Last week, a client and I sat down to make a plan for her annual vision day – a day with her senior leadership team to set the vision and strategic intent for the next three years.
The company is privately owned by two co-founders, and this General Manager is fully empowered to run the session on their behalf.
The business has grown significantly over the past five years and is now at a critical tipping point where they either significantly invest to scale-up internationally or remain focused on maintaining their position in the domestic market.
My client started the session by asking a really important question – one I very rarely hear from business leaders, which was “Why grow?”
She went to explain…..“I want to understand why my team comes in here every day? What drives them? How do they judge success? And how important is growing revenue against all our other measures of success?”
The desire for revenue and profit growth is, so often, a foregone conclusion. My client is wisely asking – growth at what cost?
This woman aims to stay in touch with her team. To understand their capacity, their skill sets, what gives them energy and makes them thrive.
She is conscious of the fact that they are an employer in a regional town, providing jobs that support many families who live together in the same community.
She is sensitive to the personal values of the Founders, who are at this point, financially sound, living a positive life balance, and committed to making their business a force for good both socially and environmentally.
She also understands the risks involved in pursuing growth, the stretch it will put on the business, and the impact on the team and Founders should new business ventures fail.
This business is a living example of a purpose-driven organisation. They take a balanced view of success and measure their worth in terms of value-add across multiple stakeholders, beyond the interests of shareholders alone.
Purpose-driven organisations balance the needs and interests of all stakeholders, not just those of the shareholders.
Whilst still a minority, my client is amongst a growing number of business leaders globally who are taking more accountability and asking themselves how they can be responsible to not just delivering a healthy bottom line, but also to the social, environmental and economical dilemmas that plague us all.
These business leaders understand that governments, non-profits and social service organisations cannot tackle these problems alone and that capitalism can, in fact, be harnessed as a force for good.
This growing movement is connecting and finding voice through organisations like B Corp, The B Team, Conscious Capitalism, 1% for the planet. In the US –The Business Roundtable in August 2019, issued a statement on “the purpose of a corporation” stating that companies are no longer solely responsible to advancing the interests of shareholders alone, and must now also invest in their employees, protect the environment and deal fairly with suppliers. The statement is signed by almost 200 CEOs of America’s leading companies and serves as a template for all businesses seeking to expand their corporate social responsibility agenda.
Of course – actions speak louder than words and whilst the statement describes positive intent, it has been reported in The New York times as empty without formal action by these employers and acceptance amongst Wall Street. There’s no point making lofty claims and not delivering on them. It’s better to start small and deliver on your commitments rather than risking your integrity by falling short.
If you’re a progressive entrepreneur or business leader seeking to deliver value across multiple stakeholder groups, you need to define your purpose and translate it into a clear, simple and measurable strategic plan. Importantly, be realistic about what you can achieve and make claims you are committed to delivering, rather than risking your integrity.
A clear one-page business plan that encompasses a balanced view of success and drives clear accountabilities across the team to make it actionable is the best way to garner support across your organisation to deliver value for profit, people and planet.
If you want to support, my strategy on a page program is a simple end-to-end strategy to execution performance system for leadership teams seeking to take responsibility, create clarity and drive action. There is no time like the present to progress your thinking and influence for the benefit of all your stakeholders. Contact me to find out more.
B Corp provides certification to for-profit companies seeking to balance purpose and profit by making a positive impact across their workers, customers, suppliers, community and environment.
The B Team is a nonprofit initiative founded by Sir Richard Branson and Jochen Zeitz bringing together global leaders to catalyse a better way of doing business that prioritises sustainability, equality and accountability
Conscious Capitalism Inc,. builds and supports a global network of entrepreneurs, business leaders, and intrapreneurs dedicated to growth through conscious leadership with convenings, learning & development offerings, and PR opportunities.
Business Roundtable is an association of chief executive officers of America’s leading companies working to promote a thriving U.S. economy and expanded opportunity for all Americans through sound public policy.
Reach out to these organisation to find how you can join the growing number of voices seeking to make a real difference through the power of capitalism.