CONSCIOUS CAPITALISM AND THE EVOLUTION OF BUSINESS

dddddd

Defining success in business has long followed a familiar set of unyielding maxims: The sole purpose of business is to make a profit. Entrepreneurs are beholden to no one but shareholders. It’s a CEO’s obligation — even legal and sacred duty — to squeeze partners, employees and the environment in which the business operates for every last shred of gain.

This definition of business leadership, maturity and success has gone largely unchallenged the last 25 years — which is amazing, considering that it’s now being exposed as provably wrong.

People have sensed something wrong at the center of business thinking for some time, even before the field’s best and brightest brought the world financial system to the brink of ruin in 2008, and even before the costs of business “externalities” started to take a global environmental toll. But is there an alternative short of renouncing capitalism altogether and spending our days parading giant protest puppets through the city? It turns out there is: a framework for business that recognizes capitalism’s potential to be a force for good, not destruction, while still making a profit.

Evidence of this shift has taken many forms, such as the rise of Impact Investing and B-Corporations, but the best place to get oriented is Conscious Capitalism. An early catalyst of the movement, Conscious Capitalism includes a website (www.consciouscapitalism.org), an annual conference, national and international chapters, a roster of successful supporting companies (such as Whole Foods Market and The Container Store), and a book by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia that lays out the principles and — crucially — the results: Conscious companies consistently outperform their traditional peers financially, sometimes by a factor as high as 10x.

The principles that drive these returns are easy to grasp, because they just happen to correlate with our innate sense of doing what’s right: Making sure all stakeholders — not just shareholders — are rewarded and grow along with the business; prioritizing sustainable long-term value creation over the quick-hit quarterly goal; ensuring that purpose and culture drive profit, not the other way around. The result: better returns by almost any measure.

Keiretsu Forum Northwest is right in the midst of this evolution via its Impact Investment committee, the use of an impact badge on qualifying opportunities, and the annual Impact Investment forum organized by committee chair Kevin Owyang. Held just last month, this year’s forum had many in the room who were new to this way of doing business. Other attendees already viewed it as mainstream, and in fact the only way to do business right. If you’re in the first group, I encourage you to get into the second as fast as you can, because this evolution in business thinking is profound, powerful and accelerating.

Hans Bjordahl is CEO of Culture Foundry, a Keiretsu member and digital services firm which creates beautiful technology in the form of websites and applications for such clients as Bonnie Raitt, Home Power Magazine, Esalen Institute, Churchill Downs, Jackson Browne, SolarPro Magazine, Humanosphere, and Crosby Stills & Nash.

Advertisements

To Make Technology Effective, Make It Beautiful

unnamedSometimes when the dust settles after a new product or service has launched, it becomes clear that it failed to capture the imagination of customers or even (in grudging retrospect) its builders. So what went wrong?

The post-mortem may unearth several reasons, but among the most common: The solution led too heavily with either design or technology, treating the other as an afterthought.

We’ve all experienced products that have suffered from a design / technology imbalance. See if these scenarios feel familiar:

A technology-focused product team limits the role of design to “skinning the app” or providing the icons (“hey designers, just be thankful we gave you that sandbox to play in”). The end result may be technically functional, but is powerfully uninviting. No singular vision for the experience is conveyed to the users, and lacking a clear understanding of why they’d dive in, users are not super-motivated to figure out the “how,” further tilting an already steep learning curve.

In the opposite scenario, a design-focused product team develops a solution with little thought to its technical feasibility, until late in the project when developers are brought in (sometimes from great distances) to magically fulfill all the functionality promises the design has blithely made. The resulting experience looks gorgeous, but nothing works as advertised, it usually falls apart on mobile devices, and users will soon discover that no one bothered to design the error screens, of which they’re going to see plenty.

Who gets to cross the demilitarized zone between design and technology on these types of projects? Users. Will they make that journey repeatedly? Not if they can help it. How do you stay out of this trap as an entrepreneur or investor? Gravitate toward solutions where a holistic balance between design and technology is evident. The best designers can sketch in code. The best developers can code with a picture of the resulting experience in mind. The best partner firms will evidence a similar balance in their presentation and case studies.

Because this balance is hard to achieve, there are far more examples of Goofus than Gallant in this arena (a free beer to the first person to place that reference). One highlighted exemplar (yes, to the point of cliché) is Apple. When developing a mobile solution at Culture Foundry, we have frequent occasion to compare Apple’s iOS experience with Google’s Android experience directly: same content, same goals, different mobile platforms. Each has its fans, but the care with which Apple pursues a unified design and technology experience is evident, and users have flocked to its products to make Apple the most valuable company on the planet today. Meanwhile, in the interest of market share (or “openness,” to adopt the Google point of view), Android lets its user experience standards wander around off-leash, open to anyone who would like to remake them in the interest of a business goal, price point, or quarterly financial target. Though no platform is perfect, the chatter that emerges when the team is switching from iOS to Android typically includes such gems as “I hate the Android operating system with the burning heat of a thousand white-hot suns” and “I look forward to the day when I can throw this Droid phone into the sea.” Yes, we’re an expressive bunch.

To be clear, I’m not trying to start a Droid war. George Lucas tried that in Episode 1 and we all know how that turned out. Those who prefer Android phones will be delighted to discover that they can get them for about $1 and laugh all the way to the bank.

If you’re aspiring to build or invest in a product that ends up valued at a higher price point, however, adopting a holistic approach to design and technology is a great place to start. The best recipe for successful technology is to make it beautiful technology.

Hans Bjordahl is CEO of Culture Foundry, a Keiretsu partner that exists to build beautiful technology in the form of websites and applications for desktop, tablet and mobile devices. He can be reached at hans@culturefoundry.com

WHY HAVING A GOOD DUE DILIGENCE TEAM AND COACH IS IMPORTANT

unnamed (1)

Today’s market environment demands more than ever world class due diligence reporting that provides key insights on potential risks or other variances that could ultimately lead to non performing assets for investors.  A good way in developing a comprehensive due diligence report is by engaging a coach “Due Diligence Lead” and a power team. This creates a dynamic mastermind group that inherently helps in gaining different perspectives in evaluating and minimizing risk. The outcome is that it maximizes investor confidence in knowing the answers before many key questions are asked. Market and investor confidence relies on and will improve on a broader effective due diligence perspective.

Due diligence is a very extensive processes that has many key areas that a future investor needs to evaluate. The challenge for many start-ups and entrepreneurs is to have the breadth of knowledge to address so many potential key questions or the ability to know what is needed. Where due diligence helps is taking the entrepreneur’s positive filters of the opportunities, while allowing investors to see the risks and bottom line to evaluate if they will make money. Information obtained by objective and independent coaching is critical for the investment process and directly affects the confidence of all. The Keiretsu due diligence process where you can choose key members and use their knowledge and experience in forming the right team helps in the following ways:

  • Gaining a broader perspective, clarity and understanding of your business
  • Fewer unanswered questions  by investors brings a higher confidence level in viewing your business
  • Improving communication with investors through key team members which helps create a stronger relationship.
  • A team approach that reduces effort, time and money by all parties in the due diligence processes
  • Having expertise in reduced regulatory or other government findings, shows a strong due diligence process that demonstrates a sound risk governance
  • Well thought out company evaluation and investment opportunity that is positive to investor’s interest in making money

The coaching processes offered by Keiretsu and best practices help reduce potential risk and loss by investors by significantly understanding your company and the underlying assets of your business, business model and market.  Keiretsu due diligence coaching or later executive coaching is an innovative way to reimagine your business and help you succeed. When an entrepreneur or business executive is aligned with an advisor “coach,” learning cycles are compressed, new understanding is gained and greater success is achieved, just like in athletics where coaching is the norm. However in business, it’s the top 10% of achievers who will actually seek out this level of support.
In general either through due diligence or your business, coaching helps YOU in the following ways:

  • Help you feel confident with your choices – broader perspective
  • Help you move outside your comfort zone – where amazing things happen
  • Help you deal with change – to support new skills
  • Help with nonstop challenges – critical thinking
  • Help you see your blind spots and biases that affect your view of the situation

Kenn Dickinson, Keiretsu Member, is CEO of Fast Break Business Coaching, there for successful entrepreneurs and leaders who want to thrive not just survive and want to take their business to the next level.  kenn@fastbreakbc.com