Reading an article about Patagonia’s and other’s strategies, I was struck by the sentence, “How do we make people better off by working with us?” It’s a fundamental question that has so many applications:

  • Our customers?
  • Our employees?
  • Our suppliers?
  • Our shareholders?
  • Our communities?

Usually, when we think about thing, we focus on our return, we answer the question, “How do we make things better for ourselves?” As sales people, we focus on our goals, quotas, and commissions. The customer is only a vehicle for achieving those. As leaders, too often, we focus on ourselves and our own goals. Again, our people become vehicles for achieving those–and if they don’t we find others to do so.

We don’t tend to focus on our suppliers, choosing instead to “get the best deal,” yet as we are discovering in the current supply chain crisis, without them, we can’t succeed. We focus on our communities either for PR or regulatory purposes. But if our communities aren’t serving us, we relocate to another city, state, country.

We spend a lot of time focusing on shareholders, forgetting the other areas are what cause us to produce results for our shareholders.

It’s a simple question, the answers aren’t necessarily that simple. They force us to focus on our purpose, mission, and values. They focus us on our value proposition. They focus us on our target markets, customers, and people we do business with. They focus us on whether we create a workplace that people want to be part of.

Answering this question for each of the constituents force us to make choices. We can’t create value for everyone in each of the constituencies. We have to understand our target markets/customers—who they are and who is outside. We have to understand the suppliers that are best aligned with our purpose and values. Suppliers who pose the same question for themselves. We have to be in communities we value and that value us. We have to have shareholders who are aligned with our purpose, values, mission. Finally, we have to have people that are, personally, aligned with what we stand for and want to achieve.

Perhaps as we enter 2022, it’s a great time to start engaging our customers, people, suppliers, shareholders, and communities to develop initial answers to these shared questions.

Best wishes for the New Year! Thanks for all your engagement this year!