We see over and over that companies that
are thriving are pursuing something good. While many traditional
companies try to paint themselves “good,” under a thin veneer they
maintain near exclusive commitment to growing short-term shareholder
value. While many “good” organizations try to make a profit, they
remain rooted in a traditional non-profit mentality.
But many of today’s successful businesses were grown from the middle
of these extremes. They do not feel a tug-of-war between being good and
creating shareholder value because these two agendas can actually
depend on each other. Like sleeping and eating, you must have both. You
When I asked Tom Adams, CEO of Rosetta Stone (RST), about the company’s mission, he
said, “Basically we want to make the world a better place. We imagine a
world where anyone anywhere can learn any language fluently with
Rosetta Stone alone. And that will lead to a better world through more
Two months later when I interviewed Rosetta Stone’s head of R&D,
he said something similar, using different words. When people can
explain their company’s purpose in their own language, it means they actually understand it, which means there is a chance they truly believe it.
When this purpose links company sales or profit with doing good,
they become codependent. That removes the conflict between shareholders
and society and creates singular clarity.
Since people want to feel good about what they belong to, this
purpose has salutary effects on both employees and investors. Tom says
it enables RST to attract employees who might otherwise scoff at
working for a mid-sized firm.
“We fundamentally want to change how people learn languages. That is
what drives us. It drives not just the employees on the bus today, but
it also allows us to recruit people who would not normally join a
company our size. We have people for whom this is the smallest company
they have ever worked,” says Tom.
And Tom believes this “good” mission also makes investors “proud to
be investors in Rosetta Stone.” This I find more difficult to believe,
but does it matter? Since being good and making money depend on each
other, investors do not have to choose. That is the beauty of adopting
Ask yourself the questions below to see how you can find a business
strategy that aligns all of your missions – your bottom line, your
employees and your community.
1. Do I see a need within my company or within my community that I can assist with?
2. What is the impact of my product or service?
3. How can I use my product or service to serve a greater good?