Top 10 Takeaways from Conscious Capitalism Summit

Leadership Emerging / October 2012

Howard Leonhardt

Howard Leonhardt

Howard J. Leonhardt
Posted on October 20, 2012

October 15th, 2012 – Santa Monica, CA – Last week I had the honor of being a California Delegate to the Conscious Capitalism Summit in Austin, Texas. What an amazing great experience! I had a chance to meet so many like minded people that believe that a new era has dawned where companies that consider all stakeholders in their purpose and culture are destined to excel.

Here is a list of my top 10 takeaway learning points from the Conscious Capitalism Summit…

1. Treating well your employees, your community, the environment and having meaningful purpose in your company’s culture are not just good things for the sake of good they are good business. Good purpose companies attract and retain the most talented people and motivate them to a higher level of performance and this results in better return for all stakeholders including shareholders. Conscious Capitalism companies provide between 15.6% and 22% annual return on average over a 5 year period – Source:

2. It’s Just Good Business, a new book by Jeff Klein, is an amazing manifesto for the new era of Conscious Capitalism…

3. Tom and Dave Gardner at Motley Fool are applying transparency to companies to uncover whether their cultures truly are authentically rewarding all stakeholders and if they truly are great places to work. A test if they can indeed attract, retain and highly motivate the most talented and creative people – which is the No. 1 key to success in the modern economy. They convinced me that their methods are likely to be better predictors of the next great stock buys than any other methods I have been introduced to yet…

4. More and more people want to have meaning and purpose in their work. This has been further extended to having meaning and purpose in their investments and purchase decisions. People are thinking through whether every minute of their time they are giving someone and every dollar they providing to anyone is aligning with their beliefs and personal purpose. Our company The California Stock Exchange is developing a new stock exchange that will only list companies committed to Conscious Capitalism. Our Cal-X Stars Business Accelerator has invested in, which committed to “Bringing Sexy Back to Giving Back” in promoting brands and products with a give back purpose.

5. Here is a great quote from another great book highlighted at the meeting – Be The Solution by Michael Strong – that in many ways sums up the Conscious Capitalism Summit: ”In the past, many believed you either went into ‘public service’ to do good, or you ‘went into business’ to make money. Few realized that the long-term success of business depends on serving people, not making money. Few realized that perhaps the best way to serve the public was through free enterprise. Whole Foods Market founder John Mackey, visionary thinker Michael Strong, micro lender Muhammad Yunus, and a few others understand these truths. Be the Solution is the best single book to read to understand the emerging ways in which entrepreneurs can change the world.”
—Gary Hoover, serial entrepreneur, founder of Hoover’s Business Information Service,…

6. Kip Tindell, CEO of The Container Store, summarized very well Conscious Capitalism: Does someone have to lose in business for others to win? Should shareholders always come first? Kip Tindell, Chairman and CEO of The Container Store, says, “Absolutely not!”

How Do You Describe Conscious Capitalism?

Since 1978, we’ve been running our business by putting purpose before profits. Back then, we just called it the way we do business. Kind of Golden Rule-ish – that’s the way we lived and worked. Today, we’re proud to be one of the pioneering companies in a movement called Conscious Capitalism along with Whole Foods Market and others.

We are a group of like-minded companies working together to change the face of business in America and around the world. Businesses that practice Conscious Capitalism stand for more than just making money and that force comes from the top with leaders who walk the talk through developing and nurturing a conscious culture. And we all have a firm belief that properly balancing the needs of all of a business’ stakeholders – its employees, customers, vendors, community and shareholders – is the right thing to do.

7. In my opinion the best speech of the entire summit was given by Bert Jacobs of Life Is Good. He highlighted real human stories of how his company had changed the lives of others for the better and through in some excellent humor to lighten the delivery up. His self-chosen executive title is Chief Executive Optimist. In 1994 with only $78 in the bank he and his brother John founded Life is Good. They made and sold T-shirts out of their car. Today their company has annual sales over $100 million. Believing that consumers are overwhelmed with too much “advertising noise” in the marketplace, Life Is Good focuses on forging meaningful emotional connections. Because Life Is Good considers children it’s ultimate source of inspiration, the company is committed to helping kids through the work of the Life is Good Playmakers.

Bert sat next to me at dinner before we got to know each other. Of course we exchange the “what we do” introductions. I explained that I was an inventor of devices and stem cell based methods for treating heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases that recently started a business accelerator and fund to help other startups launch. He replied back “I make T-shirts” with a smile on his face. Bert and his brother John do much more than just “make T-shirts”. They lift human spirits, which is the most honorable and needed work on planet earth. When Bert got up an spoke in front or our group of 400 or so in attendance, he mentioned our conversation and mentioned that I had suggested that his business plan be adapted to be much more than selling T-Shirts. He of course was already on that path and had just laid our their 10 year plan focused on just this course of action. He asked me to stand up and share what I had told him at dinner. I simply said “your firm promotes a belief in the power of gratitude and provides tools to people to help cultivate the ability of their minds to harness this power, and that there is nothing more important than this”.

8. It is important to make the workplace fun. Being too serious too much is not fun. Companies with a little bit of humor and fun in their culture are better places to work and attract and retain the most talented and creative people.

9. Your company is a movement. Your brand stands for that movement. Your engaged community of stakeholders defines who you are. With the era of equity crowd funding about to launch with the SEC rule making period expiring December 31, 2012 companies like and (both based in Santa Monica, California our home town) that focus on helping believers in purpose driven companies to become part owners in these companies are about to thrive.

10.  Doing well by doing good is about to become the norm rather than the exception.  This next century by far will be the best time ever to live as a result.

 About the Author

Howard J. Leonhardt is a serial entreprenuer in California.