What Small Businesses Can Teach Us About Responsible Business

Small business leaders often build tight bonds with the communities they serve and because of that, their civic engagement is driven by the customers and clients they see every day, not Madison Avenue marketing firms, focus groups, or message testing. In a recent study, 72% of people believe locally-owned businesses were more likely than large companies to be involved in improving their communities.

Great lessons on responsible business practices we can learn from small businesses:

  1. Focus on the issues that matter to your community.
  2. Listen to the needs of your constituents before acting, which will help you achieve better results.
  3. Put people first.

Source: What Small Businesses Know About Corporate Responsibility

How to Improve Your Critical Thinking

If, like me, you’re looking for ways to improve your critical thinking and problem-solving ability, Helen Lee Bouygues, founder of the Reboot Foundation, on the latest episode of HBR’s Ideacast, presents 3 Simple Habits to Improve Your Critical Thinking:

  1. Question assumptions
  2. Reason through logic
  3. Diversify thought

TED-ed describes a similar five-step process:

…which Patrick Allan elaborates on here:

  1. Formulate your question: Know what you’re looking for specifically. Break things down to their base level.
  2. Gather your information: Now that you know what’s relevant to your problem or decision, research it. Reach out to an expert, read up on the subject, or talk to people who have experience with the same subject matter.
  3. Apply the information and ask critical questions: What concepts are at work? What assumptions exist? Is your interpretation of the information logically sound?
  4. Consider the implications: Look beyond the short-term and think about how your decision will shape things in the long-term. Something that will benefit you now may not benefit you in the future. What’s at stake? What can go wrong?
  5. Explore other points of view: By understanding other perspectives, you learn more about the subject. You’re also given an opportunity to reflect on the information you have and how you feel.

_____

The first step in questioning assumptions, then, is figuring out when to question assumptions. Turns out, a questioning approach is particularly helpful when the stakes are high.

So if you are in a discussion about long-term company strategy upon which years of effort and expense will be based, be sure to ask basic questions about your beliefs: How do you know that business will increase? What does the research say about your expectations about the future of the market? Have you taken time to step into the figurative shoes of your customers as a “secret shopper”?

Another way to question your assumptions is to consider alternatives. You might ask: What if our clients changed? What if our suppliers went out of business? These sorts of questions help you gain new and important perspectives that help hone your thinking.

_____

Being aware of common fallacies can also allow you to think more logically. For instance, people often engage in what’s known as “post hoc” thinking. In this fallacy, people believe that “because event Y followed event X, event Y must have been caused by event X.”

_____

In team settings, give people the chance to give their opinions independently without the influence of the group. When I ask for advice, for instance, I typically withhold my own preferences and ask team members to email me their opinions in separate notes. This tactic helps prevent people from engaging in groupthink.

Source: 3 Simple Habits to Improve Your Critical Thinking

“when they sell a company, it’s not only the financial benefit: they also want to feel good about what happens to the company afterwards”

Curious about worker ownership, including Employee Stock Ownership Plans, or ESOPs, and worker cooperatives? Check out this piece by for Vermont Digger:

NCEO says its research shows employee-owners are likely to have higher median incomes from wages, no matter what their wage level. The group said employee-owners tend to have better access to benefits like flexible work schedules, parental leave and tuition reimbursement, and tend to stay at their jobs longer than non-employee-owners.

Proponents of the worker ownership model say it’s also more likely to result in jobs with dignity and more opportunities for wealth and building skills.

Source: Interest in Employee Ownership Growing

A New Report on the State of Craft Beer Shows Vermont Leading the Way

C + R Research has just released a new report on the craft beer industry. It contains a number of insights:

  • Vermont has the most number of breweries per capita
  • And Vermont also produces the most pints per capita
  • To no surprise to anyone that follows this industry, the number of craft breweries continues to show a steady upward trend
  • And the states seeing the most growth are New Jersey and Kentucky

But I think the most striking figure in this report is the economic impact:

Per capita for 21+ adults, Colorado comes in at No. 1 with an economic impact of $764 per person and Vermont at No. 2 with an economic impact of $681 per person. These numbers represent the overall output of the craft beer industry in each state based on the 21+ population.

via Vermont heads up the field in craft beer | Vermont Business Magazine

“When poorer people get more income, they spend it, which helps the overall economy”

America likes the idea of the self-made man, the man who starts his own business, pulls himself out of obscurity, and becomes a success.

Over time, some Americans have started to believe that a self-made man should also be a selfish man. That a millionaire shouldn’t pay taxes because they’ll only be “squandered,” that a smart businessman roots for the economy to collapse so he can buy real estate cheaply, that taxes on business should be lowered so the wealthy can do better. In much of America, that attitude is regarded as an important component of how a self-made man succeeds—applauded, because it’s thought to be a sign of the vigor of America.

Or woman.

But plenty of millionaires feel differently. Some contest the notion of a self-made man altogether, arguing that anyone successful has relied on government spending—infrastructure, an educated workforce, enforceable contracts—to make their mark. Some of them even believe that paying more taxes and investing in public services is the way to more prosperity—for everyone. “What I’m talking about is what policies will not just help me personally, but that I think will be good for our country and my kids’ generation,” Morris Pearl, a former managing director at the investment fund BlackRock, told me. He added, “I don’t want to live in a country where a few people do amazingly well and everyone else does poorly, because anyone, including me and my kids, may end up not being one of the winners.”

Source: The Millionaires Who Disagree With Trump on Taxes – The Atlantic