Doing Good by Being Good at Business Book Review

Be the Solution: How Entrepreneurs and Conscious Capitalists Can Solve All the World’s Problems

By Michael Strong
Foreword by John Mackey, CEO, Whole Foods Markets.
John Wiley & sons, Inc. Hoboken, N.J.; March 2009, 374 pages, $24.95.

This new book is a clearheaded statement of what grounded and effective entrepreneurs can do, and will do, if encouraged and allowed.

Author Michael Strong has created high performance charter schools, and he is an author and consultant on education issues. John Mackey is the co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Markets. Both men have created successful businesses and educational endeavors based on the principles in the book.

Their key premise is that entrepreneurship can and will solve problems if individuals have access to three key things:
-¢ Secure and well-defined property rights.
-¢ Freedom of contact.
-¢ Timely, fair and reliable enforcement of contracts.

The core of the argument is that the real advancement of mankind has been built on economic free choice and action coupled with personal responsibility.

The book provides a fresh look at entrepreneurship called Conscious Capitalism. The authors call for a change from the “greed is good” mentality which created the Enron-type events that sullied capitalism for many, and they effectively push back on the historic criticism of business as bad for society because it enriches only a few.

Conscious Capitalism requires that voluntary exchanges take place in a market economy with unyielding attention to business fundamentals and profitability. Moreover, it demands the development of purpose beyond profit maximization. Implementation requires consistent attention to the legitimate needs of all the stakeholders -“ employees, managers, owners, communities, environment, suppliers and customers.

Government is criticized for stifling creativity with its bureaucratic approaches, and the failure of the education establishment as we know it gets the sharpest criticism.

“By means of such well-intentioned compliance with well-intentioned enforcement of well-intentioned laws, over many decades of public education, we have reached a horribly inhuman situation in which young human life is systematically distorted and starved for meaning and inspiration.”

The statement is harsh, but evidence of its truth exists around us. The authors posit that delivering education by those who fully subscribe to the principles of Conscious Capitalism would improve educational results and provide society with better educated and more capable men and women possessing increased potential for improving our world.

Some readers may be put off by the spiritual dimensions the authors and contributors espouse. Don’t get bogged down -“ push through the reading. The business fundamentals are sound, and you can make your own decisions on the other notions.

This book is thought-provoking in a good way. The idea of creating a business to do good for people and making the business profitable while delivering great results for all stakeholders may seem naïve and optimistic. But the two men making that case have done it. The book is worth reading -“ and getting one for your kids would be good, too.

Bob Clark is the president of RWC Consulting LLC and has more than 30 years experience in labor-management relations. He provides consulting help in labor relations and is an adjunct professor at Concordia University in Ann Arbor.