Love and business in the same sentence might sound a bit sappy, but far from it. Authors Sisodia, Wolfe and Sheth in the book Firms of Endearment researched hundreds of companies truly loved by all who come in contact with them and showed that they outperformed S&P 500 firms 1111% to 123% over the last ten years.
Many business people consider “love” to be a personal matter, certainly nothing that belongs in the corporation. Yet love forms the foundation of all human interactions. Without love, there is no teamwork, no leadership, no real commitment to customer service.
The term Firm of Endearment is a metaphor standing for companies that operate with the principle of stakeholder integration in mind. They strive to endear themselves not only to shareholders but to all stakeholders (customers, employees, suppliers, environmentalists and the community) and in the process outperform non-firms of endearment in shareholder wealth. They pay their employees very well, provide great value to customers, have thriving suppliers and achieve great returns for investors.
There are four characteristics that distinguish a Firm of Endearment or Conscious Business. The first is that they are driven by a higher purpose that transcends profit maximization. A compelling sense of purpose creates an extraordinary degree of engagement for all stakeholders and catalyzes tremendous organizational energy. As the philosopher Frederick Nietzsche said, he how has a why can bear almost any how.
Stakeholder orientation is the second characteristic. During the conference, moving stories were shared that exemplify this principle in action. One such story was from John Mackey, founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods. In 1981, Austin experienced its worst flood in 100 years. At that time, Whole Foods had only one store, in that city, which was now under eight feet of water. The flood literally wiped them out, with no savings, insurance or warehoused inventory. Yet something unexpected happen: customers showed up with buckets and mops to help salvage the store, team members worked for free, suppliers offered to resupply on credit, investors made additional investments, the bank loaned additional money. The love from the community saved Whole Foods and shaped the essence of what Whole Foods is today. As John Mackey says, stakeholders embody the heart, soul and lifeblood of an enterprise.
Finally, firms of endearment are led by conscious leaders and create a conscious culture where trust, authenticity, care, transparency, integrity, learning and empowerment flourish. How to develop conscious leaders and cultures was something we delved into on day 2 of the conference. Axialent led a workshop demonstrating with real life examples from the audience the practice of becoming a Firm of Endearment –how to develop the mindsets and the skills to shape a different culture.
It was inspiring to see like-minded people passionate about bringing love to business. Love as an expression of unconditional commitment to the growth of other human beings (employees, customers, suppliers, investors, the community). Love as a commitment to create value through products and services that will fulfill the needs of others, and develop and express your highest self in the process. As we say at Axialent, being a conscious business is good business.
About the author
Richi is Axialent’s Managing Director and Chief Culture Officer. He is a seasoned executive with more than 20 years in global organizations and extensive experience in leadership development, organizational effectiveness, and the corporate world. Read more>