Advice for Conscious Entrepreneurs

Advice for Conscious Entrepreneurs from Conscious Company Magazine’s co-founder, Maren Keeley

by Claire Wheeler

In a recent column we penned for Conscious Company Magazine, our friend and social enterprise guru, Jerry Gorde, makes the case for entrepreneurs to value and embody social justice on the inside of their businesses just as much as they do through mission motives on the outside. As Jerry puts it, “This is a call to conscious companies to examine their structures.”[CLICK TO TWEET]

The co-founders of Conscious Company Magazine are hearing that call. We spoke to Maren Keeley, who founded the magazine in 2015 with Meghan French Dunbar, about her thoughts on alternative ownership structures as a tool for social justice.

As we discuss in the column, ownership in most businesses is a privilege reserved for the precious few shareholders, rather than an inherent right of the vital many who give their time and talent to sustain the enterprise. When ownership is a privilege rather than a right, the motive to maximize profits and cut costs is first and foremost, putting conscious entrepreneurs who care about their employees in a compromising position. Most recently, the topic of employee ownership has been making headlines after recent announcement that Chobani yogurt owner is giving his 2000 employees shares worth up to 10 percent of the company when it goes public or is sold. For Maren of Conscious Company Magazine, this ownership question is as much about ethical management practices as it is about healing one of the deeper wounds of our humanity.

As Maren puts it, “As social entrepreneurs, I’d like to think we can all trust ourselves to act in the best interest of every person in the business. And, I also know may not be able to when the moment arises of having to make closed-door decisions around cutting costs and growing revenue. Looking at the numbers can be extremely intimidating, especially when you’ve poured your life into building your business. These are really vulnerable moments.”

When we are deep in the pressures of profit, we are tempted to make decisions in isolation of the whole. As conscious entrepreneurs, what can we do to prevent that? Here are four innovative solutions from Maren:

  1. CHOOSE BUSINESS STRUCTURES THAT FACILITATE JUST DISTRIBUTION OF PROFITS.
    “This will ensure that decisions are made without falling into the compromise. If we can employ business structures like ESOPs or cooperatives as tools of accountability, baking accountability into the DNA of the organization, managers simply do not have the option to make choices that might disenfranchise their employees.”
  2. ACKNOWLEDGE THE TENSION.
    “Acknowledging that the tension between individual wealth and collective well-being exists in each of us will help us to find ways to use this as a way to heal and transcend this mode of being. Through the traditional corporate model, we come from and continually perpetuate a legacy of injustice and pain. Acknowledging this is a part of who we are, a part of what we have built and a part of what we also can transcend is a powerful notion.”
  3. FOCUS ON YOUR PERSONHOOD BEFORE YOUR ROLE.
    “It’s a spiritual practice, to see everyone and all of life as a beautiful and equal member of the world. If we built our business through that lens, just think about what we could build, what the world could look like.”
  4. BROADEN YOUR METRICS FOR SUCCESS.
    “Judge and measure things like happiness, overall well-being and health in addition to profit. [CLICK TO TWEET] Maybe profits didn’t grow in the last three months, but maybe you did mitigate environmental damage or enhance employee well being. Have motives other than profit in place by identifying everything you want to accomplish and focus on, and then celebrate and build upon success in the many different arenas of your business goals.”

Maren Keeley is co-founder of Conscious Company Magazine. She brings her systems thinking as well as art and design background to CCM with creativity, hard work, and grit being at the core of her work history.  

Read Lori Hanau and Claire Wheeler’s article: Is Employee Ownership a Right or a Privilege?

One response. Share your comments.

One response to “Advice for Conscious Entrepreneurs”

  1. Flip says:

    I can’t hear anhyitng over the sound of how awesome this article is.

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