No matter what kind of business you run, there’s a pretty good chance that you spend the bulk of your time focusing on your operations.
If you have a software company, your primary focus is on building products and tools that people will use. If you run an e-commerce website, you probably spend most of your day making sure that customers and manufacturers have seamless experiences. All of these are great things to do, but it’s easy to get stock on the operational treadmill and miss the big picture: making sure your company is built on consciousness.
At first glance, this might sound like hippie psychobabble, but it is actually the single most important factor in determining whether or not a company will be successful over the long term. There are plenty of people who have created incredible products and services that achieve initial success, but it’s hard to sustain that if the company is not built on empathy, trust, and compassion.
Those generally aren’t words that you read about in business books, but they are what actually drives real success rather than short-term gains.
If you’re not convinced, just look at how many companies have implemented ESG and sustainability programs in the last five years. A decade ago, companies talking about consciousness and energy were seen as an outlier, but today it is considered essential for companies that want to be profitable, successful and make a meaningful positive impact on the world. And the good news is that these aren’t abstract concepts at all.
There are concrete steps that leaders can take to make this part of their day-to-day operations.
This is actually where new companies have a significant advantage in making consciousness part of their internal and external operations. That’s because they do not have decades of bad habits to break, and they are still charting their futures.
It’s a lot easier to make a big change at the beginning than it is for a large company to try to change directions.
The Funding Wall
Just about every start up entrepreneur I have ever met has talked about bringing in outside funding, and venture capital investment is often cited as the best path forward. In fact, the VC model is a broken one because in many cases the values of the entrepreneur do not map to the values of the investor. And because VC hold all the cards, they can often put pressure on company founders to do things in a way that does not align with their core values. That’s a recipe for disaster, because at some point this disconnect will break the company apart.
It’s no accident that more than 80% of founders are no longer in the CEO chair by the time their companies get a series B round of funding.
One of the reasons why venture capital investing can be toxic is that it is based on quick exits fueled by unrealistic growth. If you found a company that increases its revenues by 15% a year, you are probably doing pretty well – unless your investor is demanding that revenues double and triple.
After a couple of quarters of results that do not map to what the investor wants, everything can go sideways in a hurry. What is the venture capitalists want unicorns, which is not only unrealistic, but also shortsighted. I can name dozens of amazing startups that either lost their way or went out of business because of these kinds of disconnects with investors.
Of course, not all investment is bad. In fact, good companies deserve outside funding to build their businesses and drive long-term success. But it’s important to have the right investors. That means investors who share the same vision and passion as the founder, and are investing for a long, sustainable future. Someone who wants to get their money out in 9 to 12 months is buying a lottery ticket, not being a partner.
This is where empathy, trust, and compassion come in to play as the new business drivers. Investors need to share the same consciousness as the leaders of the companies they are investing in. They need to believe in them as people and as executives. They need to be an alignment when it comes to what sustainability looks like and what long-term success looks like.
The good news is that these investors are out there, and they are looking for companies to back.