Three years later shareholder value is still BS to me

Recently I read an interesting article by Eric Reguly in the Report on Business regarding the folly of shareholder value. You can find it here. It reminded me of where I was three years ago when Luisa and I began our adventure to write a book about how to be successful without being a jerk. The good news is, that book is done, in layout, and will be ready for your review in the coming weeks. In the meantime, read where I was regarding shareholder value in 2010. FYI, I haven’t changed my opinion, at all…


It was that long walk down the hallway, the walk that severed my professional ties with a group of people I loved, and ended my career at a company I respected, that did it for me. A walk precipitated by an activist investor who wanted a greater return on his short-term investment, and was okay with any resulting collateral damage as long as he unlocked the value he was so certain was there for his taking. Once the dust settled, 30% of the people who helped make the company he’d just pillaged so successful were gone, including me.


The sad thing is, we did it to ourselves. We all want more money to feel secure, to buy more stuff or to retire early, because work is unfulfilling for so many of us and we’d rather be fishing. Even the 30% of us who lost our jobs got a great bounce in our stocks and cashed out, making the company we were about to leave a sitting duck for takeover. We ate our own tail, and another great employer bit the dust, a travesty really, as so few of this caliber seem to exist anymore.


In our quest for happiness, I think we’ve lost sight of what matters – good, honest relationships based on trust that lead to mutual benefit – and replaced it with what doesn’t – more money, more power, more stuff, at the expense of others and our planet. We all know this isn’t sustainable, and most of us abhor at some level the consumer culture it’s created. We buy stuff we don’t really need and can’t really afford, we eat or drink too much, we take too much from others and give too little in return.


We do this in order to fill a hole that’s growing inside of us, and it’s not working. That hole gets deeper every day we give another 8 to 12 hours to a job we don’t love, working with people we don’t like or trust, who don’t like or trust us either. Isn’t it time to step back from this brink?


The world’s problems are huge – corruption, poverty, obesity, environmental degradation. We’ve seen this epidemic, and he is us! Fix ourselves and these very serious issues become easier to manage. Address what we’re doing to feed the beast, and we sap its velocity, we might even reverse it. The best news of all is we don’t have to be scientists, economists or politicians to do it. We just need to be human; caring, compassionate, honest, trustworthy, honourable humans. We need to make an honest living.


As leaders, we can create great places where people genuinely want to work. As employees we can drive this change too. Together, we can build great work places based on open, honest, trusting relationships that attract more great people to join, stay and build great things. Great people in turn work for the benefit of their customers, suppliers, consumers, shareowners and communities as well as for themselves.


When we make an honest living, we all win. There’s no time to waste. It’s time to get started.


How? Start by reading An Honest Living, a manifesto by Melodie Barnett and Luisa Girotto, coming very soon to a bedside table near you. Stay tuned :).