The era of modern American business is defined by CEOs celebrated for their wild growth, wild personalities, and wild wealth.
Why is it important: Leading my second company as CEO, I am increasingly convinced that this model of fame, growth at all costs and growth at all costs will not be enough for the next generation.
We need a new twist on ruthless capitalism – let’s call it ambitious capitalism.
- You see it every day: Workers, made more powerful than ever by tight talent markets and easy social media activism, simply won’t tolerate wealth or profit like the only end goal.
- Calm down, conservative readers: I’m not talking about giving in to activism or shifting to soft socialism. In my experience, a very small minority of workers want one or the other in the workplace. What they want is a deeper meaning.
What am I talking about is a different way of thinking about the success and obligation of a business. Here are four markers that the founders of Axios put in place to judge whether we are creating something truly great and enduring:
- Aspirational products. Create products and services that authentically solve problems or alleviate pain for people, communities or businesses. They should be healthy, intuitive, safe and reasonably priced.
- Ambitious longevity. Be proudly capitalist because it takes profit to grow and protect jobs and scale a business that outlives its creators. A cool, short-lived product that wins plaudits but fades or dies after the founders leave would be a massive failure.
- Aspirational sense. Most people around my age, 51 or older, wanted and expected little more than a paycheck from their employers. The new generation demands more – and rightly so. We spend so much of our waking hours working, so why shouldn’t we all be doing good, learning more, helping others at work?
- Ambitious improvement. Don’t roll your eyes, cynics. We truly believe that if you create the right culture and the right values - and stick to both when it’s tough – people can leave better people at your company: smarter, more talented, more collaborative, more empathic.
So many of our institutions have loss of credibility and influencecorporations, then, might be the latest best-shared reality for rebuilding what makes America great.
The big picture: Put this one away. While many of you will send me an email that seems too recent or naive, I bet a decade from now the most successful companies will operate this way.