Kent Gregoire is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member and founder of Symphony Advantage, a boutique consulting company. He recently became the seventh certified Conscious Capitalism consultant globally. As such, he helps organizations unleash their spirit of doing business for good. We asked Kent how entrepreneurs can embrace the tenets of Conscious Capitalism. Here's what he shared:
Does the idea of conscious capitalism sound too good to be true? In a world where people win at the expense of others, it's hard to imagine a win-win approach for all. When we do imagine this new reality, many struggle to understand where to start the transition towards a conscious capitalistic model.
Here are four concrete actions entrepreneurs can take today to embark on this rewarding journey.
1. Pivot From Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to Purpose
Every business plan claims to solve a problem. However, this problem rarely impacts the lives of people or the world in a meaningful way. Similarly, many organizations add a CSR component to their mission, but profit remains the main reason for being.
In conscious organizations, revenue generated by sales fuels the larger mission: to solve a specific social or environmental problem. In return, this purpose creates a competitive advantage and promotes employee engagement and financial performance, among a long list of benefits.
Reflect on how your organization seeks to create impact. To what extent are your core revenue model and that impact aligned? Is the team focused on impact advancement every step of the way? If much of what you're doing only adds noise, reallocate resources where it matters most.
2. Reject Trade-Offs
Conscious companies operate with their entire business ecosystems in mind. They concentrate on optimizing equal value for all stakeholders without trade-offs (including customers, employees, suppliers, shareholders, society at large, and the planet). Strong and engaged stakeholders, in turn, lead to a healthy, sustainable, resilient business.
While it's easy to agree with this concept in principle, acting on it can be quite challenging, particularly when you face hard decisions and the interests of one stakeholder appear pitted against another in a zero-sum game. Cash is tight at year's end: Do you pay vendors on time or give your team a bonus? You underbid a project: Do you charge the customer more or ask shareholders to take the loss?
However, when a trade-off is involved, there isn't a right choice to make. That idea is the absolute key to stakeholder management.
Instead, step back, expand your thinking, communicate with your stakeholders, and find creative win-win solutions. The loyalty, collaboration, and innovation this approach fosters are worth it.
Suppliers are a source of collaboration and innovation. In such synergistic relationships, both organizations grow. Rather than shrewdly negotiating lower prices, discuss how you can help vendors achieve success in their endeavors.
3. Learn to Lead Yourself Before Leading Others
Leadership isn't a title; it's a way of being. Conscious leaders learn to lead themselves before leading others. They are primarily driven by service to the company's purpose, rather than by power or money. They inspire and foster innovation and bring out the best in others.
Take a personality assessment based on empirical data to better understand your own behaviors, motivations, drives, and talents. Also, invest in a professional leadership coach who can help you grow as a conscious leader.
4. Transition From a Fear-Based to a Love-Based Culture
In conscious capitalism, culture becomes the social fabric of a business. A company that embraces a caring culture isn't focused on increasing employee engagement (that's a result)--it's about an environment in which employees are being cared about.
Much attention is paid to perks such as unlimited PTO. In practice, care cannot be a means to an end or else it's mere manipulation. Care must be the end in and of itself. Only then will the byproduct--improved performance--appear.
In the United States today, much of the workforce does not experience this kind of care, representing both a barrier and an opportunity for improvement.
While it sounds counterintuitive, celebrate mistakes. If a culture praises those who make them as they come forward, everyone learns together and can avoid repeating said mistakes.
Purpose-driven S&P 500 companies historically perform better than their traditional peers, attracting business leaders to conscious capitalism for its long-term financial benefits. However, to successfully implement and realize its rich potential, focus on the most significant role of conscious capitalism: Scaling solutions for a better world.