As a roommate of Michael’s, I saw him reach out to people in the community who were down on their luck and in pain. He would help to mend hearts even after his had been severely broken as a young man.
When I worked beside him and our friend Walter on the sandwich lines to serve the poor, he would tell me, “Dave don’t just serve sandwiches, go out and sit with the people, they need friendship. They need to be seen as people much more than they need the food!”
I remembered Michael’s wisdom as I ran my businesses. Customers would come in looking for a product. But, more often, they were searching for friendship and meaning. Luckily for me, I hired great people who were always better than I was at mending hearts while finding products to help heal bodies! This enabled our businesses to grow and thrive – and give meaning to our employees.
But is there room for compassion in all businesses?
Some people might say that when I talk about profiting yourself healthy, I’m focused on only the bottom line. It’s true that I often speak about profits because many business owners struggle to build profitable businesses. If we don’t make money, we can’t hire people, save for retirement, donate to the community or share with others.
But compassionate businesses are actually more profitable than those simply obsessed with the bottom line.
In the book Compassionate Capitalism, authors Blaine Bartlett and David Meltzer argue that businesses must have a purpose greater than just making money. Business leaders who are very concerned with adding value for their customers and have a vision about making the world a better place are generally more successful than those just focused on profits.
In fact, Firms of Endearment author Rajendra Sisodia found that companies organized around values such as love, generosity and endearment had significantly greater stock market returns than ordinary companies.
From 1998 to 2013, when the S&P 500 index increased by 118 per cent and the Good to Great companies identified by author Jim Collins increased in value by 283 per cent, Firms of Endearment that placed more worth in making a difference in the world increased in value by 1,681 per cent.
So if compassion is good for business, how do we create a company that tries to make the world a better place?
It starts with you. Whether you’re the owner of a business or an employee, making a difference starts with simple acts. Mother Teresa of Calcutta said it well: “Not all of us can do great things but we can all do small things with great love.”
Creating a caring culture in our organizations doesn’t happen over night. It happens when we start doing small things that show we want to make the world better one person at a time.
To have a fantastic business that’s compassionate, we need to start by identifying our core values. Once we’re grounded in these values and have communicated what our business stands for, we need to ensure that everything we do is rooted in these values. This means that every person we hire, every supplier we deal with and every customer we reach out to has similar values.
When we have employees or suppliers who have values that aren’t aligned with ours, life is difficult. If our core values include compassion and honesty, but a supplier or customers don’t agree, how hard is it to work with them?
Michael never cared much about money – even if being compassionate is good for business. He cared about people.
But you can have it both ways. When you start caring about people, your business will take care of itself.
Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award winning business coach and a partner in the firm Pivotleader Inc. Comments on business at this time? Email firstname.lastname@example.org