By Kent Gregoire, a US East Bridge chapter member (and that chapter’s current president) and co-founder of Stakeholder Business and Symphony Advantage, who is on a mission to help entrepreneurs transform their companies for maximum impact. Kent has more than 35 years of experience providing advisory services to executive-level management and is one of the first certified conscious capitalism consultants in the world.
Research showcases overwhelmingly that purpose-driven companies have a clear advantage over competitors, and not only when it comes to market performance. Along with the rise of mission-driven leadership comes an abundance of business movements centered around purpose: Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG), Benefit Corporation (B Corp) certification and many more. As such, it can be difficult for leaders to understand exactly what it means to be driven by a succinct mission and to shift their focus from profit to purpose. For many, conscious capitalism or stakeholder capitalism is that umbrella appellation that integrates the belief in pro-capitalism while promoting social and environmental impact. Let’s dive deeper and take a look at a modern-day, purpose-driven business model in action.
BIGGBY® COFFEE’s journey toward a people-centered company
Bob Fish and Mike McFall started BIGGBY COFFEE in 1995 with the philosophy to have fun, be happy, love people, make friends and drink great coffee. From a single Michigan location in 1995 to becoming the fastest-growing coffee chain in America by 2008, the co-founding duo was encountering great success. But, Bob and Mike began to realize that their exponential growth came at a cost. They weren’t internally practicing the values they had started the company with. Gratefully, everything changed when Mike met Nathan Havey on a camping trip in Northern Michigan, during which he was introduced to the four tenets of conscious capitalism.
I interviewed Nathan about his work with BIGGBY COFFEE to learn more. In 2015, Bob and Mike came to him seeking to create meaningful change within their company, with a single question on their minds: What could BIGGBY do that would change the world? So, Nathan conducted a culture assessment at the company’s corporate office and discovered that employees felt undervalued and underpaid. Together, they concluded that Bob, Mike and four key employees would benefit from some leadership training, along with the formation of an employee committee to improve compensation. Bob and Mike shared the results of the assessment with all staff members, further fostering open communication and accountability. By 2017, the majority of employees reported significant improvements in how they were treated, a stark contrast from their response in 2015.
In addition, Nathan supported Bob and Mike in adopting a stakeholder-oriented approach. Bob and his wife Michelle co-founded a new organization called One Bigg Island in Space, in which they search the world for farms that care for their people, the planet and their communities and forge relationships with the people who have built those farms. And BIGGBY COFFEE aims to source 100% of its coffee directly from direct-to-farmer purchasing relationships, ensuring that farmers are paid fair and stable prices that enable them to double down on their social and environmental commitments.
The company’s overall purpose underwent a monumental transformation as well. Previously focused on growth, Bob and Mike worked with their entire corporate team to create a new purpose: “BIGGBY COFFEE Exists to Support You in Building a Life You Love.” They went even further to set a vision for the future: by December 2027, they would achieve an NPS score of 90 when they ask franchise employees whether the company is supporting them in building a life they love, and they would cross $1B in revenue to scale their vision and mission.
Lastly, Nathan supported Bob and Mike on their journey to becoming conscious leaders, as they realized that it was essential to create a culture that enabled employees to follow their own dreams. As such, the pair established The Life You Love Laboratory to support their vision of improving workplace culture in America. Through these efforts, Bob and Mike aim to demonstrate the power of businesses to make a positive impact while achieving extraordinary success. Check out what they’re up to.
6 Steps to foster a people-centered company culture
If you’re inspired by Bob and Mike’s journey and want to follow in their footsteps to foster a people-centered culture in your organization, here are my suggestions:
1. Complete an assessment to establish a baseline, such as the viral signs for the health of a business ecosystem, across all stakeholder groups. I recommend the Stakeholder Score, which measures six factors: collaborative relationships, helping people thrive, inclusion and equity, financial prosperity, environmental stewardship and company purpose.
2. Review the assessment results to understand how your organization is performing for each stakeholder group.
3. Perform a cultural assessment to better understand your internal culture, its strengths and its challenges.
4. As leaders, being vulnerable is essential to creating a culture of care, trust and cooperation. With that in mind, I encourage you to share the raw results of your assessments with employees and let them know how you plan to tackle the weak points of your company’s culture.
5. Invite a group of impacted stakeholders to further explore the concerns you have with your culture and relationships, so you can work together to develop and implement solutions. Keep the group up to date with the progress and results of the solutions.
6. Define and articulate your organization’s higher purpose. The key is to shift from helping with the issue that matters most to you, to aiming to solve that issue once and for all, which requires a completely different level of ingenuity and commitment.