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Why focus on Difference Makers?

“Helping difference makers make a difference”

Weathering the Storm
Storm Dennis (Feb 2020): More floods have hit towns as extreme weather brought by Storm Dennis continues to cause widespread damage.  More than 200 flood warnings are in place across England, Wales and Scotland, including nine severe – or “danger to life” – warnings for the rivers Lugg, Severn, Wye and Trent.
~ BBC News

Having left the EU at the end of January 2020 on the next phase of our Brexit journey, February has brought a different kind of chaos to our shores. Across the country, people like those living in and around a flooded village in South Yorkshire have pulled together to help their stranded neighbours.

Driving a 32-year-old Land Rover through several feet of floodwater, a bus driver helped ferry people and vital supplies around Fishlake.  He and his teenage sons rescued an 85-year-old woman from her home, taking her to a local pub which has opened up as a refuge.  The 44-year-old bus driver said he wanted to do what he could to help.
~ BBC News

It seems that in times of emergency like this we will often see communities pulling together to support one another in facing the disaster.  There are countless stories currently filling the news of people in communities rallying together to help each other out to overcome the catastrophic results of the water from this latest storm having nowhere to go.  The rivers were already at the highest levels, and the ground is already sodden, so flood waters abound filling the lower lying areas.  People across the country are rallying together with the common cause of dealing with the damage.

It is interesting to notice that people today will embrace a cause, and in fact employees and customers alike are becoming increasingly intolerant of companies without a cause.  Profit is no longer enough.  In fact it never has been.  Cash used to be simply a means of converting from one investment into another, and yet in recent years we seem to have become fixated on accumulating either cash or debt.  

“Employees and customers alike are becoming increasingly intolerant of companies without a cause.”

50 years ago the idea that “The goal of the firm is to maximise returns to shareholders.” became the mantra of MBAs, and was adopted by most of the MBA graduates who went on to become the captains of industry, the MDs and CEOs across the developed world.  

Some years ago a find of mine started his own small business, and he approached me to consider going into business with him in a “Will Writer” business.  It wasn’t anything I had come across before, and when he explained in more detail I could see from what he described that we could indeed make some profit from the business, but I could also see that his motive was exclusively to make a profit.  He used the language of helping people find a less costly way of obtaining a will, however, it just didn’t seem to fit right with me at the time.  I couldn’t feel his eagerness to help people, I could only feel his eagerness to make a profit.

Today there is a growing trend to embrace our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and to consider the triple bottom line, adding People and Planet to Profits as reportable business outcomes.  The territory between “For Profit” companies and “Not For Profit” companies is opening up to reveal “Not JUST For Profit” companies; companies with a CAUSE.

 “Corporate social responsibility is a hard-edged business decision. Not because it is a nice thing to do or because people are forcing us to do it… because it is good for our business”

~ Niall Fitzerald, Former CEO, Unilever

An increasing number of organisations today are led by people who want their work to have a meaning and not just a profit. They want their work to mean something more than a day job, they want it to make a difference.  This search for meaning suggests that what they actually want to be involved in is activities which are valuable for their own sake, activities which are aligned with a cause that they believe in. This means that these activities need to be important in their own right, and not just because they make money or give status.  

And I want to help them.  I love to spend time with people who love to spend time doing something that makes a difference, companies that are either Not For Profit and Not JUST for Profit; I have found that I connect best with companies that have a cause.

Rather like the bus driver in the story earlier, I want to do what I can to help.  I want to help companies that have a cause; I want to help difference makers make a difference.  Maybe if we consider maximising Stakeholder capital in place of Shareholder capital, where the shareholder is just one of the stakeholders, we can find our way towards an alternative destination.  

“Stakeholders want companies to make a profit, but not at the expense of their staff and the wider community.”

~ Brian Gosschalk, CEO, MORI, quoted in Financial Times.

It seems to me that even considering the triple bottom line leaves a little to be desired, there is something still missing.  In addition to the People, Planet and Profit, I am looking for companies that have a Passion about what they are doing (the “Why” that Simon Sinek talks about in his Golden Circle), and that are Philanthropic in how they go about their business.  So we look to measure and deliver on the five elements of Passion, Profit, Philanthropy, People and Planet, it seems to me that there are five elements that need to be evident in companies that have a cause, five elements that drive difference makers.  

“The brands that will be big in the future will be those that tap into the social changes that are taking place.”

~ Sir Michael Perry, Chairman of Centrica PLC

Rather as a five-caster office chair would be uncomfortable and difficult to use if one or more of the castors was not working properly or was missing, I suspect that the future will be uncomfortable for companies who don’t pay attention to all five key components that will distinguish difference-makers from their competition. These key components are: Cause, Cash, Charity, Community and Conservation. 

Difference makers are companies who care about: a Cause, Cash, Charity, Community and Conservation.”

About Roger Fairhead

Roger is a leadership specialist delivering Leadership for Business Achievement through Speaking, Training and Coaching to business leaders and entrepreneurs.

“He is articulate, tracks complex issues with ease and has an incredible gift for raising pearls of wisdom out of the murky depths of people and process.” His passion is to help people to learn effective leadership skills to lead their teams to capitalize on their strengths and passions to realize their dreams.

Leadership for Business also invests into the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities to offer them small loans that empower them to invest in their future, to provide for their families and give back to their communities.