I have been hearing about the movement known as “conscious capitalism” and have been intrigued so read some articles as well as explore the movement’s website. It turns out that conscious capitalism is not only a movement but an actual organization. And its list of corporate members is pretty impressive and includes the likes of Whole Foods, The Container Store, and one of the nation’s leading private equity firms, Leonard Green & Partners, L.P.
According to John P. Mackey, co-founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods, and Raj Sisodia, a founding member of the movement, conscious capitalism refers to businesses that serve the interests of all major stakeholders – customers, employees, investors, communities, suppliers, and the environment [Only Corporate Capitalists Will Survive, Forbes]
It seems that more companies, especially those with a solid mission, (and in particular a solid social mission), are embracing the concept of conscious capitalism. It also seems that people, (especially those who are recent college grads and are starting their careers as well as those who are not yet college-age), are becoming more focused on the greater good and how they can serve the interests of all stakeholders not only through volunteering but in their careers as well. Conscious Capitalism is a great step towards getting big business to realize that there is more to life than the bottom-line. But not all businesses are part of an “evil empire” or are on a mission to be number one no matter the cost or effects on people and resources.
We always seem to hear about the “big bad corporations” and how they treat people badly and rip us off in the name of profits. Even though it is true that there are bad corporations out there, (in the way that they treat people and resources), and that these particular companies care about profit over everything else, there are those that are good and care about things aside from – or even more than – profit. In the realm of big business we have the conscious capitalists, but we also have – and have always had – the unsung heroes that have mostly held to this believe since the founding of our country. I am talking about the local small business owners and operators. They themselves may unknowingly be part of the conscious capitalist movement or may have been since before it was a popular.
I am a member of a couple Facebook groups where we share photos and memories from Manchester’s past and also reminisce about the “simpler times.” We also share about how fun it was to go to and how well we were treated at local stores and restaurants. It was a time when the employer, (usually a family), had a passion for what they did and loved people. They treated their employees very well and in turn the customers were treated like gold, (what I call the “trickle down” effect). Many of these local businesses are gone, including some I frequented as a kid. (Ferretti’s Market, Moreau’s, Lord’s, J.M. Field’s, Mr. Steak, Hanover House, Merrimack Tire and Battery, Lemay Jewelers, Garands Pharmacy). Even though many are gone, we still have quite a few older and newer locals, including Gosselin’s Superette, Bunny’s Superette, Ken’s Pharmacy, Pappy’s, Caesario’s, Theo’s, Red Arrow, and the newest addition, T-Bones Market, (in the old Golumb’s Market building).
The lists are not at all extensive, but are just some examples.
Of course we also have larger companies, and while not headquartered in New Hampshire, are good examples of “local” companies who put the employee and customer first. (I often consider New England-based companies as local in a broader sense). I am talking about Market Basket, (Tewksbury, MA), Cumberland Farms, (Framingham, MA), and L.L. Bean, (Freeport, ME).
We all remember what happened with Market Basket last summer. A man so good to his employees and the customers that their combined work stoppage and boycott nearly killed the 70-plus store chain. This of course happened because the man – known as “Artie T.” – was removed from his position as CEO in favor of a more profitable chain that would be readied for sale to who knows who without consideration of the employees or customers.
Market Basket started with two brothers opening a small grocery store specializing in fresh lamb in Lowell, Massachusetts back in 1916. Market Basket now has 75 stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. It is estimated that the company employs almost 8,000 people throughout the chain and at the home office and distribution center.
Cumberland Farms, which started out as a farmer, his wife, and a cow in Cumberland, Rhode Island back in 1939, now has over 600 stores in 8 states and employs over 6,000 people. Their mission in part is to treat the customer and each other with the utmost respect, and it shows by the way one is treated when patronizing their stores.
My final large, non-New Hampshire example is L.L. Bean, which began as a one-man operation in Freeport, Maine back in 1912. It is now a worldwide leader in apparel and equipment geared towards an outdoor lifestyle. Bean’s annual sales are around $1.61 billion and they have around 5,000 permanent employees worldwide. (During the 2014 holiday season they employed nearly 10,000 people). They are still family-owned and very good to their employees and are known for their quality and outstanding customer service. They consistently
receive ratings above 90 percent for employee satisfaction on independent surveys.
The things that the larger business examples have in common is that they are all family-owned and value both the employee and customer. The employee and customer are more important than profit for them as well as for the smaller locals mentioned earlier.
With all the economic woes that we face, it is important for us to realize that the backbone of our economy is the small business. The Small Business Administration generally considers a small business as one with between 7 and 250 employees, which means that many of the local businesses in Manchester are small but pump a large amount of money into the economy. At a time when communities and states are looking for ways to add revenue – and many are looking for that non-existent “silver bullet” to pull them out of their economic pit, it is more important than ever to support our local businesses. This is important to both the economy and the businesses themselves.
We all have heard the benefits of helping our local economies, but I believe there are even more benefits. The most important benefit to supporting our local businesses is that we help people. Not only are we helping the small business owners, we are helping the employees as well as our local economy. It has been argued that shopping at non-local businesses helps just as much as shopping local, but it doesn’t because the money does not stay local. Revenue from non-local businesses is first sent to their home office where it is then spent as needed. The only true benefit to the local community is the employee wages and the tax revenue, (which many times is reduced as part of a deal to get the company to set-up shop and stay in town).
I’m not to the point that I don’t shop at non-locals at all because I do. Sometimes necessity dictates that we shop at a non-local establishment. But my family makes a conscious effort to first shop local. In my experience, the best quality and customer service has been from local merchants. And by shopping at a local, we can rest easy in knowing that the employees are cared for and that the most important thing isn’t the bottom line.
Feel free to share information about local businesses that you frequent. Together we can bring more business to our local merchants.
Catch up here: For the Love of Manchester archives.
About the author: Brian Chicoine is a New Hampshire native who moved to Manchester from Raymond in 1980 at the age of 8. He attended Gossler Park Elementary, Parkside and Southside Junior High, and West High, from which he graduated in 1990. After attending Notre Dame College in Manchester, Brian completed his undergraduate degree at Rhode Island College in Providence. Brian and his wife Jackie then came to Manchester in 2004 and were involved in various outreach organizations. Their two boys were born in Manchester during this time. After his position was eliminated in 2009, Brian and his family returned to Rhode Island. They have been living in Providence since 2010. Brian and his family love Manchester and are planning on returning within the next few months. Brian is currently working at helping the city move forward by connecting with other stakeholders and becoming involved with like-minded groups. Brian is also laying the foundation for an organization that will help strengthen the city and help it move forward.
Brian holds a Bachelor’s degree from Rhode Island College and a Master of Public Administration degree from Grand Canyon University. Brian currently works at Boston Children’s Hospital. He is also founder of a Facebook Group, Manchester Forward. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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