14 March 2013
Conscious Capitalism - Create a Business with Purpose
SXSW 2013: Conscious Capitalism with John Mackey, co-CEO and Founder of Whole Foods
In this special video edition of Social Media for Small Business, Suzi Dafnis recaps some of what she learned from John Mackey at SXSW about what it takes to create a conscious business.
'I love business. I have been a business owner since I was 26 and I enjoy nothing more than hanging out with other business owners and learning from them. So, it was interesting for me to hear SXSW featured speaker, John Mackey of Whole Foods Market, talk about how despised and distrusted business is.'
Suzi Dafnis' Notes from John Mackey's session at SXSW
John Mackey has co-authored a book called Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business. To give us the context as to why he wrote the book, Mackey proclaimed that business is as disliked as government and that generally, business (and business people) are seen as greedy, selfish and exploitative.
The reason for this dislike, according to the successful entrepreneur, is that business is often judged by its worst practitioners - the corporates that commit crimes and leave chaos in their wake, the Wall Street players (and equivalents the world over).
Conscious businesses, the type of businesses Mackey and his co-author are calling on other business owners to create, are ones that demonstrate a more enlightened leadership and put purpose before profits. Conscious businesses add value not only to financial stakeholders, but also to customers, staff, suppliers and the communities that engage with them at any level.
Changing the Narrative about Business
'We want to change the narrative about business. We want people to think differently about business and for business to engage differently. Business is noble and heroic, it adds value and creates prosperity,' John explained.
Acknowledging that business cannot exist unless it's profitable (regardless if it is a not-for-profit or a private enterprise), Mackey believes that if a business' main reason for being is to make money, it's doomed.
Thinking More Consciously About Business
'You can aspire to do good, while doing business.'
The first thing to do in developing a conscious business is discover why it exists; what value it's creating in this world.
'Most entrepreneurs get that. They are in pursuit of some type of dream. They keep that quiet and don't often articulate that purpose.'
Mackey's advice is to discover your purpose and then to tell the world.
According to Mackey, a different type of leadership is required for conscious business. Leaders need to be driven by more than power and money, have a level of EQ, be more spiritually awake, and be committed to serving.
Conscious culture is captured in the book by the acronym TACTILE. T = trust. A = authenticity. C = caring. T = transparency. I = integrity. L = learning. E = empowerment.
(In his presentation, Mackey switched out some of these words for others - and I've explained that below.)
Here's a summary of the context of these aspects of conscious businesses:
Help people feel secure and you will earn their trust. This applies to all stakeholders, not just shareholders.
We have a quest for authenticity today. We want people to be real and to be themselves in all environments and on all occassions.
Traditional business language is war-oriented: Eat or be eaten, kill the competition.
Care and love are usually in the closet in corporations. Love and care need to come out of the closet.
This idea from Mackey was 'music to my ears'.
'Women in business are bringing love and care out of the closet in work environments. Women are so much higher degree of emotional intelligence and are better communicators and so far ahead in relationships and much better with the care and love side of business.'
Let's be more transparent about business practices, and even what people are paid.
Integrity is something that you don't need to be a saint to have but it is something that requires you to cultivate an intentionality around. It's not easy to do and can be 'flushed down the toilet really quickly' with one act that does not demonstrate integrity.
From stage, Mackey used the word Loyalty and spoke of loyalty from its customers, team members and from its suppliers. This is the glue, he said, that holds the organisation together.
Empowerment of staff who will work hard to create great customer experiences.
(In the video, you'll hear me use the word egalitarian, which is what I head Mackey speak about. When I looked up the TACTILE acronym to be sure I had it right, the word empowerment was used as the E instead. Regardless, the belief in the equality of all people in the business, regardless of their role, fits the whole conscious culture idea as well.)
The key point that I took away from John Mackey's presentation is that business has the opportunity to have a higher purpose than just making money. This isn't news, but it's an exciting focus. I hope we see more businesses ask: How conscious is my business?
The text being discussed is available at