Why Good Trumps Great: The Evolution of Business

If I could call this post a manifesto, I would. And, perhaps it is just that. This mini manifesto is written for all business owners and at-heart entrepreneurs. This past weekend, I attended a dinner hosted by good friend and colleague Suzanne Falter Barns. Tim Kelley spoke at the dinner about the old vs. new paradigm of business, and the thirty of us present chimed in. The main message:

Greed is Out. Purpose is In.

The businesses of the past focused solely on growth. But, today’s landscape is different. Growth is a small percent of what makes a company truly great. A small company can rule supreme (in terms of profits and brand loyalty). Bigger is no longer better. Better is.

Umair Haque, blogger for the Harvard Business Review (and my recent professional crush!) wrote this:

“Hypercompetition — and hypercollaboration — is accelerating. The people formerly known as consumers are now your peers. Regulators have a keener eye and a longer arm. Stakeholders went from being hippie pacifists to shark-toothed activists. In this world, mere innovation and “strategy” are commodities. Globally, naked consumption must transition into durable investment. Meaning is the new cornerstone of advantage: Does what you produce actually make anyone meaningfully better off?”

This is what I believe Seth Godin often tries to convey. We used to be peddlers. Now, we have to be purveyors of an experience.

So, Money is Out?

Not at all. In fact, money has never been so “in.” It is no longer an “either or” game. It is an “and” game. No pun intended. Make profit AND do good. Not OR. Look, everyone can sell what you sell. Innovation is no longer a differentiator. Empathy is.

Humty Dumpty Took a Great Fall

Look around. Wall Street. Main Street. The Economy. We pushed too hard to keep going from good to great. So hard, in fact, that we ended up forgoing the good completely.

Can a business be just about profit? Yes. Can it do it indefinitely? No. The people are demanding more. They are demanding accountability and plain old fashioned goodness.

How Will You Create Meaning For Your Customers?

This isn’t a question I pose to you alone. This isn’t a one-time question we answer and move on. This is a question I ask myself every day. How do we add meaning to the world?

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hryckowian/3005394284/
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  • http://www.toddejones.net Todd E. Jones

    I have to chew on this for a while Shama. I want to believe what you are saying is true; I welcome it. It fits with my personal philosophy of life, but I have think about where I am seeing that in the business world. This idea may be so new that it isn’t so readily seen yet.

  • http://www.empoweredsoul.com Andrea|Empowered Soul

    Love this article, Shama! And I love that you were able to summarize that very looooong discussion so succinctly!

    I disagree with Todd: I am seeing this trend in consciously based business already. In some industries, it’s actually the ONLY thing that works.

    Hurray for offering value to the world in alignment with our Soul’s purpose AND receiving the financial rewards!


  • http://hireheathervilla.com Heather Villa

    I definitely think there is a switch of some kind – there are people out there who are looking to purchase from companies who they consider to be ‘good’. Most of the companies who are looking to do good, cost a bit more. And a lot more people are willing to pay more. However, there will always be a percentage of consumers who are only looking to get a ‘deal’ and don’t care at all what the company does in the name of being ‘good.’

  • http://www.adrianswinscoe.com/blog/ Adrian Swinscoe

    Hi Shama,
    Great post. I think that you are right on target about the rising about make profit and do good and this is mirrored in the rise of social enterprises.

    Here’s something that I found that is a good read:

    Chip Feiss in the article says that:
    “I define it (Social Enterprise) as a for-profit/non-profit or hybrid business, using private investment to work on common-good social problems.
    Virtually daily there is news of another social enterprise initiative, as individuals and institutions such as business schools, where courses on social enterprise are among the most popular, explore alternative ways to create financial and social value. Those involved in launching these new enterprises clearly reject Milton Friedman’s perspective “that the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits”.

    This is one of the fastest growing areas of the UK economy, that is what I know, and is gaining and gaining momentum in the US. I think it’s an exciting development and builds hope and potentially can marry the challenges that you address.

    Make sense? What do you think?


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  • Sherad

    If you think about all the dishonesty you are constantly bombarded with via all major news outlets nowadays, it’s no coincidence people are looking for and leaning towards companies who appear ethical, and above all honest.