Our decisions have an opportunity to shape the world, for better or for worse. As leaders, we make a series of these decisions, and if every decision is about how much money we can make, it's not going to add up to much at the end. There has to be a balance between the profit we're seeking and values that will endure.
These touchy-feely concerns shouldn’t just be side effects of a business but can become the heart of a business if you're strategic about it. It's not a question of “I’m a good person, so my company will do good things.” It’s about asking: “What kind of positive impact can I have, that will also support my core business?”
Howard Schultz, founder and exec chairman of Starbucks, know a thing or two about this topic. In his management meetings, while he was still CEO, he imagined two empty chairs in every meeting and thought about one chair occupied by a customer and the other occupied by a Starbucks barista. Howard would always ask himself silently, "is this decision going to make the customer and the barista proud?" If the answer was even remotely gray, he knew that he was on the wrong side of the debate.
Howard built Starbucks balancing conscience and profits; i.e. he didn’t put benefits ahead of profits. But he didn’t put profits first either. He started tackling both problems simultaneously. Even though his business was under-funded early on, he didn't say “I’ll take care of my people later.”, but rather, “I’ll find a way to take care of them now, by making sure that it makes my business stronger.”
Starbucks is not profit driven. Starbucks is values-driven, and as a result of those values, they have become very profitable.