What we did
A movement to elevate business—and humanity
Conscious Capitalism is a movement and a nonprofit organization based on the concept that business is ethical, noble, and heroic when it fulfills its higher purpose: to lift people out of poverty, create prosperity, and serve as a system for social cooperation. The credo doesn’t minimize profits. Rather, it sets the expectation that businesses act in the interests of all stakeholders including employees, customers, and suppliers. By first uplifting others, investors will ultimately see financial benefits
If it sounds too good to be true—it’s not. Forbes cites a 2020 customer survey in which 40% of respondents said they seek products and services aligned with their values. That number is only expected to grow. People are paying attention, and Conscious Capitalism, Inc. (CCI) sees the future in that ethos.
With dozens of chapters worldwide and a board of more than 20 prominent business leaders including John Mackey of Whole Foods Market, David Gardner of The Motley Fool, Magatte Wade of Skin is Skin, and Rand Stagen of Stagen Leadership Academy, CCI helps power the movement. By providing resources and support, the organization helps leaders—and future leaders—approach business with values and vision.
By 2018, CCI recognized that the only drawback to having dozens of experienced, forward-thinking leaders is that often there are too many good ideas. The organization needed a partner who could develop a data-driven growth strategy, align its board members and chapters, and help develop a new revenue model. Slalom was proud to be chosen.
It’s about taking everybody on the journey to find answers. That means listening well and being curious enough to learn where people are coming from and why.
Laying the groundwork for growth
Slalom’s internal growth formula and shared leadership values were the right fit for CCI’s mission and vision for the future. “We needed one key strategy to really grow and felt that Slalom quickly diagnosed our situation,” says Alexander McCobin, CEO at CCI. The project began with a one-month discovery process.
Our team used Slalom SparkThink to survey CCI’s staff, conducted focus groups with national and international chapters, and had one-on-one conversations with board members to assess the organization’s opportunities for growth. We captured insights about the direction they felt the organization should take and identified dozens of unique ideas. Some members wanted to continue focusing on high-profile business leaders for revenue. Some wanted to sell whitepapers and books, hold competitions, or create immersive learning experiences. Others wanted to look toward students and future leaders.
Slalom needed to help CCI align on its goals and establish a strategic path to achieving those goals. “It’s about taking everybody on the journey to find answers. That means listening well and being curious enough to learn where people are coming from and why,” says Parul Patel, managing director at Slalom.
To better position CCI in the market, we explored sources of related information and experiences. Some organizations primarily offered networking, some had only localized resources, and some were exclusive to C-suite members. Based on that competitive landscape and the assessment results, Slalom laid out a strategy.
Putting a movement in motion
Because there were so many stakeholders with so many potential directions, our top-level strategic approach was relatively simple: The organization had to say no to some opportunities so that it could say yes to others. And to do that effectively, CCI had to choose areas where it had the most expertise.
Slalom’s own growth formula highlights customer obsession, relentless focus on team, and an insurgent mindset—all of which are made possible by highly aligned leadership. As a vision-led organization that set out to disrupt the status quo, CCI already had its insurgent mindset and team focus. We concentrated on customer obsession.
The data showed that the greatest opportunities for growth lay in privately held, mid-market companies—a universe of approximately 60,000 businesses. Slalom advised CCI to pivot away from large, publicly traded organizations, which had previously anchored its largest fundraiser. Instead, not only should CCI focus on future leaders, as some members had already suggested—it should focus on future leaders of mid-market companies.
We developed a flywheel strategy that could keep pace with the fast-changing market. Speakers from large organizations would still have a role to play, bringing high-profile awareness and membership to CCI. That awareness would draw the mid-market audience.
Mid-market entrepreneurs—including a subset of “unconscious conscious capitalists”—as well as academics, small businesses, journalists, and the public would then be invited to contribute inspiring stories and pave the way for next-generation leaders. As those new partners became involved with CCI, they would, in turn, introduce their stakeholders. “As CEOs with this mindset make decisions for their growing companies, they will inherently be conscious capitalists and grow their organizations financially even as they make a positive impact on communities,” says Patel.
Next, we explored how best to engage those audiences to keep the flywheel in motion. CCI needed to become a destination for education, support, and evangelism for the movement. Slalom made recommendations to help CCI leverage digital content and social networking and create small communities where mid-market leaders could build relationships.
Everyone at Slalom was always energized, thinking through every angle, and working hand in hand with me to develop the best possible strategy.
The call to action
For three months, we fostered a co-creation process, taking feedback as we developed the strategy. “It was great. I had daily one-on-one calls and weekly calls with the full team. Everyone at Slalom was always energized, thinking through every angle, and working hand in hand with me to develop the best possible strategy,” says McCobin.
While CCI was already prepared to implement the new strategy, the pandemic greatly accelerated the timeline. The organization redoubled its new strategic efforts by holding a virtual conference rather than its annual in-person conference and kick-started a network of mid-market leaders. In exchange for membership fees, CCI now provides an extensive knowledge base, tools, and a robust network.
We also made recommendations for the structure of the board itself. Since its inception, CCI had functioned as a very hands-on operating board. Instead, we identified specific roles for members based on expertise and experience, from overseeing day-to-day operations to education to speaking engagements. By shifting to a governing model, the board is better able to leverage individual strengths.
Raising money for the movement
Our goal was to build the organization’s momentum over 36 months, but results came faster than expected. In the first quarter of 2021, even as the economy was recovering from the pandemic, CCI’s membership model generated $500,000 in incremental revenue—a strong start toward its new goals.
Leadership also benefited from the new alignment on strategy. “We work hard to understand the real problem. We don‘t just hand off a nice presentation—we tailor a solution for the people who will actually be implementing it,” says Tom Moir, business advisory consultant at Slalom.
As future leaders lend their voices to the movement, it will continue to flourish. CCI’s philosophy states that “individuals change organizations, society, and culture.” CCI is a growing community of leaders who exemplify the best of capitalism, who equate doing good with doing well—and who recognize that this is the exciting future of business.