Andrew Thornton on Driving Business from the Heart

Soon after I set out on my “Heart in Business” journey, I realised that if I was going to make any progress in our numbers driven business culture, I would have to link what I was doing to hard business numbers. Pretty much every business I know measures itself on some set of financial numbers, a set of numbers that the city, investors, the board itself and ‘bonus incentivised’ executives live and die by.

My intuition was that if a business focused on its other stakeholders, the returns would follow for shareholders. Care about and engage with your employees, customers, community, suppliers and the environment, and the returns will surely flow to shareholders.  Looking at employees alone, every piece of research I have ever read shows that happier, engaged and cared for employees are more productive and effective.

Even with this compelling logic, I knew that I had to make that direct link between what a ‘heartful business’ did differently and how it performed.  And I believe our case study, ‘Driving Business from the Heart (June 2017)‘ does just that.

I am fortunate enough to own a supermarket in North London, Thornton’s Budgens, that I could use as a laboratory to prove my point. As we progressed along this journey, I realised that the key to a heartful business is tapping into the Human Potential of the people who work there. In the case of Thornton’s Budgens, I realised that how we perform is a sum of the Human Potential we utilise of the 85 people who work in the business.

As young kids, we are full of potential and while we still need to develop life skills, the potential is there. However, in the process of acquiring those life skills, we slowly start to shut down – parents and teachers tell us we ‘shouldn’t do this or that’.  In our first job, the boss says things like, “Andrew, you know we don’t do things like that around here, you’re not in College anymore…”. Slowly, but surely, we shut down parts of our beings, and we certainly don’t risk bringing them to work.

Our heart approach in the supermarket has helped us to start to open people up again, encouraging them to tap into skills that they felt they could not or should not use at work; like creativity or self-belief.  The tomato example in the case study perfectly illustrates this point.  Somewhere along the line, my colleague Seelan felt his creativity was not welcome at work. When, through coaching, he realised that in fact, it was, he developed the self-confidence to use it, and his life and his department were transformed.

What the case study shows is that at Thornton’s Budgens, we are using 8% more of our Human Potential than a similar control store and our sales are 10% higher.  At the same time, we have increased our margin, reduced our costs and have increased our employee satisfaction – both in terms of how happy people report being and in that hard measure – with an average length of service 50% longer than the control store. A direct link between our heart work and our bottom line performance.

I hope you find the case study compelling and food for thought.  However, before we close, let me ask you a few questions:

  • How much human potential is being used in the organisation you work for?
  • What do you think would happen if you could use 5 or even 10% more of that potential?
  • How would it impact on the hard business measures that you measure your business on?

I would love to know the answers to those questions for your company and your views on how you could start to make the shift, please e-mail me on

And please do send this case study on to others whom it might interest.  Please help us spread the word!