"Conscious Capitalism" Works

In the rush of the busy season we don’t often stop to reflect on our underlying philosophy of business — why we do what we do — but we can learn a lot from one of our country’s innovative and highly successful businessmen, John Mackey, founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods. I know a little about Whole Foods, having visited their flagship store quite a few times in Austin. It is a veritable food paradise; I could spend hours in there.

In addition to launching a $17 billion organic and natural grocery store chain, Mackey also founded the nonprofit Conscious Capitalism, which seeks to “liberate the entrepreneurial spirit for good,” and advances the idea that business is about more than just making money. Mr. Mackey outlines his philosophy in this short interview, which is definitely worth reading: http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2012/06/14/john-mackey-on-conscious-capitalism-and-business-l.aspx 

Thinking about Mr. Mackey’s comments, I realized his ideas relate extremely well to success and service in the swimming pool business, especially in the way he emphasizes supportive relationships in every phase of a business interaction. He says the connection between happy customers, fulfilled employees, and fair terms of trade with a supplier network result from the basic tenets of Conscious Capitalism.

He stresses how business people are heroes because they create VALUE FOR OTHER PEOPLE. This concept is pure genius. It is a simple explanation of why capitalism, often demonized in many quarters, is such a successful system (when allowed to be), and why it’s so important to celebrate and defend it. 

Unlike public service, often held up as a more noble enterprise, only Conscious Capitalism actually creates permanent value and real prosperity for others. Mr. Mackey holds that successful businesses are not about selfishness or greed, but value creation.

He lays out four core principles that create Conscious Capitalism, and holds that development of these principles in a business leader is a continuous process, even in those not aware of them. The goal of his nonprofit is greater recognition of these principles so that business leaders can think about them strategically, not just as intuitive abstractions.

I think Mr. Mackey is right. The old-fashioned among us probably boil it down even further, to the Golden Rule. Conscious Capitalism requires an innate sense of ethics, emphasis on quality in product and service, a genuine caring about other people, and a core sense of truthfulness in dealing with others. 

Capitalism isn’t perfect, but Conscious Capitalism is a perfecting process, and it certainly beats anything in second place as a system for building value for everyone. Yes, we are heroes. And we fight a good fight not just for ourselves, but for others.  

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