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The Other Guy's Bucket

multiple stakeholder model

What is conscious capitalism and the multiple stakeholder model all about?

One of the basic tenets of conscious capitalism is the multiple stakeholder model. This model puts all partners in business on equal footing, suggesting that the customer, employee, shareholder, and vendor/provider are of equal importance. By following this model and working to fill "the other guy's bucket," perhaps even at the expense of your own, all parties benefit in both the short-term, and most importantly in the long-term.

This makes sense theoretically, but in my travels recently I was directly impacted in a way that reinforces everything the authors of conscious capitalism point to.

questus logoI was in NYC to visit with one of my clients, Questus. They are a San Francisco-based advertising agency that has set out to revolutionize the way we view traditional advertising. I was on a routine visit to their New York office to visit with one of the founding partners, Jeff, and a few other senior leaders of the agency. Months before, while on a phone call with Jeff, I mentioned my summer plans included traveling to a bluegrass festival with my son. We were in the first three minutes of a coaching session and talking briefly about our summers ahead. Three months later, I walked into the Questus New York office to hear bluegrass playing in the background. The office environment is brightly lit, colorful and always has some upbeat, high-quality music playing. On this day, the soundtrack was bluegrass.

Of course this was music to my ears, but it also seemed a little out of place. I turned to Courtney who was at the front desk and asked, "Bluegrass?” "I know, weird right?" she replied. "Jeff asked me to play some, but I have no idea why." A light went off for me and I excitedly explained to Courtney why this music was playing. She was a tiny bit embarrassed after playfully mocking my musical taste, and we had a good laugh.

The story goes on. Later during my same trip, Courtney and I were sharing a short break over the coffee machine in the break room. There were a number of great coffee options, but my favorite—a simple and strong French roast—was not available. I happily drank what they had and we went off to our respective tasks. When I returned to the Questus office about two months later (yes, bluegrass was playing again, and I was equally lifted, even the second time), Courtney proceeded to inform me that she had bought some French roast coffee and I would be enjoying my favorite cup while there. I had no recollection whatsoever of mentioning my preference to Courtney, yet clearly I had, and clearly she did remember.

Okay, so what's going on over at Questus? All of this would be far less remarkable if I were a client or a potential client. But remember, I am a vendor. As much as we consultants like to consider ourselves more like strategic partners, trusted advisors, enablers, or collaborators, we are, at the end of the day, vendors. Why would Jeff and Courtney, or the many others at Questus who go to great lengths to make me feel special?

Well, this is what conscious capitalism and the multiple stakeholder model is all about. It doesn’t matter if I am their executive coach or printer paper rep. If I feel good about working with Questus—if when I work with them, my bucket is filled—I will then quite naturally work harder to fill theirs. Yes, as a provider I am expected to meet or exceed their expectations. But with my bucket filled, I actively look for ways to delight and surprise, much in the way I've been delighted and surprised by them. On the client service scale of one to 10, I continually look for ways to deliver at 11, yet I can't help but notice that when I am with them, there's something different. When with them, my heart is in it just a little bit differently.

Imagine if, in the business world, more companies worked to engage all of their stakeholders in such a way. Imagine the virtuous circle, the expansiveness and abundance that is created as we work to not just take care of ourselves but each other. Questus is trying to revolutionize advertising. They may just be part of an even bigger revolution: the way we do business.

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