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Transforming Business As Usual Into Business At Its Best – Part 3 of 3

Sustainable Business

Photo by Adrian Balasoiu on Unsplash

Sustainable Business being a key player in achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

This is not just about social responsibility as some sort of add on to a business. It is about business being core to a more sustainable world. Sustainable business for SDG’s. Go to the UN website & have a look at the 17 goals listed. Then think a little. Finally, ask yourself  – is  there anywhere that business cannot make a significant contribution? The answer should be, no there are not. But just to give you a little idea, here are three of the SDG’s:

  1. Good health & well being
  2. Clean water & sanitation
  3. Sustainable cities & communities.

After having checked these out do you still doubt its possible for business to be a key driver in building this better world? Put it another way, if the world continues as it is whether from a climate crisis angle or the disparity between rich & poor, then ultimately, everyone loses. Badly. Business can & must play its part. Sustainable business for SDG’s.

Books Worth Reading

Whilst I did a lot of thinking, discussing with others & used my experiences to come to the ideas discussed above & in the first two part s of this mini series, undoubtedly,  reading many great books helped me on my never-ending exploratory journey. So, below is a list – not all have been mentioned above but they all have played a role. Some are very recent – always a good idea to keep exploring. Enjoy!

  1. “Small IS Beautiful” – E F Schumacher
  2. In Search of Excellence” – Tom Peters & Robert H Waterman Jr
  3. “Business as Unusual” – Anita Roddick
  4. “The Hungry Spirit” – Charles Handy
  5. “Heroic Leadership” – Chris Lowney
  6. “Insanely Simple” – Ken Seagall
  7. “Small Giants” – Bo Burlingham
  8. “Company of One” – Paul Jarvis
  9. “Spiritual Capital” – Danah Zohar & Ian Marshall
  10. “Essentialism” – Chris McKeown
  11. “Building Social Business” – Muhammad Yunus
  12. “Enough” – John C Bogle
  13. “Lab Rats” – Dan Lyons
  14. “The Passions Economy” – Adam Davidson

Conclusion

Where to from here? All of this represents the approach I take to business at a philosophical level – how I see things from a macro standpoint. It helps inform how I go about working with clients – to assist them in developing successful, sustainable & meaningful businesses. Businesses that not only are profitable but inclusive – true members of their community. As indicated at the beginning of this piece, subsequent articles will follow to delve a bit deeper into how this can all be implemented.

If you would like to discuss this more or have a comment, please get in touch.

Transforming Business As Usual Into Business At Its Best -Part 2 of 3

Transforming Business

Photo by Andy Holmes – Unsplash

Business being better & not simply bigger – adding value to society as a whole

Business being better & not simply bigger? Is the sole motive  not just maximising shareholder value?

The late Anita Roddick, The Bodyshop founder said:

“Economic opportunity means much more…..than money. It promotes fundamental self-esteem, facilitates education, healthcare, cultural continuity and the chance to protect the past while shaping the future.”

Think about that for a second. Imagine it being taken totally seriously by business – not just lip service. Imagine how much better off society & everyone in it could be.

Put it another way business can be so much more than just a vehicle having the unfettered pursuit of profit as its sole goal. That would likely contribute to the already gaping inequalities around the world. Widening the gap between those at the summit & those not. Managing a business gives you the opportunity to add something that was not there before, adding value to its customers, staff, shareholders & other stakeholders.

From reading the works of Charles Handy, the term “caring capitalist” for me means a capitalism that is:

  •         Inclusive
  •         People not exploited
  •         People members of their organisations – not just employees
  •         A more balanced workstyle
  •         Fun to work & not just hard work for money
  •         Making dreams come true rather than simply producing more widgets every day
  •         Relatively small units where people know & trust each other rather than mammoth
            organisations.

Enabling people to infuse their work lives with real meaning, on a human scale

Can you imagine turning up to work every day, delighted to be there?  Excited by the possibilities, being part of something bigger than yourself? Of course, there would be times of quiet, manic busyness & when you do not feel in the mood. But overall though work is engaging.

Whilst part of this will be down to the business, really it is up to each person to take responsibility. The things you need to develop are not just the so called hard technical skills. You also need the soft ones around management, people, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, personal leadership, finance & time management.

So, leadership, soft-skills, personal development & management will be key in the 21st Century.  Portfolio Careers & independent working will increasingly be the norm & in that scenario, people will need to be stewards of their own potential & development.

Part 3 of transforming business as usual into business at its best to follow!

Transforming Business as Usual into Business at Its Best? – Part 1 of 3

Transforming Business

                                                                                               Photo by Linh Pham on Unsplash

What follows (over a total of three parts) is part business philosophy & part business manifesto. It is a deliberately high-altitude view on transforming business as usual to at its best. Subsequent articles will bring things to a lower practical implementation altitude. The nuts and bolts, the practicalities. The topics touched on here represent deeply held beliefs but centre around business & the more positive role it can (& does) play in the world.

“Businesses are the building blocks, not just of an economy but of a whole way of life. What they do and how they do it have an impact that extends far beyond the economic sphere. They shape the communities we live in and the values we live by and the quality of the lives we lead. If the businesses don’t hold themselves to a high standard, the entire society suffers….Having more of them can’t help but make our world a better place.”

                                                                                                                “Small Giants”Bo Burlingham

Quite apart from the Corona virus pandemic, there are many other issues confronting businesses. These include a lack of engagement by people in their work. Recent information suggests that 80%+ of people are simply not engaged in that work. And then we have the climate crisis. All of these are rightfully forcing rethinks on how to go about things. Or perhaps it might be more accurate to say that the issues have accelerated the rethinking!

So, what to do & how is business tied on to all of this? Waving a magic wand, the three things I would like to see in the morning are:

  1. Business being better & not simply bigger – adding value to society as a whole
  2. Enabling people to infuse their work lives with real meaning, on a human scale
  3. Business being a key player in achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Easy to say of course, but not so easy to achieve.

But why do all of this? This piece opened with a quote about business & how it can play a key role in world issues. For that to happen, it is really about building people up – helping them reach their potential. For business to succeed, it needs great people. After all, what is a business when you take people out but a collection of systems, hardware, buildings & stuff! So, for business to succeed, people need to succeed. And if people are to succeed, they need to be nurtured & given the skills. Growing people is a much more effective way to grow or develop a business. As the late Herb Kelleher (founder Southwest Airlines) said:

“The business of business is people.”

This is not just about specific technical skills but the soft skills, the people skills & the management skills.

So how does someone that started their career in finance & accountancy, gaining extensive experience in the world of business, come to be interested in transforming business & looking to do something about it?

Some Key Influences

Some of the things that brought me to this point are:

  • United Nations Upbringing – my father worked with the UN for 35+ years – this gave me an exposure at an early age to the idea of development, economic & political harmony not to mention cultures
  • “Small Is Beautiful” – in studying for degree in Economics, I read E F Schumacher’s “Small Is Beautiful” – it had a profound effect
  • “In Search of Excellence” – reading the Tom Peters & Robert Waterman book early in my career sparked an ongoing passionate interest in how businesses can succeed – this in turn lead to how the people in them make it
  • Leonardo da Vinci – Become your own version. Never stop learning, exploring – but do it to your own tune. Decide what you want to do & then go do it, rather than waiting for an organisation to tell you
  • Business & the Accountancy Profession – Earning a living as I have & continue to do, has provided innumerable insights into how business, large, small, private, public & not for profit can have such an impact (both good & bad) not just in their respective areas but on society as a whole.

The key things that drive me are:

  • There is nothing better than seeing PEOPLE succeed
  • Education transforms lives
  • Business is more than simply economic opportunity – more than being profitable.

Part 2 of transforming business as usual into business at its best to follow!

Be Your Own Leonardo da Vinci

 

 

Independent Working & Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci – it is time to become your own version, meaning that you never stop learning & that you rely on yourself to do so. Writing in the Financial Times a number of years ago (February 2015), Charles Handy stated that the education system fails to prepare people for independent working. He also referred to the “increasing inhumanity” of most work organisations. 

He makes a fair point on both count -and it is still very much applicable today. One can argue that rather than producing people of real imagination, creativity, true initiative & most importantly independent thinking, the school system really only churns out huge number of conformists. After all, if when the caveman all those years ago, when he came to the front of his cave, took a look out and said, “I don’t like the look of that”, then where we would be now? And conformists can fit in very nicely at most large organisations where the work equivalent of colouring outside the lines is positively discouraged & frowned upon.

I came across a quote from Scott H Young (link to his website) where he stated that hard work was being replaced by three other factors that will be more important in the future:

  1. Creativity
  2. Relationships
  3. Learning.

This points us in a very different direction.

What To Do

So, what are we to do? Take control of our own development & education. Do not rely on an organisation – they are likely to want you to do it in their way only. Become a free spirit. Be your own Leonardo da Vinci. Explore. Learn. Go live. Create sparks.