Capitalism Is a Social Force

by RaeAnne Marsh

“Capitalism” has taken a hit in modern times — as “money lending” did in earlier centuries — with a lot of press focusing on the negative, and the extremes. Neither, of course, is inherently evil. The appeal of capitalism is taking an idea or opportunity and capitalizing on it; developing a benefit from it. Certainly there is potential for that to yield great wealth or influence to individuals, and there are countless examples of that in history. But a business founder using a successful capitalistic endeavor for a broader benefit is also not new.

Today, though — to get away from any of the negative connotation the word “capitalism” has taken on — the term “conscious capitalism” is being used to identify the latter philosophy. Entrepreneurs and business leaders are following capitalism’s precepts for success, but with a conscious consideration of how their business’s practices and/or output can benefit the people or the world around them.

Pushing this movement forward are many entrepreneurs and business leaders in our community, some of whom — like Ray DelMuro, Randy Gibb and Adam Goodman, whose voices are among those showcased below — also contribute by serving on the board of directors of the local chapter of Conscious Capitalism. In Business Magazine is pleased to share their stories.

Lauren Bailey

Chief Executive Officer
Upward Projects
Sector: Restaurants

What is your business’s social mission?

Our mission is simple: to make people feel good. But, unlike traditional companies, we don’t believe that success starts with taking care of the customers. We start by first taking care of our employees and their needs, then our vendors and, lastly, our guests. That’s because we know that, to make our guests feel great, our team has to feel great. It’s a little like a car: The car isn’t going anywhere without the gas, and our team is what moves the needle on that. 

At what point in developing your business did you determine this? 

We did it unconsciously in the beginning. We were addicted to making feel people feel better than they did when they walked in the door. As we grew, we just put more intention behind it, learned to scale and systemize and make sure everyone on our team is aligned with that goal. This includes creating a board of directors for each location, whose members are chosen by the staff and meet quarterly with all general managers, regional directors and the executive team. They are the voice of the store and its individual employees to bring up improvements and register complaints as well as suggestions and ways we can improve each store, from new menu items or promotions to ways we can collaborate better. Furthermore, we’ve created an email reporting system to give all employees the power to speak directly and anonymously with the leadership team. To us, it’s like a smoke detector: There might not be a fire, but it provides a warning that we need to dig in and go deeper. 

How do you integrate your company’s mission into all your business decisions?

Our five core values are woven into nearly everything we do: hiring systems, performance reviews, messaging, real estate decisions; everything. Being an important part of the community and creating a gathering place where people have their most special moments is not lost on us, and we stay focused on the foundation of these values to deliver that experience each and every time. 

We express our five core values in the way we live them: 1) Investing in, celebrating, educating and empowering our people; 2) running the company not like a bureaucracy, but like a roundtable where everybody has a voice; 3) striving to always have a cutting-edge employee and customer experience, never allowing ourselves to settle or stop thinking how can we be better; 4) making innovation a primary focus — we are always looking for the next coolest thing; and 5) getting the correct systems in place. 

We love when people think it’s easy; we’re doing it right. The best businesses are like ducks gliding smoothly across the water, but what you don’t see are the feet paddling furiously under the water.

Ray DelMuro

Founder and CEO
Refresh Glass
Sector: Manufacturing

Describe your business and its social mission.

Refresh Glass actively partners with the community to divert thousands of wine bottles every week that would have otherwise been thrown away, working toward our 10 Million Bottle Rescue Mission. Once collected, we then transform the bottles into fun and functional glassware and décor such as planters, candle holders and vases. 

Current bottle count: 1,250,000-plus rescued (We keep a counter updated on our website.) 

Among the many venues that use our glasses are Wolfgang Puck, Hyatt, 4 Seasons, Sheraton, Marriott, Kimpton, Ritz Carlton and Francis Ford Coppola Winery. We also custom engrave on our glasses for corporations, pro sports teams, universities and charities to create an impactful gift that will be used and talked about for years to come.

At what point in developing your business did you determine this? 

I left my career as an engineer with an aerospace company because I wanted to make products that — in addition to their pure utility and function — were pieces of art, while, at the same time, were helping the community. My company was conceived from the outset with a belief in conscious capitalism and offering multifaceted solutions that generate both revenue and community benefit at the same time.

How do you integrate your company’s mission into all your business decisions?

In the early years of Refresh Glass, we had messaging that really worked to help our customers understand how they play a part in our rescue mission. We came to find that by emphasizing client gifters’ relationship-building strength through glasses that are personalized and everyday usable, and glasses that add to the design and guest experience, we are better able to satisfy our customers’ core business needs — and rescue more bottles than when we emphasized the mission alone. 

So, we support our core goal by using the emotional, functional and concurrent altruistic combination our products represent to solve real market needs. We integrate our mission through our client focus that permeates our internal operations as well. In addition to our client engagements, we also have fun donating our blems to Habitat for Humanity for their sale and use, and we have a happy hour series that has raised more than $10,000 since 2013 for Phoenix Children’s Hospital. We also are using the help of Gompers special-needs and disabled team members to assist us when we have project-based work. Our real goal is to be a part of the community even though we now sell hundreds of thousands of glass product across the country annually.

Dr. Randy Gibb 

Dean, Colangelo College of Business
Grand Canyon University
Sector: Education

What is your business’s social mission?

As an educational institution, the Colangelo College of Business focuses on instilling a new wave of businesspeople with the belief that capitalism and social good can and should co-exist in business endeavors. We are part of a global initiative that is tackling head-on the image of capitalism as a negative construct by changing the tide in business through a steadfast focus on conscious capitalism ideals — business can elevate humanity.

At what point in developing your business did you determine this? 

Answering this requires putting the development of our curriculum into historical context.

While capitalism and free market principles have brought more people out of poverty and created a world that is more prosperous than ever before, a 2016 poll conducted by the Harvard Institute of Politics found only 19 percent of Americans ages 18 to 29 identified themselves as “capitalists” — and only 38 percent of that group said they “supported capitalism.” 

Our students do not feel that way at all about capitalism. GCU students recognize how business is truly a force for good, and profits generated the right way and re-invested in all stakeholders can positively change a community. We have very intentionally integrated conscious capitalism principals into a number of undergraduate and graduate courses. 

Often, business schools are blamed for not doing enough to graduate impactful and ethical leaders. New graduates are adept in accounting, economics, management and marketing, but this is no longer enough. Business schools must also develop entrepreneurs and young professionals who want to contribute to society in a significant way, and we established the Colangelo College of Business with that purpose via ethics and servant leadership.

How does your curriculum help students learn to integrate a company’s mission into all its business decisions?

The concept of conscious capitalism is exactly as its name implies. It’s operating a business with a higher purpose. Capturing value and solving a problem for society. It’s investing in the company’s culture, employees, environment and community. It’s a commitment to fostering economic growth while serving others. 

While the word “profit” seems to have taken on a negative connotation within our society, it’s important to understand that, before there can be charity, there must first be prosperity. For a business to impact society, it must be financially stable and profitable. 

At Grand Canyon University, our conscious capitalism curriculum prepares students to use business as a force for good, using the university itself as Exhibit A in this valuable lesson. GCU’s growth in the past 10 years has been remarkable, but it has used that growth to make huge investments in its West Phoenix community. Through a $1.6-million safety initiative with the Phoenix Police Department, a groundbreaking tutoring program that is impacting underserved students at 80 inner-city K-12 schools, a scholarship program that has provided 300 scholarships in the last three years to kids whose families couldn’t afford college, a partnership with Habitat for Humanity to renovate 700 homes in the Canyon Corridor, and the creation of new businesses that employ residents in our neighborhood, GCU is using its position as a major employer in Phoenix to transform the surrounding community. 

Our students in the Colangelo College of Business are proud to be part of an institution where entrepreneurism and innovation are lived-out every day. Our ColangeLopes have embraced the principles as they align with their own heart to serve through business.

Adam Goodman

Chief Executive Officer
Goodmans Interior Structures
Sector: Office Design

What is your business’s social mission?

The purpose of Goodmans is to make an impact on the community. It is why we exist. It is also why people want to work at Goodmans. Heck, it’s the reason I get out of bed in the morning.

We have this expansive view because our perspective on our stakeholders is different from most businesses. As the owner of Goodmans, I am decidedly not our only stakeholder. We view our employees, suppliers, customers, industry, environment and the community as also being stakeholders. This means the company has a responsibility to use our assets, talent and resources to the benefit of the entire ecosystem.

At what point in developing your business did you determine this? 

As the third generation to operate the family business, I found myself intellectually engaged but not necessarily fulfilled. I went through a series of reflective exercises to discover my own purpose and concluded that I am driven by the opportunity to build community. I spent a few years thinking through how to reposition the company’s purpose so it aligned with my own. 

It turns out, that was the easy part. The next step was inspiring 250 people — many of whom had worked at Goodmans longer than I had been alive — to believe in our purpose. That took some time.

That explains how the community became a stakeholder. We elevated the status of the other stakeholders out of decency, ethics and integrity. We have seen too many companies leverage the needs of one stakeholder (customers, suppliers, employees or the environment, for example) to benefit another stakeholder (ownership, for example). That paradigm might thrive in the short-term, but it will never survive the long-term. I’m interested in the long-term.

How do you integrate your company’s mission into all your business decisions?

Our leadership team considers all our stakeholders when we make decisions on investment, personnel, resources, infrastructure, technology, policies and so on. When acquiring a warehouse, for example, we think through how surplus capacity can be used to help reduce human struggle for employees, lower the cost of government for taxpayers, elevate nonprofits, support foster children and so on. That might seem like an exaggeration, but I assure you all of those factors, and more, were considered.

The stakeholder model challenges our leadership team to think beyond the dollars and cents of a decision to evaluate whether an investment fulfills our purpose. At Goodmans, we don’t think in terms of months or quarters or even years. Our vision is in terms of decades.

Admittedly, that’s an easier perspective for a 64-year-old company relative to a startup. I must credit the hard work of my parents and grandparents that gave me the luxury to move up Maslow’s hierarchy to think less about survival and more about fulfillment. 

Gary Jaburg 

President and Managing Partner
Jaburg Wilk
Sector: Law

What is your business’s social mission? 

Our social mission is to “Uniquely improve the lives of our clients our employees and community.” A socially conscious business takes into account and truly cares about all of its stakeholders. This means its sole focus is not just about maximizing profits for its shareholders. Stakeholders are defined broadly as the various constituencies that interact with the business, including employees, vendors and the broader community. A socially conscious business focuses on “doing the right thing” in all circumstances.

At what point in developing your business did you determine this? 

We have always been a law firm that focused on providing outstanding legal advice by finding the smartest and most efficient way to achieve our clients’ objectives in a cost-effective way. As our company matured, so did our social mission. We were a conscious capitalist company before we knew they existed! 

Doing the right thing and investing in our community by giving back has been in Jaburg Wilk’s DNA for more than 25 years. When we were introduced to the conscious capitalism movement, we realized that our culture, purpose and leadership aligned with its tenets. We were already investing in our community both financially and with our time. In 2007, we formalized that commitment when we formed and initially funded The Jaburg Wilk Foundation, which has since provided more than $400,000 in supportive funding to local nonprofits. When one of our employees has a cause he or she is passionate about — and is actively involved in — the foundation is able to financially support that cause.

How do you integrate your company’s mission into your business decisions?

Since attorneys are paid by the hour, there is often a tension between doing what is right for the client and earning more revenue for the firm. We always provide our clients with honest advice, even when it is adverse to our financial interest. The best example is how we often talk clients out of litigation, or do our best to settle a matter if litigation has already commenced. 

We encourage and provide the resources to our employees to improve their skills — and marketability — while knowing this means that some of our non-attorney employees will leave us as there may be more advancement opportunities at another company. To invest in our employees’ future employability is the right thing to do. Our people invest in one another through a robust mentoring program that includes mentoring groups even though there is no specific financial reward for mentoring. We provide multiple in-house seminars and training in both hard and soft skills as well as paying for seminars and workshops. Jaburg Wilk has an Education Assistance Program and pays up to $5,500 annually for qualified advanced education for employees. 

The span of employee philanthropy encompasses community service work, various drives, financial contributions and nonprofit support through board service and committee support. Whether employees are contributing time, money or resources, they are encouraged and rewarded. The firm’s Give a Day, Get a Day program provides up to eight hours of paid time annually for volunteer activities. In 2017, more than 400 volunteer hours were given, which did not include board service or pro bono activities. 

Dr. Heidi Jannenga

Co-Founder and President
Sector: Healthcare

What is your business’s social mission? 

Our mission at WebPT is to empower rehab therapists to achieve greatness in practice, and we approach everything we do through that lens. That means we’re on the frontlines with our members, working to understand their biggest challenges and their workflows so we can prioritize product updates, innovations and rollouts. We do this through Member Moonwalks — in which we visit and shadow our member clinics — and by actively seeking feedback on an ongoing basis through NPS surveys and one-on-one conversations. 

Education and advocacy are also at the center of this. We host an annual business summit, Ascend, dedicated to rehab therapy business, and have a robust library of educational webinars, guides, blog posts, and reports. In fact, WebPT has become the third-most-sought resource for information related to the physical therapy industry. On the advocacy front, we’re working to empower therapists to embrace a direct-access mindset and own their roles as first-line providers for patients with neuromusculoskeletal conditions. We do this by providing them the latest innovation, participating in things like PT Day on the Hill, and speaking to PT students and organizations throughout the country about the importance of advocating for the profession. 

At what point in developing your business did you determine this? 

Initially, we created WebPT to solve a problem I had in my individual clinic. I was the clinic director for a multi-site operation, and I discovered that documentation and transcription were our biggest expenses. I began looking for a cost-effective, cloud-based solution, but I kept coming up short, because there wasn’t anything like that on the market. So, my co-founder and I teamed up to build something. After implementing it in my clinic, others started asking about it. We then conducted market research and discovered 80 percent of physical therapists were still using pen and paper to document. It was at this point that we knew we had to scale the software for the industry at large. So, the social mission and the product developed concurrently. We saw it as a mission-critical piece of software that could help advance the profession in so many ways.

How do you integrate your company’s mission into all your business decisions?

At WebPT, we follow the tenets of Conscious Capitalism, which means service of a deeper purpose and stakeholder integration are integral to what we do. We believe all stakeholders — employees, customers, partners and the community — should have a voice in shaping the future of WebPT. To that end, we are very intentional about staying close to our members, shadowing them in their clinics to better understand their workflows, and seeking feedback to help us prioritize product innovations and feature rollouts. Our purpose is also upheld by our core values, which we use as guideposts for all business decisions — from hiring to acquisitions to expansions — and to inform product innovations. We also incorporate our values into everything we do, from the common language used every day in meetings to job descriptions and performance reviews. Every WebPT-er is hired, shaped and reviewed by our core values. Our purpose and values truly are the bedrock of our company. 

Mike Jones 

Sector: Professional Services 

What is your business’s social mission?

Our world is better when we all strive for authenticity, candor and clear communication; our relationships of every kind become deeper, more valuable and more significant for all. And our ability as human beings to make others’ lives better becomes that much easier when we understand our own selves. In light of that, our purpose at Resound is to help individuals and organizations fully uncover what makes them intrinsically remarkable (because they really are), so that they communicate their most authentic self to the world and build more-lasting, more-value-producing relationships to make our world a better place for everyone.

At what point in developing your business did you determine this? 

At some level, identity and the remarkableness of human beings has been at the heart of our organization since Day One (in 2009). My business partners and I founded the company on these principles, though it has taken us time to fully understand our own identity in such a way as to communicate it clearly. We really had to practice our own process that we use with our clients to be able to fully communicate with clarity our core purpose and mission.

How do you integrate your company’s mission into all your business decisions?

Our purpose has become a rallying cry throughout our organization. We remind ourselves of it constantly through a lot of internal messaging. I think this is the first step in really integrating any mission: Make it clear and then repeat it everywhere. But moving beyond pure communication, it has to be internalized into the specific roles and responsibilities in our organization. That requires us to make it a part of hiring and team member development processes. For example, in our hiring and continual development, we use a number of personality and behavioral assessments to help every team member better understand their remarkable identity and ways in which to further live out their lives with authenticity. It isn’t just about striving for this purpose with our clients but really making it an extension of any relationships we build. And then we call each other on it. We’ve developed a culture of trust that allows us to be candid with one another — knowing that we’re each looking out for the best interest of the other. When we’re not authentic ourselves, we point it out.

We also give back to our communities in pursuit of our social purpose. We know that not every person or organization can (or should) afford our full process. So we’ve developed programs to make our services more accessible to nonprofits, startups and individuals who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford our full consulting services. Two examples: Twice a year, we work with a community nonprofit and provide our full identity workshops and consulting services at cost. And then we’ve taken our workshop curriculum developed for leadership teams of larger organizations and re-engineered it as a multi-company, fast-paced, DIY-style half-day workshop to provide our identity development tools at a much more affordable rate for smaller organizations and individuals.

Dr. Daniel Openden

President and CEO
Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center
Sector: Nonprofit

What is your business’s social mission? 

Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center’s mission is to advance research and provide a lifetime of support for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families. 

At what point in developing your business did you determine this? (Or perhaps the social mission came first, and your business was built around it?) 

SARRC’s social mission came first and is why we were founded, and we’ve built a great business to support it. This is evident in the changes to our revenue mix over the last eight years. Up until 2010, 70 percent of SARRC’s revenues were from philanthropic sources while only 30 percent was earned. Fast-forward to 2017, and roughly 72 percent of our revenue was earned and 28 percent was contributed, representing a complete flip in our revenue stream while actually raising more philanthropic dollars. Nonprofit or not, we are a business and we need to run as an effective business to sustain organizational growth so we can continue to serve the needs of children, teens and adults with autism, and their families.

How do you integrate your company’s mission into all your business decisions?

While we have remained grounded in our mission for more than 21 years, SARRC’s dynamic vision — people with autism meaningfully integrated into inclusive communities — directs the types of opportunities we pursue as well as those we don’t. We’re focused on the people we serve through our programs, services and research; cultivating and empowering our inclusive community; and creating sustainable programs that contribute margins that can be reinvested into our mission. 

For example, SARRC’s Community School is an inclusive preschool program across two campuses where typically developing children and children with ASD learn alongside each other in a blended classroom model. The Community School is checking all the boxes: producing great outcomes for children with ASD; helping us build community among typically developing students in the classroom; and contributing revenue back to the organization — meaning we can do good, drive outcomes and build community without having to rely on fundraising to do so, subsequently allowing us to allocate profits and philanthropy either to other underfunded programs or to invest in our continued growth. Therefore, we’re currently making plans to scale SARRC’s Community School statewide, serving more children with and without autism and building new inclusive communities throughout Arizona. 

SARRC is taking proactive steps to provide students with autism the support they need to experience a curriculum, classroom and extracurricular activities like their typically developing peers, and enabling adults with autism to compete for the same employment opportunities as their colleagues. At the same time, SARRC remains committed to fostering community action by preparing, educating and empowering educators, healthcare professionals, employers and influencers, to name a few, so they, too, encourage opportunities for people with ASD.

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