by Mike Ferry
I recently read one of the most thought-provoking business books of 2009, Good for Business: The Rise of the Conscious Corporation, and believe there is much to be learned from its insight.
The world is rapidly changing and those companies that recognize how and why will have a better chance to excel in the future. Consumers, prospective employees, investors, and governing bodies all have higher expectations of companies than they did in the past.
Good for Business lays out 4 cornerstones for successful businesses of the future- (1) respect for consumers’ power,(2) a people-centered culture, (3) having a purpose beyond profit and (4) a sustainable approach to business.
Let’s briefly consider each of these cornerstones, beginning with respect for consumer’s power. If you’re reading this, chances are you are well aware of the increased power of consumers as a result of the information age. Consumer’s use the internet to form opinions, research purchases, and share experiences regarding brands and companies. Its amazing the great divide between companies that understand and appreciate consumers’ increased power, and those that don’t.
A perfect example of one who didn’t understand the new world is the youtube video “United Breaks Guitars”. A United passenger witnessed baggage handlers mishandling his guitar, but despite trying for a year, he was unable to get the company to cover his damages. The following video has been viewed by 6 million people on Youtube at the time of this writing and it’s producers are already well into their third song about the incident.
Moving on to (2), most companies would claim to have a people-centered culture, but for many this is just lip service. Hierarchical, command and control companies that try to make every decision in the corner office are going the way of the dinosaur. These top down companies often have trouble developing future generations of leaders as when every decision is made at the top, people never learn to lead. In addition, the authors of Good for Business rightly point out that there is a generational shift taking place, with millenials bringing a different set of expectations to the workplace. Millenials have grown up in the digital age, have less patience for hierarchical organizations, and will not hesitate to move on to new opportunities if they are not getting their needs met.
Companies that (3) “have a purpose beyond profit” tend to have fiercely loyal consumers, motivated employees, and positive reputations. The authors provide numerous examples of companies that live this value including Google, Whole Foods, and Green Mountain coffee.
Finally, the authors provide some interesting thoughts on (4) “a sustainable approach to business”. Clearly, managing the impact a company has on the environment is the right thing to do for the planet and for future generations. Interestingly, its also what your consumers and employees expect. A Euro RSCG 2008 study showed that 79 percent of people purchase environmentally friendly products and a 2007 Net Impact study showed 81 percent of MBA students thought businesses should work to improve society.
Good for Business is loaded with data, real world examples, and case studies which persuasively support the authors’ thesis. Written in a conversational, enjoyable to read style, I highly recommend it.
Five Key Takeaways for Leaders
Here are some final takeaways for leaders:
Written by Mike Ferry, Republished with Permission from Leading good Brands to Greatness