What I learned at the 2017 Conscious Capitalism CEO Summit
I love running a marketing agency. Yet, for years I struggled with my purpose. I believe it’s a struggle common to many business owners. For me, it was – How do I reconcile my personal hopes and beliefs for my life and my community with my need (and enjoyment) of running a business that makes money?
Amplifying this feeling was the fact that as a digital marketer, my job is to help companies drive traffic more cost-effectively to make them more money. I mean, it’s not as cool as other businesses doing amazing things for the planet. For example, our new client and fellow conscious business Zero Mass Water creates water from the air and democratizes and decentralizes drinking water for people around the world.
Then a little over a year ago, I stumbled across the 2016 Conscious Capitalism conference thanks to Corey Blake and Michael Shearn. (You can ask them who was most influential, right guys?) I describe it as an unconsciously conscious discovery. I was seeking it, believed in the values and was running a conscious business; I just didn’t know I was.
After my first conference, I knew I’d found what I was looking for.
What is Conscious Capitalism?
If you’ve not heard of the Conscious Capitalism movement or read the book, I encourage you to check it out. It’s a community of companies that believe business can serve and elevate humanity. It consists of lots of companies of different sizes from a wide range of industries. Some are charitable while others sell insurance and real estate, but all believe they can be a force for good in the world.
Why the CEO Summit Rocks!
At the recent CEO Summit, Brian Mohr of Yscouts commented that “summit” is something of a misnomer. Sure, it’s called a summit, but that implies a peak. While it’s a CEO summit, it’s more of a base camp. We’re all there to gather together and talk about our experiences and what we’re going to accomplish in the coming year.
Last year, I saw how ‘down-to-earth’ everyone is. CEOs of global billion-dollar companies sat around chatting it up with other leaders regardless of industry or company size. Everyone just hangs out with everyone else.
Rarely do I call a business event a transformational personal experience. This is one exception. The Conscious Capitalism CEO Summit was transformational and taught me to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
I Led 250 CEOs in a Shakeyface
So, after my first conference, I applied to lead a practicum at the Spring Conference on the subject of The Ownership Culture. The conference organizers agreed, and I had the amazing opportunity to tell BFO’s story to a room full of like-minded business leaders.
That led to an invitation to introduce Shabnam Mogharabi of Soul Pancake at this fall’s CEO summit. Her keynote was one of my favorite. She reminded us that positivity and storytelling could uplift the human spirit, and be profitable too.
Why the Shakeyface? Well, after some amazing leaders led the group through meditation, I decided to express myself. Honestly, I felt a little out of place with the meditation (maybe I need more mindfulness in my life?). After that experience, I decided it was my mission to bring some of my silliness to the group. Therefore, I asked everybody in the room to take a deep breath – and exhale with their biggest, baddest Shakeyface. A reminder to be yourself and not to take anything too seriously, even when you’re standing in front of a room full of CEOs.
6 Things I Learned in 2017 and Why I Love This Community
Ok, so this year’s conference reinforced a lot of ideas and taught me a few new ones. I’m bunching six of them together here.
We can work together for a common purpose. The Conscious Capitalism community is a motley crew of amazing human beings from a diverse group of businesses. (And yes, seriously “motley” thanks to David and Tom of Motley Fool!) Despite this, we’re all here for the same reason. We care, in our own ways, but we care and want to do good.
You don’t have to be a giant global force to do good. There are so many businesses of different types and sizes that have united in a common purpose to promote good and good will in the world. It’s easy to feel powerless and small when you see the scale of good that large global organizations can bring to this world. I got some great advice from Selim Bassoul of the Middleby Corporation who reminded me that everyone can make a difference (even if I didn’t have the funding or ability to design solar ovens and distribute them around the world to people in need).
It’s a journey. Sometimes at the conference, there’s a tendency to wonder, “What the heck is a _____ company doing at Conscious Capitalism conference?” It’s a humbling reminder that there are people even at big giant corporations who care deeply about humanity and the planet. Many are new to the movement and may have a long way to go personally and with their companies, but it’s not about judging them; it’s about helping each other to achieve more. Everyone is going to “fall.” Our job is to help each other get back up and keep working toward our goals.
Make big talk, not small talk. Something happens when you get together with a room full of accomplished, sincere leaders committed to doing good. Conversations quickly move beyond typical intros and chatting about the weather to tackle bigger issues and real substantive concerns.
Have your cake and eat it too! It is possible to have a purpose-driven business and make profits at the same time. You can run a business that serves all stakeholders, not just the owners and shareholders. And when you run this type of business, it is a win-win for everybody.
Profits aren’t evil. Successful businesses can do good in the world. Profits fuel successful businesses. This means every job, no matter how small, can contribute to do good. While there’s a lot of negative sentiment about big business, Conscious Capitalism reminds us how business, and every employee in business, can help address the challenges facing society.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Conscious Capitalism movement, I recommend you read the book, join a chapter and attend the 2018 spring conference which will be in Dallas this year. Hope to see you there!
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Dan Golden is a veteran digital marketing executive & speaker. He liked to predict the future of digital marketing and is damn good at it. Beyond trendspotting, he has an insatiable desire to know what works and that means spending time auditing accounts, testing tactics, and diving into analytics. Dan is also a Forbes and HuffPost contributor, as well as a Lecturer at Northwestern University and DePaul University.
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