A business that matters

I’ve been mulling this phrase – ‘businesses that matter’ – over for the past two weeks and I thought my contemplations might be thought-provoking for you as fellow business leaders.

The phrase is important to me because I believe that excellent, profitable, conscious, ethically-sound businesses can produce good people, and that those good people are equipped to go out into the world and do good things. Simply put …

I’m aware that the things we believe are important, useful, or moral are not always related to the metrics that the marketplace focuses on. Which often gives me pause for thought about my mission and whether it’s shared by other business leaders.

Honestly, I don’t know if it is. But it feels important enough to me to keep at it, hoping that at some point my hypothesis will play out as I wish it to and that CEOs across the world become compelled by the mission of building businesses that truly matter.

It’s important to be clear that this isn’t about doing ‘good’ in an NGO sense. Whilst humanity in business is undoubtedly important, it has to exist in conjunction with performance. If not, we risk losing the healthy competitive edge that being a for-profit business brings to the table.

For a CEO, it’s all about the word ‘matters’ and defining what that means for you and your business.

What ‘matters’ can mean just about anything on a broad spectrum of possibilities:

being innovative; being trail-blazing; being reliable; being high performing; being community-minded; being growth-minded; being anti-establishment; being unique; being community-minded; being customer-obsessed.

I suppose it’s more about holding the question than formulating a neat answer. Particularly given that this is not an easy question to answer and that it might even be unsettling or disruptive.

But I love the high bar that ‘matters’ implies. The form can differ, but the standard doesn’t waver.

I also imagine that the initial response might be, “Well, as is, my business doesn’t matter. It’s a profit-making vehicle that pays dividends to its owners”.

This is exactly why this provocation is important. My dream is for CEOs to double down on this inquiry and stretch themselves to formulate an answer that drives meaningful organisation-building so that the business in question reshapes itself into something more profound, more exciting, more motivating.

And thus more helpful to this to our global society as we take this grand journey together.

My hypthosis is that, in 50 years’ time, businesses will be up there with governments and global international bodies as the movers and shakers in society. The signs are already there to see.

This is a challenging topic and it would be a pleasure for me – I mean that literally – to have a conversation with you about how to take your business on a journey toward becoming something that matters. Or matters even more. You can reach out to me directly at ceoship@jonathan-rowan.com.

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My weekly missive, CEO Sundays, is published at 5pm every Sunday evening. The writings cover CEO topics exclusively: how-to’s; thought starters; leadership insights; reflection opportunities; research.

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