Thoughts on 2017 Conscious Capitalism CEO Summit

By Marc Blackman, CEO Gold Eagle Co.

In the fall of 2017, I returned to the annual Conscious Capitalism CEO Summit, a meeting of business leaders from diverse industries with like-minded values and business philosophies.   Each year I return fired up and ready to put the concepts of Conscious Capitalism to work at Gold Eagle Co.  But this year was different.  This year I entered the Summit with trepidation and with Gold Eagle undergoing significant changes.

As I touched down in the capital of the Lone Star State, I felt I needed validation that the path Gold Eagle is on is the right one and that our journey into Gold Eagle’s future was the right course.  I felt uncomfortable but yet was comfortable knowing that by the end of the Summit I’d gain perspective on what was troubling me.  I embraced my trepidations and settled in for three days of thought leadership about “Elevating Humanity Through Business.”

Conscious Capitalism is based on a belief “that business is good because it creates value, it is ethical because it is based on voluntary exchange, it is noble because it can elevate our existence and it is heroic because it lifts people to their fullest potential. Free enterprise capitalism is the most powerful system for social cooperation and human progress ever conceived. It is one of the most compelling ideas we humans have ever had.”    At the CEO Summit, we aspire to DO EVEN MORE!

Each speaker presented their views on this belief and how their companies were putting these concepts into action.  We heard from the CEO’s of The Motley Fool, Thrive Market, SoulPancake, Hello Alfred and Panera Bread.  But the CEO I wanted to hear from most, was John Mackey, CEO and Co-Founder of Whole Foods Market, and who co-authored the book Conscious Capitalism that gave the movement its name.

I’ve seen John speak before, and he is engaging and inspiring.  But this year, with the acquisition of Whole Foods by Amazon, what would John have to say?  Would he continue to preach the concepts of Conscious Capitalism?  Would he convey any of the uncertainty we’ve read about in the days after the acquisition?  Would Whole Foods, a truly conscious company, be able to retain its conscious values?  Would John…still be John?

John told us about the courtship of Amazon and Whole Foods.  According to John, it was a courtship, as this acquisition was more like a marriage than a merger.  The entire courtship period lasted only two months.  Whole Foods will remain a conscious company with a conscious culture. The higher purpose of Whole Foods will remain intact.   Plus, John will now be able to be creative again to follow his path for the betterment of his company.

After hearing from John, I felt better.  As I wrestle with the question of how Gold Eagle Co. can retain its Corporate WHY, Core Values and ethical principles (that define & differentiate us), in light of rapid and significant business changes, I re-affirmed that we are on the right path.  We are investing in e-commerce while we continue to support our brick and mortar, retail partners.  We acquired Trinova and are building a robust product portfolio. We remain a leader in private brands for some of the world’s best-known companies.  We invest in our office and factory.  But most important of all, we invest in our people and our culture.  I am never satisfied and will always focus on making Gold Eagle the best, most fulfilling environment for all team members to thrive both professionally and personally.  Conscious Capitalism is a belief and mindset.  Business can truly be a force for good and as far as I am concerned, it starts with the Gold Eagle Team!

I was now ready to return to Chicago with a reaffirmation that we are on the right path, and our journey will be exciting, challenging and fun.

Forever onward….


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