For this first show of 2018, we took a look back at the previous year, summarizing what I believe to be the big “AHA!”. As I reflected on the key themes emerging from CEO Exclusive, I was struck by the compassion I heard in many of the conversations I had. From CEOs looking to better the situation for their community and their employees, to one’s with a desire to change the world, it’s clear that getting to the emotional core of what motivates people has become a solid business trend.
I came to find out from Chris Reinking with Jabian Consulting that it’s called “conscious capitalism,” which comes from the book Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia (how am I the LAST one to know about this?). I was stunned to discover that so many leaders want to make the concept of giving back as important as the bottom line. Sure, they are still motivated by profit and sustainability, but there is a genuine desire to make the planet a better place.
It was a constant thread throughout many of the discussions this year. How do I make things better for the community, and just as importantly, my staff? It was also eye-opening because, for many, CEOs have a reputation of being cold, heartless, and only concerned with the business and making it better. What many have learned however, is that when you improve things for the employees and the potential consumer base, the company receives a huge reward. After hearing from the leaders I’m highlighting here, you’ll see why it’s destined to change the course of your career, your company, and maybe even the world.
Always Do the Right Thing
It seems like a given. As a company, your culture should always revolve around treating the customer and your employees correctly. Yet, in the rush to profitability, this concept can get lost. For a company like Annandale Village, which specializes in services for individuals with developmental disabilities, it’s about making a meaningful difference in the world, the very definition of conscious capitalism.
When CEO Adam Pomeranz sat down with us to discuss the culture he strives to create at this assisted living facility, it was clear where his focus was. The bottom line is important to his company, but for him and the staff at Annandale, it’s about being there for their clients. As he put it:
“We do the right thing for the right reason. So, the staff at Annandale can feel very comfortable that the decisions we make are with the villager and their family, at the forefront of our minds. So sometimes those are challenging decisions, sometimes financially, they’re very difficult decisions, but we have integrity and we do the right thing.”
Find the Proper Balance
Sometimes, doing the right thing requires a need to balance out the needs of the company with the needs of the community. Here at CEO Exclusive, we are constantly discussing the need for engagement with the customer base. Without knowing what your potential clientele wants or how your employees will react to having to provide it creates confusion in your mission. On the one hand, you are in business to make money. On the other, the new trend is to make a difference as well.
A good example of this is Eric Hunger with Electrobike Georgia. As a mid-market company, they recognized a way to make the planet a better place while providing something to an underserved part of the market. As Eric puts it, it was a question of balance. With people moving back to cities and a need for greener tech alternatives, he scoured the corporate landscape and came up with the idea of selling electric bikes.
As he put it, “I was trying to balance all this out and I arrived at the decision that after three months of researching this that I might be a little early, but I think it’s the right thing for me to invest my money into.”
Again, it’s a question of doing the right thing while keeping your eye firmly on the bottom line.
Recognize Your Niche and Specialize in It
Another CEO who found a unique way to deal with her business demographic is Advanced Care Pediatrics’ Greice Murphy. As the leader of a facility charged with improving the life of developmentally disabled individuals, she’s done a great job of providing a specialized service, and by doing so, filling a niche that similar corporations have either avoided or missed.
Their mission is simple – provide the highest level and quality of care to those who probably never received the same before – and is motivated by a deep desire to change the healthcare industry. Instead of taking the easy way out, they want to focus on giving their clients the very best. As Greice puts it, “We have been able to capitalize on that because the niche that we serve is so specialized that the families want to feel special, not just feel, but be special. And as those companies merge and become bigger they lose their identity and culture.”
Indeed, the bigger the organization, the less likely they are to “live” the concept of conscious capitalism. At Advanced Care Pediatrics, the staff celebrates the company’s desire to do good works. It’s what attracts them to such an employer and results in them wanting to stay.
Plant Seeds and Cultivate
It’s the same for Boosterthon Fun Run leader Chris Carneal. The company he heads helps schools raise money, and he does a terrific job at it. But more than that, he has created a corporate culture of giving and philanthropy that is the very definition of this new trend.
For him, it’s about creating the proper foundation, fostering a desire to do the right thing and getting everyone on the same page. Sure, it may boil down to a basic return on a wholly human investment, but he’s proven his point via his company’s success. As Chris states, “Culture is not something you do, it’s who you are. It has to be at your DNA level.”
“In fact, the word “culture” starts with like a word “cultivate,” to take a piece of land where nothing exists to plant seeds to water. To spend a lot of time where nothing happens, and then all of a sudden, with the right ingredients, the right time frame, the next season ahead here comes something that will bear fruit. So, I’ve always viewed our people as something I’m going to invest, invest, invest in and there’s not going to necessarily be an immediate return.”
Remember – Journey Mapping is Key
Focusing on your employees, and playing to their strengths and exploring their creative limits, was another major theme throughout the course of CEO Exclusive’s year. We heard from many leaders on this subject, but when Chris Reinking of Jabian Consulting mentioned “journey mapping,” it truly struck a chord. By creating a culture of consciousness, by allowing the staff to explore those causes which are important to them and allowing them to reach their potential, they create an atmosphere which caters to the clientele and the potential customer base.
Reinking is really upfront about this. “So one idea that we put together, and this actually applies to not just employees, but customers as well, is journey mapping,” he says.” Really understanding, for employees and for customers on the outside too, what experience they go through and what their expectations are along the way. Breaking down your employees into segments, much like you do with customers, and everybody has got different expectations for each part of their journey. How do you really focus on the initiatives that are going to make the biggest difference for people?”
Collaborate to Create Benefits for Everyone
For our final glimpse back at 2017, we look at one of the most amazing collaborations between companies. When Gas South came into the Atlanta area, it was looking for someone to partner with. This was especially true after the 2008 economic downturn, when the company faced a growing number of customers, and employees, who could not pay for their power needs.
As luck would have it, the local United Way became a mentor for the organization. Through its CEO, Milton Little, Jr., Gas South’s leader, Kevin Greiner, found a like-minded individual who wanted to offer the community a way to get back on their feet. Why Little? As Greiner puts it, “It was a real logical choice for me to reach out to somebody like Milton who is recognized as a true leader of the nonprofit community here in Atlanta. And running one of the very best United Ways in the entire country and really, in the entire world. So that was pretty easy for me.”
Clearly, by finding a partner in conscious capitalism, both organizations benefited. Indeed, there is no downside when you do good work. When you engage the community, and your staff, in a manner which shows them both how much you care and how much concern you have for their well being and overall betterment, you help change the perception of your company, and in return, you as a leader. Don’t rest on your laurels. Change the culture within your business, and you can be more successful than you ever imagined. When you pay it forward, you get it back in return.