As I began my career in business some thirty years ago, I received a bit of wise advice from John Wilson, a former colleague and mentor. “Chris, don’t try to make business nice! It isn’t nice,” he said, “…but it can be good.” For a long time, with each passing budget decision and strategic priority I saw determined, my skepticism grew against John’s suggestion that business could be “good,” and the idea all but vanished in the haze. Then, five or six years ago, I noticed an unmistakable shift. And like turning tide, this form of organization we know as a business, which for generations has been the primary agent of the ‘shareholder’, began to become more and more an agent of employees and customers to serve their priorities for social impact.
When we dig into the essence of what makes a great brand, a brand that lasts and stands the test of time, we find two interacting elements: an organization’s best sense of its own self and who it aspires to be and a real and lasting need, even a social tension, always of another person or people, that begs to be satisfied. In relational terms, those people who orient themselves toward others in service are much more highly esteemed than those who are consumed with themselves or committed to self-serving behavior.
Likewise, the character of an organization shaped by its preoccupation with something outside, bigger, more profound than itself attracts the best talent and the brightest minds. Businesses are being pushed in this direction, slowly, inexorably, passionately, creatively. In For Goodness’ Sake: satisfy the hunger for meaningful business, you will discover that a whole new generation of business is being shaped and successful companies must learn to bring about not just economic outcomes but social ones. Still, hard decisions are needed, and ones that are not “nice” – but business might just be showing up for something better, even for “good!”