 30 to May 2 in Dallas, Texas, which unites business and thought leaders from all over the world to exchange experience and information on how businesses can be a force for good to elevate humanity. To say that he was on fire with inspiration after the conference is an understatement. Within a month after returning to Costa Rica, Gallo had motivated his company’s important stakeholders to clear their busy schedules and meet to discuss a concept that is not an everyday conversation: What is our purpose?

The answer the company agreed upon: “Our purpose is: We design authentic experiences that inspire a positive impact on the environment.

“Adventure tourism has to take care of the planet. Be it the mountains, rivers, forests or the sea where we do trips, we as business operators have the responsibility to protect and take care of the environment, and to be a positive example,” said Gallo.

“I was really inspired after attending the Conscious Capitalism Conference. I bought and read the Conscious Capitalism Field Guide, and understood that all stakeholders must be part of our higher purpose,” continued Gallo. “So, as soon as possible, we closed all our operations and invited our river guides, management staff, cooks, gardeners, drivers, maintenance department, native Cabecar employees, and key suppliers to join together to create our company’s purpose.”

Distinct from a Mission and Vision statement, a company’s purpose describes “why we do what we do, what impact do we want to cause, and what difference do we want to make in the world,” according to the Conscious Capitalism Field Guide.

“An organization’s purpose is something that already exists and it is the responsibility of leaders to find an elegant way to articulate it. Said differently, you don’t create purpose, you uncover it,” explains Rand Stagen, founder of the Stagen Leadership Academy, which is a member of Conscious Capitalism.

Stakeholders are a pillar of the Conscious Capitalism movement. Different from shareholders, who own stock in a company; stakeholders are a wider array of anyone vested in the long-term success of a business.

“What is important is that we all need one another. We are all part of this family of stakeholders,” said Gallo during his company’s meeting. “You are all leaders in this journey to communicate our purpose.”

The company that Rios Tropicales is today grew out of a small group of friends who loved river rafting and kayaking. That love for adventure and passion to connect with pure nature still guides the eco-adventure company 33 years later every day.Rios Tropicales’ focus on leading the best adventures in Costa Rica, coupled with their commitment to conservation, has brought world recognition, dozens of awards, and great success. Rios Tropicales was commended in the Adventure Travel Awards 2018, in London in January, for its Rios Tropicales Rainforest Reserve in the Pacuare River Valley. Since 1990, more than 29,000 native species of trees have been planted and cared for on over 2,500 acres of rainforest – the largest private reserve in the area. The company also is inspiring international events to be carbon neutral, such as the Adventure Travel World Summit 2016 and 2017, and the World Rafting Championships 2011.

Their values reflect the simple nobility of doing what is right: to always take care of Mother Nature; to work together in communities to share, educate and help each other grow; and to enjoy life with an infectious enthusiasm that makes work more like play. Staying true to their core values over three decades in business has helped create a company every stakeholder is proud to work for and be associated with.One after the other during the June 6 company meeting, as each person stood up to introduce themselves, they recounted memories and how proud they were to work for Rios Tropicales – whether for 33 years or two months.

“I feel very proud to be a leader of Rios Tropicales. Our new purpose statement lets everyone know that all of our stakeholders share our love to preserve Mother Nature, and that we are not just a business for capitalist purposes,” said Gallo. “We say thank you to the planet by conserving the rainforest and rivers and preserving the planet’s resources for future generations.”