Andrew Thornton on ‘Growing people, Growing business to full potential for a better society’

Every now and then, we need a little reminder of why we do things or what informed a decision that we have made.  In light of this, I thought I would resend this post – for both myself and for you.

When I founded Heart in Business Limited, the vision was “Putting people and our planet first, trusting profit will follow”.  For me that created the sense that there was a better way than the short-term profit focus that seems to dominate current business thinking.

Almost four years on, as I was preparing for a short film being shot for the Association of Convenience Store Summit, I was unsure if this vision was specific enough and really spoke to what we were doing. And whether we needed a more action orientated descriptive mission statement.

My partners agreed, so we set about doing what we have being doing with our clients, creating a mission (for us) of a business with a heart – crafting a statement that summed up what we are about, one that was developed from an authentic place and meant something to us – not just a statement to gather dust in reports or on our website. And just as importantly, a mission that meant something to businesses that feel they want to do things differently. Like the CEO of a family business, we are working with who said, “I just can’t go on the way I have been running the business for the last 5 years – I am not going to do this anymore, we have to do things differently”.

So here goes: “Growing people, Growing business to full potential for a better society”.

The biggest learning over the last five years has been that the route to a more heartful company is accessing greater human potential. If, as a business leader, I can help my team access more of their human potential, then not only will their lives be more fulfilling, they will also do a better job and grow (and develop) the business. As we have shown at Thornton’s Budgens, our ‘heart’ work has allowed us to tap into 8% more of our Human Potential than a comparable control store and we are 10 sales points ahead of them.

It is very clear to me that by growing our people, we will grow our businesses. And as a stretch mission, let’s go for growing them to ‘full potential’! At Thornton’s Budgens, we are only using 64% of our Human Potential, so in theory that still leaves us 36% to aim for.  In reality, my colleagues who have developed the Human Potential Index believe that 80% is probably about as far as you can go with a commercial enterprise – yet that’s still another 16 points of potential to tap into.

The Human Potential process also provides the clues as to where to look for that growing potential. With the CEO quoted above, the data from their own team told him and his board several key things:  the company did not have a unifying vision and that due to a lack of trust they had become bureaucratic and process-based, resulting in procrastination.  It helped them clearly identify that they were ready to develop a purpose based culture that would transform how they operate.

I totally agree with Unilever CEO Paul Polman when he says, “We cannot close our eyes to the challenges that the world faces. Business must make an explicit and positive contribution to addressing them. I’m convinced we can create a more equitable and sustainable world for all of us by doing so”.

The last line of our mission addresses this – “… for a better society”.  This work is better for people, better for businesses and better for society – pretty compelling to me!