We’re all aspiring leaders. No matter our age or position, we all have
big contributions to make, but frequently our best ideas don’t fit tidily into
a job description. Maybe you’re wanting to do more to influence others,
drive positive change, or take on greater challenges. However, no one has
placed you in official leadership.
What to do? We can’t just hop on a chair and start a
revolution. As emerging leaders, we have to respect the existing boundaries of
our company while still testing the limits.
You know the phrase “It doesn’t take a title to be a leader,” but how can you translate your vision into lasting impact without holding a top managerial or leadership role?
The intent of this worksheet is to begin answering that question. Use the following questions to put pen to paper (or thoughts to screen) and guide you on your journey of inspiring and influencing change.
Passion and skill are key to accomplishing important work. First,
you must connect your planned efforts to your desire. This will establish
clarity on exactly what is fueling you to show up as a leader. The initial step
to making waves is reflection: Why you?
Why are you here? Why do you care about this company, this job, this initiative?
What is personally important about this change
How does it reflect your values, your passion,
What makes you the best person to take this on?
What unique strengths do you bring to the table
that are assets to this business or effort?
2. Connect to Context
Now that you’re inspired, beware of jumping in too quickly. You’ll
need to carefully balance reflection, strategy AND action to ensure that your
changes are sustainable and lasting. You don’t want just any movement—you want
movement forward. And to do that, you
need to have a solid plan. Begin by understanding the context of your ideas so
that a blueprint for action can emerge.
Who has a vested interest in this project?
How do your changes affect people, and how are
you going to meet their needs when proposing these changes?
Who has power or incentive to block what you’re
proposing? How do you get them on your team?
How do you build trust with stakeholders and
share your vision in an appealing manner?
3. Connect to People
Humans are the sum of our experience, environment and inputs;
these components were created with the involvement of other people. We aren’t
capable of building anything alone, nor should we try! To have a meaningful
impact, you’ll need to build a strong team and utilize the various skills of
everyone involved. This team will give you the best chance of succeeding.
Who else cares about this work, complements your strengths, and can assist with the vision?
Who has done this before and could advise you?
Who else should be involved?
4. Connect to Action
It takes a special kind of grit (courage and resolution) to turn
talk into action. For that, you’ll need to create sustained momentum.
What do you envision the long-term change to be? What does your improved world look like?
What long-term strategies do you need to put in
place for this work?
What are the short-term goals?
What is the immediate next action I can take today to move me towards my vision?
Now you’re beautifully positioned to create something
meaningful, to make a splash. How do you accomplish this while still respecting
those in positions of authority?
5. Consider You
True leadership starts with self-leadership. Before trying
to solve the challenge for everyone, solve it for yourself!
Doing this will establish your credibility and experience so
that more people trust you with bigger responsibilities.
What’s the smallest possible thing you can do to solve this challenge for yourself personally?
How can you show off this solution within your
current circle of influence?
6. Care About Politics
Politics in business gets a bad rap. People will grumble,
“He got the position because he knew someone.”
While skill is an important qualification, relationships and
the strength of them do and should play
a part. When you “know someone,” that’s one way of saying you’ve built trust
with them. Those people are now willing to vouch for your good intentions and
capability to get the job done.
If you want to make a difference, invest in the people
around you. You’ll need that respect in order to serve.
How can you help others trust your intentions more?
How can you help others trust your capabilities
Who do you need to know? Who needs to know you?
The best leaders will be rewarded by the change they make, and
their fulfillment will come not from the praise they receive but from the
satisfaction of the lives they’ve impacted. As Lao Tzu says, “When the best
leader’s work is done, the people say: we did it ourselves.”
7. Create the Sell
To be truly effective, you’ll
need the sponsorship of those in authority, so share your vision and intentions
with them while also connecting it to a purpose they care about.
What are those in authority hoping to accomplish, and how does this vision help them get there?
How does this new reality (you wish to design
TOGETHER) move them towards their desired outcomes?
What do you need from them? How can they support
Now that you have direction for this important work, a final
Care deeply about the successful outcome of the vision, but
relinquish the need for the associated accolades, as you’ll have the best
chance of success when others get involved and feel recognized for their
Here’s to you, as you make big
waves while honoring the current structures. As you do, change becomes less of
a tsunami and more like the shifting of sands. You get to create something
permanent and beautiful—with thoughtful, sustained shifts over time.
An irreverent guide from Corey Blake, publisher of CC Press
In this fast-paced, digital environment, buzzwords and marketing “trends” to make you more money seem to be taking the business world by storm with promises for things like “growth” and “opportunity.”
But why should we work so hard for something with such an unknown outcome? How about we forget what it is we need to do and get back to the status quo, shall we?
Want to remain in the land of status quo? Here are some tips that are sure to keep you firmly planted in the “safe” zone for as long as possible:
1. The Strategy of Hope. When you use hope as a strategy, it’s like gambling. And who doesn’t LOVE gambling? The hope-as-a-strategy approach also means no accountability when the strategy fails; which gives you the right to yell at everybody. #winning
2. Purpose Loophole. Make “making money” your purpose. Boom. Done. Then, tell people you’re a purpose-driven business and keep those hippies off your back.
3. Play More Games. We all know #winning is awesome. It’s also defined by making sure someone near you is NOT winning. Creating more losers around you betters your odds of being top dog.
4. Dumb it Down. We all know that ping pong tables and free coffee aren’t enough to keep employees happy. But who has the right to complain when they’ve got a paddle in one hand and a sweet mocha java in the other? As long as their guilt overrides their lack of joy, you’ll still be winning (see #3 above).
Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG
5. Go Medieval. Why do you think moats and castles on hills were the preferred location of Kings? Because isolation equals safety. When you prefer to be outstanding—and all alone—you (literally) set yourself apart from competitors.
6. Slay the Beastliest Beast. Every day, go out there and look for the biggest, most successful company you can find, covertly lure them into a distracting, unrelenting frenzy of social media chaos, and take their business down. The bigger the takedown, the greater your digital legacy.
7. Be the Mean Boyfriend. We’ve all heard this cliché. But clichés become clichés because they speak the truth. Employees like to be treated badly. And heck, if you break them down spiritually, where else are they going to go?
8. Are You Ringling Bros. or Barnum and Bailey? Who cares. The point is, it’s your circus, and those are your performers. It doesn’t matter how many of them would follow you into the unknown and which might jump ship; and you shouldn’t bother finding out. This consciousness stuff sounds adorable, but how about you DON’T poke the bear in the eye, k?
If you’ve gotten this far and are feeling like you’d rather take the high road in developing your strengths as a Conscious Leader, click here to download our authentic and heartfelt guide: 4 Keys to Jump-Start Your Growth as a Conscious Capitalist.
Claim your role in using business as a force for good—to elevate all of humanity. Download this free three-page guide to start your journey. In it, you’ll learn:
The key commitments you need to make when embarking on your Conscious Capitalist Journey
The four tenets of Conscious Capitalism that serve as guideposts for anybody on this journey
The importance of finding good leaders to learn from, spreading the word, and walking the talk
Get 4 Keys to Jump-Start Growth
as a Conscious Capitalist
Conscious Capitalism, Inc., the nonprofit corporation dedicated to elevating humanity through business, announced today the addition of two new board of directors, Lynne Twist (Co-Founder of Pachamama Alliance, Founder of the Soul of Money Institute and author of award-winning book, “The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life”) and Ron Shaich (Founder and Former Chairman & CEO of Panera Bread and now Managing Partner of Act III Holdings).
Lynne Twist is a global visionary recognized for her commitment to alleviating poverty, ending world hunger and supporting social justice and environmental sustainability. Lynne has global hands-on experience leading the philanthropy of some of the most successful business leaders. Her work with the Soul of Money Institute has impacted over 100,000 people in 50 countries. Lynne’s expertise on fundraising with integrity, conscious philanthropy, strategic visioning and creating a healthy relationship with money aligns with Conscious Capitalism, Inc.’s increased initiatives in learning and development, which is a key part of the organization’s growth plans.
"I am honored to join the board of Conscious Capitalism, Inc. I have long admired John Mackey and Raj Sisodia for the leadership they are providing for companies all over the world. There are many people who challenge the very system of capitalism and there may be some validity to that, but given that that is the system we are living in, it is my intention and commitment to support business leaders in doing their work at the highest levels of consciousness, responsibility and integrity. I think the work of Conscious Capitalism, Inc. is vital at this pivotal time in history and it is my privilege to serve the Conscious Capitalism movement in every way that I can. Thank you.”
- Lynne Twist
Ron Shaich is committed to long-term value and demonstrated this and the principles of Conscious Capitalism through Panera Bread, the best performing restaurant stock of the past 20 years, generating annualized returns of over 25% and delivering total shareholder returns of 44 times better than the S&P 500 from July 18, 1997 to July 18, 2017 all while building on values of clean, nutrient-rich and enjoyable food, caring for stakeholders and giving back to the community. Ron is now embarking on a journey to invest in public and private restaurants that are driving long-term value creation as Managing Partner of Act III Holdings. Ron’s involvement in the Conscious Capitalism movement and expertise in leading conscious business growth lends itself well to Conscious Capitalism, Inc.’s strategic goal of building community with like-minded business leaders.
"I was a Conscious Capitalist before I ever heard the term. This is my tribe, and more than that, it is a cause that I believe in. I'm excited to join the board of Conscious Capitalism to deepen my support for this important movement."
"I am honored that Lynne and Ron are providing their guidance, reputations, and time to build the Conscious Capitalism movement. As with Conscious Capitalism more broadly, these two have distinguished and diverse careers, coming from both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. Their expertise and commitment to this cause will be invaluable in our work to elevate humanity through business."
- Alexander McCobin, Conscious Capitalism, Inc. CEO
The addition of Lynne Twist and Ron Shaich to the Conscious Capitalism, Inc. Board of Directors will enhance Conscious Capitalism, Inc.’s reach in the global community and help to reinforce the learning and development capabilities of the organization as it seeks to support business leaders’ practice of Conscious Capitalism.
Nathan Havey, Founder & CEO, Thrive Consulting Group
There are three moments that have proven to be pivotal in my conscious business journey so far…
1 > I’m driving the Alaska-Canada Highway deep in the Canadian Rockies and I’m listening to Firms of Endearment. My heart is racing and I feel like I need to pull over and jump up and down because I have finally been presented with hard evidence that the pro-people way I wish businesses could operate is not only viable, but is better for performance than profit-first business as usual. In that moment, I found my calling as a Conscious Capitalist.
2 >> A year later I’m sitting around a campfire on South Manitou Island passionately summarizing the four principles of Conscious Capitalism to a few people I’ve never met. The next morning, one of those people gives me his card and tells me to call him. Five years later, Michael McFall, Co-CEO of BIGGBY COFFEE tells the story of that night as the beginning of his conscious business journey. Our work together would help me build my consulting practice and create a $100 Million and 3000 person-strong ally as committed to spreading the principles of Conscious Capitalism as I am.
3 >>> A couple of months ago, I’m sitting across the table from the Amandas at a restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen that isn’t technically open yet. It’s our first face to face meeting and it’s going well. I’m hearing about their work at Conscious Capitalism, Inc. to grow the movement and I’m telling them about the year-long Conscious Capitalism curriculum Thrive wrote for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the 90 minute on-demand course we built for Conscious Company Magazine. In the follow-up email they send me that night, they float an idea that Conscious Capitalism, Inc. has been developing for a while that they think we could collaborate together on: a certification program for Conscious Capitalism consultants…
The idea intrigued me. Over the years, there are three things I’ve longed for as I built my consulting practice.
A community of fellow consultants who are hungry to grow this movement leader by leader, company by company until conscious capitalism is the new business as usual.
Somewhere to go to show my work to people who understand this stuff and who can help me get continually better at what I do.
And for Pete’s sake, I’ve wanted some way to make business development easier so that I can spend more time doing the work I love to do.
If I had those things, I know I could increase my impact. I saw how a certification program could deliver all of that. I started to get excited. What’s more, I thought, if there is one thing I’ve learned after hundreds of coffee meetings with other current and aspiring conscious business consultants across the country, it is that all of us want these same three things. If we all had them, all of us could increase our impact. The combined effect of that would be like rocket fuel for the movement. Now I was really excited.
I’ll admit that I’m prone to let my imagination run away with me and I indulged in thinking about how a certification program could grow and what it could mean for the adoption of Conscious Capitalism…
Hundreds of certified consultants hard at work bringing the principles of Conscious Capitalism to life in companies all around the world. Leader by leader, company by company, they will support bringing the promise of the Conscious Capitalist Credo to life as conscious businesses help evolve our world so that billions of people can flourish, leading lives infused with passion, purpose, love and creativity; a world of freedom, harmony, prosperity, and compassion.
Lofty as it sounds, this is the future I have been dreaming about. I know it is a great opportunity and responsibility to work with Conscious Capitalism, Inc. to make this real, and I am going to do everything I can to that end.
But it won’t become real. Not unless those hundreds of hypothetical consultants start as a few of “us” today.
If this is resonating with you then this might just be a pivotal moment for you. If you want to join in creating a future like this, email the Amandas for registration information at email@example.com and let’s get to work.
In the spirit of tomorrow being Valentine’s Day, I want to
share my love and appreciation for all of you who are Conscious Capitalists,
working to elevate humanity through business and build the Conscious Capitalism
2018 was an incredible year for Conscious Capitalism. We had our largest gathering of Conscious Capitalists to date, our first international conference, the opening of new communities of Conscious Capitalists now totaling 50 communities in over 14 countries, new programs to help business leaders implement the four tenets of CC at their companies, and more media attention for Conscious Capitalists than ever before.
What I want to share with you now is not what we have done,
though. It’s what we’re going to do. Because as great as 2018 was, we have far
greater plans to build the Conscious Capitalism movement in 2019:
We are building community locally, regionally, and globally.
Locally: Conscious Capitalists are in over 14 countries around the globe building local communities to advance Conscious Capitalism. These chapters and communities are introducing Conscious Capitalism to new audiences and deepening their own practice and understanding of CC. You can find many of them in a single location online now.
Regionally: The 2018 Conscious Capitalism European Conference was our first foray into growing communities regionally outside the US. In 2019, the Conscious Capitalism network is growing with 3 Regional Conferences outside the US underway in Brazil (next month!), Europe and India.
Globally: The 2018 Conscious Capitalism Annual Conference was the largest Conscious Capitalism gathering ever; and in 2019, we’re putting together an even bigger and better CCAC for the global Conscious Capitalism movement in Phoenix, Arizona. And I am pleased to share that the 2019 CEO Summit will be themed around Raj Sisodia’s new book, coming out the month beforehand, titled, The Healing Organization. In addition to connecting with high caliber and quality peer leaders throughout the Summit, participants will hear from and work with business leaders featured in his book to explore how to turn their own businesses into Healing Organizations.
Improving the Practice of Conscious Capitalism
Last year, Conscious Capitalism, Inc. piloted several programs to help business leaders better understand Conscious Capitalism in action and help them put it into practice in their businesses. This included “Sight Visits” to companies like Barry-Wehmiller and Greyston Bakery, speaking engagements at conferences and businesses, and workshops on Conscious Capitalism for organizations who wanted to go in-depth.
In 2019, we are scaling this up even more with:
CCU – We have launched CCU — designed to help you solve the challenges of practicing Conscious Capitalism; all CCU offerings are built with YOU in mind. CCU provides learning opportunities for individual Conscious Capitalists to go deeper in their practice and application of the Conscious Capitalist Credo and the four principles of Conscious Capitalism…and this is just the beginning. Wherever you are on your journey as a Conscious Capitalist, CCU offerings will help you get to the heart of your practice. We currently have two CCU offerings available: Inner.U, an online course to support your conscious leadership development, and the Conscious Capitalism Consultant Certification Program; we will launch more offerings throughout the year.
Learning Labs & Immersive Experiences – In-person gatherings to help business leaders put Conscious Capitalism in action. You can enroll now in Awakening Conscious Leadership by diving deep into a one-day CCU Learning Lab and 6-month learning that will take you on a personal journey to identify your soul’s calling and uncover the practical pathways to help you achieve those higher goals through your business. And for CEOs and Founders, we have a special invitation for you to join us on an Immersive Learning Exchange on The Founder’s Journey, a fully immersive exploration into the heart of the Amazon rainforest.
Conscious Capitalism in Action – On our new website, you can also find tools and resources that will help elevate your story and experiences as a Conscious Capitalist around the world. We invite you to share your personal story, and the story of your company; use The Speaker Connection to request and refer speakers for events; and join the Global Conscious Capitalism Sight Visit Network of businesses around the world who are changing the practice and perception of business as a force for good. Share your company’s story with the community that surrounds your office. Conscious Capitalism, Inc. will provide you with an agenda, talking points, slide-deck, press release and more to support you in hosting a successful Sight Visit at your business. You and your team will have the opportunity to offer first-hand access and direct exposure to the operational tactics of living and leading a conscious business. Together, we will spread your story and highlight your business as a model of Conscious Capitalism in action.
For those who want to learn more about what this means and looks like, you’ll get a taste of all this at Conscious Capitalism’s conferences and gatherings throughout the world.
Celebrating the Stories and Sharing Best Practices of Conscious Capitalists
We want to share your story with others.
Marketing – CCI is ramping up our marketing of what is going on in the Conscious Capitalism movement, both what we are doing as an organization and how the leaders in our global network of conscious businesses are making an impact.
PR – This past year, CCI placed over 100 media hits on the Conscious Capitalism movement and our community members. This year, we are going to do even more to help Conscious Capitalists receive the recognition they should and inspire others to join us on the conscious leadership journey.
CC Press – We are thrilled to have partnered with Round Table Companies to launch Conscious Capitalism Press. In 2019, we will begin to publish books aligned with Conscious Capitalism’s principles to build out the thought leadership of Conscious Capitalism and provide more material for others to learn about how conscious business is a force for good that is elevating humanity around the world. Look out for books from Safwan Shah, Sunny Vanderbeck, and others launching soon. If you want to be one of our founding authors, learn more here. Join us for the CC Press Launch Event at the 2019 CCAC!
Conscious Capitalism Business Partnerships
CCI is rolling out a new partnership program to recognize businesses that are on the conscious journey, provide them with support to deepen their practice of Conscious Capitalism, and to share their best practices with others in the global business community. We now have a badge for Conscious Capitalism Partners to use online and in print as an outward symbol of our shared commitment to this movement, but this partnership will be more than just that. It will be an active and engaged relationship with Conscious Capitalism, Inc. that will provide support for the business in furthering its conscious journey, and each business will be working with Conscious Capitalism, Inc. to build the depth and breadth of our community.
Online Application – If you are interested in becoming a Conscious Capitalism Partner in 2019, you can apply here.
New Benefits – Conscious Capitalism Partners will receive access to more events, learning & development resources from other Partners, and celebration of their Conscious Capitalist journey like this month’s featured partner, EchoPark Automotive.
Longtime Supporters – I want to thank our current Conscious Capitalism Partners for their support in 2018 and over the years who have contributed to the birth of the Conscious Capitalism movement.
Most of all, I want to thank you for all that you are doing to build the Conscious Capitalism movement. You helped make 2018 our best year yet. And with your help, we are going to have an even better 2019!
Conscious Capitalism, Inc., the nonprofit corporation dedicated to elevating humanity through business, announced today the election of Kip Tindell and Raj Sisodia as Board of Directors co-chairmen. Tindell and Sisodia will seek to introduce the philosophy of Conscious Capitalism to more business leaders around the world while garnering new levels of engagement with the Conscious Capitalism organization.
The Conscious Capitalist Credo expresses what connects these pioneering business leaders in a global network. They believe that business is good because it creates value, it is ethical because it is based on voluntary exchange, it is noble because it lifts people out of poverty and creates prosperity. Free enterprise capitalism is the most powerful system for social cooperation and human progress ever conceived. It is one of the most compelling ideas we humans have ever had. But we can aspire to even more.
Conscious Capitalism, Inc. convenes and hosts these like-mind business leaders at world-class conferences that build the community; designs and offers learning and development experiences to support the growth of the business leaders; and serves as an advocate for the Conscious Capitalists and their successful business practices in order to change the perception of business in media and society to shape our culture.
Kip Tindell is Co-Founder and Chairman of The Container Store, the nation’s leading retailer of storage and organization products — a concept they originated in 1978. Today, the company has stores across the country with over 11,000 storage and organization solutions designed to save space and time. Tindell is the author of UNCONTAINABLE: How Passion, Commitment, and Conscious Capitalism Built a Business Where Everyone Thrives, highlighting the retailer’s unique approach to business and culture, which guides decisions impacting The Container Store’s entire interdependent set of stakeholders, starting with employees and including customers, vendors, the community and shareholders. Tindell’s commitment to their employees landed The Container Store on Fortune magazine’s list of “100 Best Companies to Work For” year after year for nearly two decades, including number one twice. Tindell is a former Chairman of the National Retail Federation and currently sits on its executive committee. In 2015, he was elected to the World Retail Hall of Fame, which honors founders of some of the retail world’s most iconic brands.
Raj Sisodia is the FW Olin Distinguished Professor of Global Business and Whole Foods Market Research Scholar in Conscious Capitalism at Babson College in Wellesley, MA. He is a co-founder of Conscious Capitalism, Inc. and has written numerous bestselling books. Sisodia is the co-author (with John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market) of “Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business.” He co-authored (with Barry-Wehmiller CEO, Bob Chapman) “Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family,” which was named Best Leadership and Management book of 2015 by 800-CEO-READ and one of 15 best books of 2015 by Forbes. His book “Firms of Endearment: How World Class Companies Profit from Passion and Purpose” is considered a foundational work in explaining the precepts and performance implications of pursuing a conscious approach to business. His most recent book, published earlier this year, is “The Conscious Capitalism Field Guide: Tools for Transforming Your Organization” (co-authored with Timothy Henry and Thomas Eckschmidt).
“As Conscious Capitalism continues to prove itself as the model business philosophy for both today and the future, we are honored and grateful to Kip and Raj for their commitment to not only continue their leadership but take on this greater role in growing Conscious Capitalism,” said Alexander McCobin, chief executive officer of Conscious Capitalism, Inc. “Our global movement believes the opportunity to liberate the heroic spirit of business and entrepreneurship is more important today than ever, and the experience Kip and Raj bring to the movement will help to get us there.”
To learn more about the movement dedicated to changing the practice and perception of business so that it is recognized as a powerful force for good, visit ConsciousCapitalism.org.
About Conscious Capitalism
Conscious Capitalism, Inc. is the 501c3 nonprofit corporation dedicated to elevating humanity through business. The practice of Conscious Capitalism includes implementing the tenets of Higher Purpose, Stakeholder Orientation, Conscious Culture and Conscious Leadership. Founded in 2010, Conscious Capitalism, Inc. has offices in San Francisco, New York City and Detroit. The international organization serves a global movement of Conscious Capitalists by producing transformational events and learning opportunities to inspire, educate and connect a growing community of leaders around the world interested in advancing the practice and perception of business as a force for good.
Alejandro Velez & Nikhil Arora, founders of Back to the Roots, had the opportunity to deliver the 2018 commencement address at their alma mater, UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and highlighted Conscious Capitalism in their advice to graduating students. A video of their talk and the text of their speech are available below.
Thank you Dean Lyons! And good morning, Berkeley! Good morning Haas! It’s an honor to be here with all of you and your families on such a special day.
And Dean Lyons – it’s great to be here with you today as you wrap up an incredible tenure at Haas.
We remember so clearly still when we were sitting right there and we heard Dean Lyons repeat our commencement speaker’s lesson to “zig when others zag”.
We particularly remember this because during the last few weeks of college, while most of our friends were getting ready to go into banking or consulting, we were dumpster diving at 6am for old coffee grounds.
And we’ll never forget, at our main campus graduation, the Chancellor actually shared with the thousands of graduates in attendance what we were just starting to work on.
He advised “don’t follow the herd — like Alejandro & Nikhil — who are growing mushrooms on coffee grounds” … but to his surprise — the entire Greek Theater started busting up laughing. He tried to save himself (and us) by saying “no no, I’m serious here”. Just More laughs.
Who woulda thought two guys growing mushrooms in college was too Berkeley for… Berkeley.
Well, Dean Lyons — after 9 years since graduation, we can both say with a big smile & our fair share of entrepreneurial scars to prove it, we certainly have zigged.
It all started for us right here at Haas. We still remember it like it was yesterday — when we first heard this idea that you could potentially grow mushrooms on entirely recycled coffee waste in Professor Alan Ross’s UGBA 107 Business Ethics class. And although Nikhil & I actually didn’t know each other at the time, we happened to be the only two crazy kids who thought that fact was kinda cool and separately reached out to him for more information.
That one sentence we heard in class literally became the start of this whole adventure of building Back to the Roots — a company on a mission to help every family & classroom in America experience the magic of growing food & knowing where it comes from.
And by the way, I later learned that this whole thing almost never happened…. my boy Alex here was the last guy to walk in to class that day and was just seconds away from getting the door shut on him by Professor Ross…
And it was right there, after knowing each other for just a couple months, sitting in a 1992 Toyota Camry in front of Haas on Piedmont street, that we “shook” on it and went all in, together.
That very same day, I called the investment bank I was about to join and in one phone call I gave up my “dream” job that I had worked so hard for – a six figure i-banking job on Wall Street. And I gave up my lease in Manhattan’s lower east side and instead I decided to go all in with Nikhil, who had just given up his consulting offer and moved onto his older brother’s couch.
Overnight we went from full time students & soon-to-be banker & consultant, to full-time waste collectors and urban mushroom farmers.
And as we now step back onto this same stage that we graduated from, we’re not going to stand up here and give you life advice, cuz honestly, we’re still figuring all that out ourselves.
And we’re also not here to tell you how to sell a business for millions of dollars – we’re still deep in it – just last week, we closed our Series B financing and are still head down every day, carpooling to the office together at 6:45am.
But through this journey, from a bucket of mushrooms to building a national brand that’s now touching millions of lives, what we have learned & experienced first-hand is how the conventional rules of business that have defined capitalism for hundreds of years are being rewritten as we speak. The business world you all are graduating into is beginning to feel a lot different than that which our textbooks taught us as business gospel. A new form of capitalism is emerging.
And it’s emerging because the traditional rules of business, rules that we all have read about a thousand times in textbooks and case studies, are being broken as we speak.
Broken because the status quo is no longer enough in business. It may have got us here, but it ain’t gonna get us there. It’s just not enough.
Today, we want to talk about 5 of those rules that are being broken.
Ok, so Rule #1 of conventional, old-school business:
“To be successful in business you have to be an expert in your field.”
We’re the generation that now has all the world’s knowledge in our pocket. We’re a generation that can teach ourselves anything, at anytime….we taught ourselves how to grow mushrooms on YouTube! It’s not about what you know — but knowing what you don’t know and finding the answers.
And it’s not just information expertise either, it applies to relationships too — you don’t need a big rolodex anymore to be successful in business. For instance, the first article about Back to the Roots was by The Daily Cal; after that came out, we googled every writer that we could find who had ever written about sustainability and emailed them a link to that article, saying we’d love to share our story.
Fast forward 6 months from founding, and the BBC aired a 5 minute spot globally on the company!! Since then, we’ve had the tremendous honor of sharing the Back to the Roots story with President Obama during a 90 minute meeting with him, on Jim Cramer’s Mad Money, and even the front page of the Wall Street Journal.
…And, Alex, don’t forget about that time you were in Bachelorette…
But all of this happened without a press agency and without years of contacts. We just had the internet.
And you don’t need to be an expert or have deep industry relationships to get into & succeed in retail either. Our biggest partner to-date, The Home Depot — that’s selling millions of dollars of our Indoor Gardening Kits in thousands of stores nationwide — started off with a cold-email to a buyer,who we only had the first & last name for we guessed 10 different variations ; first name.last name, initial.last name. — one went through, and that was the start.
So the new Rule #1, you don’t need to be an expert to be successful – all the world’s experts are now in your pocket.
2) The 2nd conventional, old-school business rule that you’ve probably heard is that “You need a lot of money to start something new and be successful in business”. Not. True.
The big Silicon Valley funds aren’t the only ones you have to go to now for capital — through Kickstarter & Indiegogo, angel list, CircleUp, & ICOs, we’ve seen the decentralization of fundraising — and the ability to unlock capital no matter where you live.
When we were looking to launch our 2nd product, the Water Garden, we needed $100,000 for equipment., We were looking to create the first ever home aquaponics system, a mini ecosystem that uses fish poop as the fertilizer to grow plants. We decided to put the project up on Kickstarter for 30 days with this $100,000 goal – and our community came through. They ended up pouring $248,873 into it, and then an additional $250k of pre-orders on our website — so we had raised half-million dollars from our own community with just 1 prototype & a 2 minute video. Fast forward, and that community momentum then helped us raise our first outside capital — a $500,000 investment from a local Oakland non-profit called Fund Goods Jobs. Since then, we’ve raised $20M of venture capital from investment funds & larger corporations including Campbell’s and Scotts Miracle Gro.
The new rule #2 — You don’t need a lot of money to be successful in business – capital’s been decentralized.
Rule #3 of conventional, old-school business:
“Keep a secret and keep people out of your business”
There’s a lot of talk about the power of privacy & secrecy in business — “the Coca Cola formula”. But the game’s changed. Transparency is the new norm. And you’re seeing it in a bunch of new ways.
As we built on our vision of connecting families to food by expanding from ready to grow indoor gardening kits to simple ingredient & organic breakfast cereals, we asked ourselves how do we bring that same radical transparency & connection to food you get when you grow your own — to packaged, ready-to-eat products?
In doing this, we decided to really push the boundaries, and actually tell our consumers on every single box of cereal not just exactly what farm our ingredients came from, but also the exact recipe of how we make it.
Right around the time we were launching our cereals at Whole Foods Market, the General Mills board of directors invited us to meet. We’ll never forget though when in that meeting their CMO advised us to take our cereal recipe off the box and said “with my 30 years of business experience, I never would have thought it’s a good idea to share your IP with the world like that”.
Just a few months after that meeting, our cereals displaced Kellogg’s to launch into the NYC public school system, the largest district in the country, helping feed 1.1 million kids every day and becoming the 1st organic cereal in history ever offered in US public schools.
And those cereal cups – they still have the recipe on them!
The best part about the power of transparency? Old-school businesses can’t hide behind multi-million dollar, flashy marketing campaigns. That clever Super Bowl ad isn’t enough anymore — if a product has 1 star on Amazon, we’re not buying it.
The new rule #3 — power in business comes not from secrecy but radical transparency.
The 4th conventional business rule we’ve all heard is about that zero-sum game; that for me to win, you have to lose. Not true.
For small businesses to win, big businesses don’t have to lose — we all can work together to accelerate impact. For example, Campbell’s & Scotts Miracle Gro, both multi-billion dollar multinationals, have invested millions of dollars into Back to the Roots. They’re helping us scale revenue and reduce costs by leveraging their sales, marketing and supply chain expertise. We’re helping them rethink innovation, and push for a faster speed-to-shelf strategy.
And suppliers & buyers don’t have to always extract value from each other either to win. When we were getting started, we sourced our coffee grounds from Peet’s Coffee, adding so much value to them by taking care of their heavy & messy waste, that we eventually replaced Waste Management in their cafes, and in return got paid to source our biggest raw material.
We provided them a more efficient waste service, and in turn, we were able to make a profit on our own Cost of Goods, allowing us to bootstrap the company for years.
THE NEW RULE #4: It’s not I win, you lose. It’s Win-Win-Win.
And Rule # 5 — the last, but probably most impactful conventional business rule we’ve all heard is that a business should Maximize Shareholder value at ALL costs ——– Not. True.
The conventional rule was that a business’ sole reason for existence is to maximize shareholder value, and that the few lucky ones that “make it” should then create a separate CSR team that picks a non-profit to just write a check to once a year.
But today, we’ve seen there are so many ways to create profitable, triple-bottom-line business models that also integrate the community, the team, and the environment into its everyday stakeholders — like Patagonia with their supply chain, Method with their sustainable packaging, and TOMS Shoes with their One for One model.
In fact, we were so inspired by the TOMS model, that we created a similar Grow One, Give One campaign — for every photo someone shares with any of our indoor gardening kits, we donate one to a classroom of their choice.
By integrating that program into every unit we sell, our own community has now helped tens of thousands of kids across the country grow their own food. And the more people share, the more brand awareness grows. It’s an incredible, beautiful cycle.
And by the way it’s ok to take inspiration from others; in fact, Blake, the founder of TOMS, so appreciated seeing his idea transfer into organic gardening and food that we became his very first angel investment after TOMS.
The New Rule Number 5? The best way to maximize your own value? Give value. Because the more you give, the more you get.
And while we’ve stumbled through all these lessons, one mushroom kit and box of cereal at a time, we hope they help open your eyes to the massive transformation of business that’s happening right now, right under our feet.
New rules are being written as we speak, creating space for a new form of capitalism, conscious capitalism — capitalism that aims not just to make money, but to elevate humanity through business. And Back to the Roots is just one example of it—it’s happening all around us.
Two massive multi-nationals, Danone & Unilever, have announced their goals to become Benefit Corporations or B Corps – directly embedding the business impact on multiple stakeholders, beyond just investor returns, into their metrics for success.
And Larry Fink, the CEO of the world’s largest investment firm, BlackRock, with $6.3 trillion dollars of assets under management, just wrote a letter to CEOs demanding that all companies, both public and private, serve a greater social purpose.
So how cool is it that in the hundreds of years since 1776 when Adam Smith wrote “Wealth of Nations” and kickstarted modern capitalism, that you get to graduate from the BEST UNIVERSITY and the BEST BUSINESS SCHOOL IN THE WORLD, AT THIS TIME – a time when all the conventional rules of business are being ripped up to create space for a new form of capitalism.
A form of capitalism that doesn’t separate Doing Good & Doing well.
How awesome. And what responsibility too — because we also carry with us all, as Golden Bears, the legacy of this incredible university and the social activists who have graced these halls and the streets of Berkeley for decades, the movements that were incubated right here — free-speech, anti-war, gay rights, women’s rights, farmworker rights.
So as you get ready to enter the business world, realize that the old rules have been ripped up, and the world is looking to You to help write the new ones. New Rules for a more inclusive, more sustainable, more transparent, and more conscious capitalism.
And you don’t have to do something crazy like growing mushrooms on coffee grounds to help build this new form of capitalism, but you do have the responsibility to carry this flag forward into wherever you go after graduation.
Be the one who makes that big bank judge themselves not just by returns generated, but by carbon sequestered. Be the one who inspires that big consulting company to push their clients to adopt better business practices.
Haas graduates — the next chapter of capitalism is in our generations’ hands, it’s ours to write, so let’s make it a good story that future graduates will be proud of us for.
Congratulations, Go Bears, and Go make history, Haas.
Thought leadership has been a cornerstone of the growth of Conscious Capitalism, not only as a philosophy/way of doing business, but also as a community. Going forward, it is imperative that Conscious Capitalism, Inc. (CCI) do more to provide a platform for our incredible community to develop your thought leadership and share it more widely with others. That is why we are taking CCI’s content development program to the next level by opening it up to you for contributions.
We are testing a new series of pieces sourced from the community. If you are pushing into new boundaries in your Conscious Capitalism journey and are willing to capture your experiences in writing, we want to hear from you. If you have a story to share, and you’re willing to invite readers into the highs and lows of what you’ve been through, we would like to consider featuring you.
Maybe you’ve recently fired a customer who is not in alignment with your values.
Maybe you’ve integrated a new product into your supply chain that resulted from deeper exploration into purpose.
Maybe your hiring process has been entirely reinvented around your values.
Maybe you recently experienced a conscious sale or merger of your company.
Perhaps you have a perspective on a current event. There is a great deal of commentary about business today, and we want to make sure the views of Conscious Capitalists are included in that commentary. What is a Conscious Capitalist’s take on:
Facebook’s protection of data privacy?
The Goldman Sachs-World Bank Group fund for women entrepreneurs hitting $1 billion?
Major discussion topics at trade or other prominent conferences?
Movements in crypto?
Below you will find instructions for the pitch process. We will be collecting submissions through June 1st. Selected contributors will be notified by June 10th, and asked to prepare a first draft of their piece by June 30th. If you are selected, you will be paired with an editor from our content partner, Round Table Companies, who will help support your contribution to ensure your story has impact.
Thank you in advance for considering sharing what you are learning as you play at the edge of consciousness and business.
A message from Carrie Sheffield about BOLD TV’s live broadcast from the 2018 Conscious Capitalism Annual Conference.
We agree with the premise of Conscious Capitalism that making money is essential for the health of a business, but it’s not the only—or even the most important—reason a business exists. Conscious businesses focus on their purpose beyond profit.
At Bold, we strive our hardest as a digital television network to incorporate the principles of Conscious Capitalism in everything we do. We know that a truly altruistic society is one that creates a long-term, sustainable system for maximizing human happiness through voluntary exchange. And we wouldn’t be where we are today without the extraordinary vision, drive and compassion of Al Roker, whose production team at Al Roker Entertainment brought Bold TV to life. A broadcasting pioneer, Al’s career embodies the values of Conscious Capitalism: Higher Purpose, Stakeholder Orientation, Conscious Leadership and Conscious Culture.
Last year, we recognized our first class of Heroes of Conscious Capitalism. As we begin considering who to invite to the next class of Heroes, we want to hear from you. If you want to nominate someone to become a Hero of Conscious Capitalism, please fill out this form by March 28th.