It’s Labor Day weekend, when people all across the U.S. and Canada get a little more time to spend with their families. It is important to remember the reason for the holiday: to pay homage to the dedication and achievements of America’s workers. That also makes it a good time for reflection by leaders in business about their priorities and responsibilities.
We are responsible to be good stewards of the lives under our care and to do that, we have to have a thriving business.
As I’ve written about many times on this blog, business is a virtuous cycle. Business growth is essential for the growth of our people. It enables us to help provide a stable living for them, which is the bedrock for their fulfillment at work and in life. Then, the investments we make in growing our people ultimately helps to grow the business; when we grow the business, it provides greater opportunities for our people to flourish.
But our customers are very important stakeholders in that cycle. They’re the ones who buy our products! For this entire relationship to work, however, we have to have our customers’ trust. And that does not come from doing whatever we can to make a quick buck off them, it comes from truly caring about their needs and treating them like our friends and family. Their business potentially has their own virtuous cycle and we’re part of that.
We need to succeed for our people and to do that, we have to succeed for our customers. It’s not just enough to be a successful business that creates value for your shareholders, or to be a great place to work. Everyone should be part of a winning team; all stakeholders should gain from their association with us.
This all brings to mind a great quote from Conscious Capitalism, the seminal book my good friend Raj Sisodia wrote with John Mackey of Whole Foods.
One of the beauties of free-enterprise capitalism is that it motivates businesses to provide greater value, higher quality, and better service all the time. Competition forces us to continuously improve, innovate, and to be more creative—or be left behind. To thrive, we have to offer customers new products, services, and value that our competitors don’t. What makes it even more challenging is that customer expectations about quality and value rise continuously. What might have satisfied them twenty-five years ago doesn’t satisfy them today. As the Red Queen says in Through the Looking Glass, ‘It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast.’ Now, having to run twice as fast sounds like a rather draining proposition! But that is what we would need to do if we just keep doing the same things we have always been doing. The only way to escape from that trap is through creativity and innovation, by creating superior products and services that competitors have not yet thought of or cannot easily duplicate. Conscious businesses have an advantage because they are inherently more creative. Instead of getting trapped into a never-ending efficiency and productivity competition, conscious businesses innovate by thinking of the unmet needs and desires of their customers. This is challenging and fulfilling at the same time.
So to succeed for our stakeholders, we must constantly evolve to meet our customers’ needs. Yesterday, Barry-Wehmiller introduced a new way a number of our companies are trying to meet our customers’ needs and further deepen our relationship of trust.
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