Business Can Also Be About Caring

Recently, some shocking news was trending on Twitter and other media outlets. One article on the subject, from Maclean’s read: “If they were to live on the average worker’s pay, Canada’s CEOs could stop working at around 11 a.m. on January 2 and take the rest of the year off. That’s because by 10:57 a.m. on the second day of the year, their earnings will have already hit $49,738, the equivalent of the country’s average wage, according to research by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPPA).”

To me, this is outrageous. I am a CEO too, and I know how much time, effort and energy growing my business consumes. I deserve to get paid well for my leadership and decision-making. However, while winning is an integral part of any definition of success, I cannot imagine how I could ever justify creating such a gigantic disparity between what I earn and what I pay my team. To me, the team is integral to my business’s success. If I win, then my team wins. If my team wins, then my clients win. When my clients win, then the entire business ecosystem wins.

I strive to create a supportive environment with my team, and I have found that we win more often when I place an emphasis on personal happiness.

Happy teams can achieve productivity increases of up to 20%, according to Daniel Sgroi of the Social Market Foundation, who authored a 2015 study which looked at the relationship between happiness and productivity. The researchers chose workers at random and provided materials that would make them feel happy, including comedy videos, drinks and snacks.

Many people assume that businesses are focused on profit at all costs, including the cost of workers’ well-being. But I’d like to suggest that you can build a business, make it successful and also care about your team’s happiness.

When we all win, we become happier. That happiness leads to a nurturing environment that encourages productivity. It’s the opposite of a vicious cycle: it’s a positive cycle!

Nourishing Your Team in a Business Environment

“The more you nourish employees, the more a business flourishes,” says Lord Mark Price, former Trade Minister in the UK Conservative government.

Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO of the yogurt company Chobani, believes that nurturing employees is the best way to create a positive work environment. Ulukaya, the Yogurt King, grew up in the mountains of Turkey, but sought a different life. He moved to New York and eventually used his experience to create the Greek-style yogurt brand Chobani. Founded in 2005, Chobani currently holds a 20% share of the U.S. yogurt market.

Every year, each employee receives a turkey and a bucket of feta cheese during the holiday season. In 2016, Ulukaya gave 10% of his company to his employees in the form of shares. For some long-term workers, that was a million-dollar gift.

“Now they’ll be working to build the company even more and building their future at the same time,” he said in 2016 in an interview with the New York Times.

For those who believe business is only profit-oriented, the idea of gifting that much of a self-built company might sound like a recipe for disaster. Ulukaya believes the opposite is true. He has built his highly successful brand by encouraging employee ownership. It is a process every business owner can follow.

Why Employee Ownership Creates a Winning Scenario

When employees feel engaged in the success of the organization they work for, their sense of ownership creates a collaborative environment which offers robust levels of productivity. It is evidence that business isn’t an individual game, but a team sport. We all win.

Many organizations use an ESOP, or an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, to create a team environment. For startups or SMBs, introducing an ESOP may not be the best solution. It might not even be possible. But there are still effective ways to encourage employees to take pride in their company.

  • Provide regular feedback that encourages worker skill growth.
  • Be willing to listen when workers are struggling with a personal or professional issue.
  • Offer public rewards for excellent work, even if it is only a “thank you.”
  • Look for ways to expand the role of top producers within the organization, since a promotion or a raise can be an excellent motivational tool.

I may not be able to offer a million-dollar ESOP to my team, but I can nurture them by encouraging an environment where we can all be proud of our work. When that pride is present, a winning attitude often follows.

That is how business can—and, I would argue, should—also be about caring. By nourishing others, we feed ourselves.

Karima-Catherine Goundiam is the founder and managing director of Red Dot Digital, which she launched in 2014 with the aim of bringing greater efficiency and diversity to the world of digital and social media. She brings 16 years of international integrated marketing, campaign and project management experience to the firm. Before Red Dot, she managed digital and social media for Deloitte Canada and directed social media for Ford.

Karima-Catherine has mentored executives at every level on digital transformation, from digital strategy to social media. With over 49,000 followers on Twitter and many more across social media platforms, she writes articles on LinkedIn Pulse and the Women’s Executive Network, an international organization and community advancing the conditions of professional and executive women.

Red Dot Digital helps its clients boost their sales and achieve their business objectives in today’s digital world with solid digital and social media strategies. Globally-minded and cost-efficient, RDD works across multiple time zones, setting themselves apart byproviding real, measurable results.

@KarimaCatherine on Twitter