Putting the Conscious in Capitalism: Finding the Right Balance

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We hear a lot about conscious business. But it’s not entirely clear what this really means. While people are conscious, it’s uncertain whether business can be conscious. This is despite the fact that the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations have the status of people, with the same levels of accountability. People may bring their awareness, values and desire for the social good to their work each day. Unfortunately, the companies they work for and lead are almost exclusively driven by the profit motive, sometimes known as maximizing shareholder value.

The challenge for humanity – not just business – is to find the right balance between our own goals and those of everyone else. This includes the line between individual achievement and collective success. It also involves a conscious appreciation for both selfish and selfless interests, or what might be called positive reciprocal altruism.

Of course, in the past it was easier to create short-term successful business outcomes through competitive motivation. Today things are changing. Sustainable enterprise success requires long-term goals that are both competitive and cooperative.

Generally speaking, competition is “self-directed”; cooperation is “us-directed.” But by finding the synergy between self and other, a motivated/conscious team can build waves of energy that spell success. I’m reminded of the quote that was popularized by John Wooden, famed UCLA basketball coach: “It’s amazing how much can be accomplished if no one worries about who gets the credit.”

As business people, we have a unique opportunity to write the rules. It’s not as complicated as some business schools might have you believe. In fact, the most important rule was written thousands of years ago: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” In business – as in life – you can never go wrong following the golden rule. While I’ve broken the rule more than once, in retrospect, I can rarely think of a time when that was the right move.

In this process of finding the right balance, we need to skillfully navigate between the outer worlds of commerce and market share and the inner worlds of personal drives and motivations. This ability to see the whole will define the success or failure of capitalism in our postmodern world. Success will come when we maximize profits only as we maximize the collective wellbeing of our stakeholders in ways that meet and even exceed a triple bottom line.

As a business leader, I am committed to creating and applying business strategies and tactics that benefit multiple stakeholder groups in win-win-win relationships. My goal has always been to maintain a corporate culture that invites team spirit, creative expression, and authenticity. This is always easier said than done.

When focusing on employees – one of our five key stakeholder groups – I have sought to create a high quality work environment, including job security and job stability. This in turn benefits the other stakeholders – our customers, vendors, communities, and of course our shareholders – all of whom have a vested interest in our processes as well as our outcomes. Taking a long-term view of stakeholder value, rather than simply short-term profits and value extractive interests, allows us to create an environment that guarantees the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Being conscious means looking for ways to maximize long term shareholder value with long term stakeholder value.

My deep personal commitment to a shareholder/stakeholder balance is reflected in my new business, zTailors. It is my goal to create the Win-Win-Win structure and long-term value creation that I have always advocated.

zTailors is a collaboration of tailors in service of their 21st century customers. In many ways, the story of zTailors is an American story and it is an opportunity to shine the light on the underdogs, and in my opinion, the unsung heroes of my industry. Many tailors come from immigrant families. The American dream is that people can come to America, struggle, succeed, and their children can become anything they want to be. Together we are building something new that combines the personalized craft of tailoring with the best of modern technology.

What we are launching is a national tailor network that will create affordable access to what were previously luxury services, much like Uber did for Town Cars, but with tailors to fulfill your order. When planning for big moments like a wedding, you pick the day and the hour and we send a professional tailor to your home or office. By bridging “high tech and high touch,” we are making sure that the art form of tailoring doesn’t fade away and we are serving our customers where they are most comfortable: at their home or office. What could be more convenient?

Like many kids, I always wanted to be a professional athlete. Now that I’m launching a second startup, I realize that, as the Rolling Stones say, “You don’t always get what you want, you get what you need.” I can start a new business and have more fun than you would ever imagine, at a time in my life when others might be well into AARP, getting Medicare, pulling back or retiring. My heart wants to keep innovating by creating opportunities for the underdogs, while my head is committed to long-term value across multiple stakeholder groups. As zTailors launches, I tell my team, I’ve got your back!

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