The Magic of Conscious Capitalism

By October 25, 2010blog

For as long as I can remember, all I’ve wanted to do is create GREAT companies. Companies where everyone who touches the company – customers, employees, suppliers, owners, and their community – all can say “what a GREAT company!” It has never been about “exiting” or getting rich for me. Growing profitability has been a means to create stability and grow that great connection with more people in more fun ways.

A couple weeks ago I had a chance to spend some time with a couple GREAT leaders and examples of this at the Conscious Capitalism Summit. The founders of Whole Foods, The Container Store, Trader Joe’s, and other really interesting entrepreneurs shared examples of how they have fostered holistic, “conscious” approaches in their businesses.

On the surface, it seems like an obvious, almost hippie, approach to business. But there’s something EXTREMELY powerful about the model by which they all live and grow their companies. Here are a couple examples of differences between our old “shareholder model” vs a more holistic “stakeholder” model:
1. Advertise and “close” customers with gimmicks vs. create real caring relationships
2. Squeeze vendors via costs and terms vs. creating win-win vendor relations
3. Spend more on acquiring new customers vs. creating raving fans of existing customers
4. Have investors focused on maximizing short-term profit vs. greater long term value
5. Look at the company as an asset to be “flipped” vs. a company that exists to bring more and more good value to the world.
6. Treat employees as cogs to accomplish tasks vs. as real people who love customers more because their company loves them.
The differences really boil down to one tenant for me… How can we add more value/appreciation/love to ALL our stakeholder relationships?
“Fill the other guy’s basket to the brim, then making money becomes an easy proposition.” – Kip Tindell, The Container Store

“Long-term profits are maximized by NOT making them the primary goal” – John Mackey, Whole Foods

After coming back from this gathering I decided to try something new with PosterBrain. In October we had our best month ever. So we decided (with the amazing help of my wife, Chelsea) to throw a last-minute party and invite ALL our stakeholders – our tube, ink, and paper suppliers, Fedex rep, Paychex payroll coordinator, HP printer repair man, employees, accountant, and many more. We thanked everyone with hand-written thank you cards and a cool magic trick – thanking them for the specific magic they bring to helping make PosterBrain great.
Our mailing tube vendor, based in Ohio, tried to hop on a plane to be here. Our paper supplier sent cheesecakes from Chicago. Several people sent wonderfully heart-felt emails, including this one from our payroll coordinator yesterday…I received your “Thank you gift”. And I must say I have been laughing all morning. My supervisor read your wonderful note to the whole office and made me stand up in front of them flashing my fingers. It was great fun and thoughtful of you. I appreciate it.”
While pulling everyone a little closer by sharing our appreciation didn’t help the company’s short-term profits, there is a new connection between everyone that makes us all want to share more of our magic to help the company thrive more.

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