Purpose and Profit: Can They Co-Exist?

This was the title of the recent Conscious Capitalism LA Chapter (CCLA) live event on March 26, 2015 at the ROC in Santa Monica. CCLA is one of the growing number of chapters popping up all over the globe from the Conscious Capitalism Movement. From New York to Chicago to the Bay Area, San Diego, Dallas, Cleveland, and DC. The list goes on of cities in the US that are actively building CC Communities through their chapters. And then there are the global chapters in the UK, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, New Zealand, and Australia. As I write this, the CC 2015 Conference in Chicago, April 7-9, is just over. If last year’s experience of CC 2014 in San Diego is anything to go by, we can expect to see many more CC Chapters being formed in the coming months and years, continuing the conversation around bringing heart, meaning, and social impact to the way we do business.

Emergence of a New Business Model

Back to Purpose & Profit. Why this title? Because this is a topic that is truly relevant to our times and is also the key to shifting our mindsets from the traditional business model that focuses solely on maximizing shareholders’ value. Milton Friedman’s famous mantra from 1970, “The business of business is business” is now being debunked and will with time, I predict, be replaced by the more expanded and conscious version of a business model that is based on a Higher Purpose and which integrates a win/win Stakeholder Orientation for all the members of the ecosystem of a particular business or enterprise. These are two of the four principles (often called the Four Pillars) that are the cornerstones of the Conscious Capitalism philosophy. The other two are Conscious Leadership and Conscious Culture. In a recent interview with Daniel Roth, the Executive Editor at LinkedIn, the CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, talks about that a business today needs to have a social impact through its core purpose to balance the profit focus.

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CCLA Event: Purpose & Profit: Can They Co-Exist?

As the topic of Purpose & Profit is clearly on people’s minds, they want to educate themselves on what it means. Bringing the focus back to Los Angeles, we on the CCLA team had a unique opportunity to bring to our community members an insiders-peek into an established and successful global organization with headquarters in LA, that is looking at profit in a very different way since starting an inquiry about their company’s Higher Purpose.

Our CCLA co-founding member, Kent Frazier, joined Lieberman Research Worldwide (LRW) in January of 2014. During his first meeting with the CEO of the company, Dave Sackman, Kent initiated a dialogue that has now lasted over a year. He asked his new CEO this simple, yet provoking question: “What is the Higher Purpose of this company?” Kent, being a practicing Conscious Leader, wanted to know what kind of situation he had gotten himself into by accepting this job. During the CCLA live event they shared with the audience how this conversation has evolved and where it has taken them, both personally and company-wide. It is an opportunity to learn from and be inspired by business leaders who are asking new questions, doing experiments, and testing these principles. Do they work? And if so, how? What have they learned in the process? What can leaders who want to embark on this quest expect? The whole CCLA program with Kent and Dave can be watched through a WebEx recording.

Play recording

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Employees Are Looking For Purpose Driven Businesses

Kent and Dave’s conversation has prompted a lively discussion since the event around the topic of Higher Purpose in organizations throughout our LA community. One of the CCLA community members, Kara Looney, wrote an inspiring piece on her experience of the event and how it reflected her search for meaning in her own professional life. Her article is called “Combining Purpose with Profit,” Kara is a great representative of so many employees all over the globe who have started their search for meaning and fulfillment, not only in their personal lives, but also in their professional lives as well.

For those who want to get insights from different angles, here is another timely article by Ed Zitron in Inc. called Why Businesses That Are Purpose-Driven Come Out on Top.

What Comes First?

One of the conversations I have had recently around this topic was with a business executive friend of mine. He is presently working with a company that brought him in to overhaul and restructure the business. We discussed the purpose question and if and when to bring it up to the company’s founder and CEO, who has been running his business by the Friedman formula and is interested only in the bottom line, like so many traditional businesses. Obviously it isn’t working — otherwise, there would be no need for an overhaul. I felt that looking at the Higher Purpose of the business needs to be the first question explored. My friend claimed that the founder and CEO wasn’t ready for that exploration yet, that some other things needed to be done first. That set me thinking.

Is an overhaul and restructuring going to be profitable as well as sustainable if the issue of the Higher Purpose of the company isn’t explored? A recent Gallup research is showing that more and more employees are disengaged and disillusioned in their jobs. Only 26-30% of the North American workforce is engaged and a dismal 6-12% is Southern Asia. Loyalty for one company is in the past. Employees are looking for more fulfilling jobs now, not only for the paycheck and some perks. This is especially true for the Millennials. They are looking for jobs in which their gifts and talents are being recognized and utilized, as well as in which they are given opportunities to add to those skills. They are looking for jobs that offer them a learning environment, not only for professional skills but also for self-development. They are looking for jobs where they are being mentored to be inspirational leaders themselves. They are looking for jobs where they are working with like-minded and spirited people who genuinely collaborate and co-create. They are looking for jobs where they have flexible working hours. They are looking for jobs where their personal values align with the company’s values and the values of their leaders. They are looking for jobs where they feel they can respect their leaders and feel safe. And most importantly, they are looking for jobs within a company culture where they can be a part of something that is much bigger than themselves. They want to be on a team where the social impact of their work is being felt widely, as it solves people’s problems and creates more health and happiness, and also has a healing effect on the planet. The triple bottom line – People, Planet, Profit. Look at this article, “The Real Perks That Attract and Retain Millennials.”

Why is this important for leaders (like my friend’s CEO, above) when looking to restructure their businesses? Because to attract and to retain the best, most skillful, creative, and innovative talent, they need to provide a clear Higher Purpose that everyone in the organization can claim as their collective vision of success — not a vision that is placed on a plaque on the office wall with good intentions and then simply forgotten, but a vision that is integrated into every fiber and action of the organization. It is the vision, the proverbial North Star, which is lived by everyone and guides the company toward manifesting its Higher Purpose.

When did you last review and renew your Higher Purpose, personally and professionally? Is there time for an overhaul of your business model of yourself and that of your business? I promise you, it is a worthy exploration. There isn’t time not to!

This article was first published on April 15, 2015 in e.MILE People Development Magazine

Image credits:

Artwork courtesy of Facilitation Graphics by Greg T. Whicker

Event photos courtesy of Yasmin Allshav Photographer

Profit Image courtesy of CCLA