29 episodes

Business done right - Purpose, Values AND Profit. In the Karmic Capitalist Conversations, we talk to CEOs and founders of organisations with purpose and values at their heart. We dive into their journeys, and into the nitty gritty of what it takes to build organisations that make good and make money. Some are starting the journey, others are a long way down it, and still others still are changing direction. But all are business leaders who believe that a successful businesses is defined by profit, purpose and values. And, oftentimes, fun.

Karmic Capitalist Conversations - businesses with purpose iyas alqasem

    • Business

Business done right - Purpose, Values AND Profit. In the Karmic Capitalist Conversations, we talk to CEOs and founders of organisations with purpose and values at their heart. We dive into their journeys, and into the nitty gritty of what it takes to build organisations that make good and make money. Some are starting the journey, others are a long way down it, and still others still are changing direction. But all are business leaders who believe that a successful businesses is defined by profit, purpose and values. And, oftentimes, fun.

    "Purpose-driven people are problem solvers and doers" - Ruth Hartnoll, CEO of Matchstick Creative

    "Purpose-driven people are problem solvers and doers" - Ruth Hartnoll, CEO of Matchstick Creative

    A fundamental principle if you want to do purpose well in your company is to look after your profit.
    Note that "look after" is not the same as "maximise".
    Ruth Hartnoll, co-founder and CEO of Matchstick Creative, has seen what that looks like up close! In this episode of the Karmic Capitalist podcast, she tells the (nearly) 5 year story of Matchstick Creative's journey from a business which was started because the founders believed  it would be a better way to do the kind of work they wanted to do, to where it is today as a highly focussed purpose and values-led agency.
    We talk about how that transition came about and the injection of belief that an agency could very much lead with its values and succeed (hello Greg Macoy!).
    We dive into leadership, and the importance of experience and exposure at an early age to smooth the trajectory to leading when you're working, and how Ruth is explicitly passing on the privilege she had through that exposure to girls that she's supporting define their own paths.
    We also discuss the sales/profit versus purpose conundrum, and how effective positioning and messaging helps to pre-qualify prospects for Matchstick.
    We get some very practical experience on how Matchstick have implemented purpose. I love how when looking at HR policy, Ruth asks her HR advisor 2 questions: "What's the compliant version? OK, so now what's the Matchstick version?". How in replying to tenders, Matchstick will often ask their prospective client up front to articulate the social impact that they believe the project is going to have.
    Ruth is remarkably open about the things she's learned along the way getting Matchstick moving - warts and all. Founder issues. Sales issues. Team issues. If you're growing a company and feeling somewhat out of your depth or as if you're having to find things out as you're doing them, Ruth's openness is both refreshing and reassuring.
    This is a wonderful episode from a company that, although 5 years old and going, looks to have a really positive future under her leadership.

    • 44 min
    How co-ordinating bananas leads to global climate change - Harriet Lamb CBE, CEO of Ashden

    How co-ordinating bananas leads to global climate change - Harriet Lamb CBE, CEO of Ashden

    I have two firsts in this Karmic Capitalist episode.
    First, Harriet is the first CBE to deign to accept my humble invitation to be a guest on our podcast!
    Second, she is also the first guest who leads a charity to guest on this show.
    Why a charity on he Karmic Capitalist? What has that got to do with businesses?
    Simple. The challenges we're facing go cross all sectors of society. And the only way for us to address those challenges is for organisations of ALL types - companies, charities, government - to align and collaborate.
    Harriet's charity, Ashden, focuses on two areas to enable that to happen. First, they amplify the good work of organisations tackling the environmental crisis - regardless of which sector - to help promote best practice and innovation.
    Second, they act as a hub to facilitate collaboration across sectors to magnify impact.
    If you run an SME and are serious about playing a positive role in tackling climate change, Harriet charts a critical path to partnerships you should be looking at to magnify your impact.
    Harriet's personal journey, taking in leading Fairtrade International and a plethora of other roles at the coalface, means that she's seen first hand the tight coupling between issues of social justice and climate change. She generously shares what she's seen and heard - conversations with farmers in Tanzania to hairdressers, high tech startups and film production in the West. Her stories bring home the very direct impact we can choose to have if we engage.
    Listen in for an inspiring perspective.

    • 42 min
    "Who knew that coffee grinds sticking to Teflon would be a thing?" George May, MD of bio-bean

    "Who knew that coffee grinds sticking to Teflon would be a thing?" George May, MD of bio-bean

    How challenging has it been to get your company going?
    I think getting a new product to market has to be one of the more challenging businesses to get going. But what if...
    Your product is a new formulation and needs independent scientific validation for your customers to buy it?
    Or you need to experiment to find out how to manufacture it at all as it's not been made before?
    Or you need to be able to take that manufacturing process and scale it massively while retaining complete predictability and standardisation when your source material is entirely organic?
    Or if no supply chain exists for you to obtain your source material?
    What if, in short, you had to create a new type of supply chain, a new type of demand chain, a new manufacturing process all at once to get going?
    Well, ask George May. That's what bio-bean have been through to get to the stage where their coffee grind products are sourced from independent and chain cafes, manufactured in a process designed from the ground-up (pun intended!), and stocked by some of the supermarket majors.
    And while creating a circular economy company, bio-bean has twice won a "The Best For The World B Corps in Environment" award.
    This week's episode of the Karmic Capitalist is a great story of the challenges of getting a brand new sustainable product to market, and how this has been addressed successfully, if not easily, by bio-bean.
    #BCorp

    • 38 min
    Marketing has fuelled ill in the world. It can do better. Johnny Pawlik CEO of Mantra Media

    Marketing has fuelled ill in the world. It can do better. Johnny Pawlik CEO of Mantra Media

    Marketing has been responsible for sooo many of the ills we're suffering in today's world.
    Overconsumption is the biggie. Encapsulated in the perceptive statement that "we buy things we don't need with money we don't have to impress people we don't like".
    Personally, I think in many ways, marketing just amplifies what already exists in the human condition. And so it's amplified our innate need of "enough" to a ruinous "as much as possible".
    And that's why I loved this conversation with Johnny Pawlik. Because Johnny decided that what he wants to amplify (my words, not his) is the goodness that businesses are capable of doing and that they actually do.
    Johnny's path to founding and running Mantra Media wasn't linear. A challenging childhood and youth could so easily have ended up in a destructive way.
    But having seen where it led, he made the harder choice to go the other way and make a positive impact with his work.
    A parallel to the decision that any CEO or founder can make with regards to what impact their company has.
    And so Mantra Media was born from his decision to do good with his life, his skills in picking up social media skills when that meant being active in an online forum / creating MySpace pages, and his formal education in communication and in political philosophy.
    In this episode, we discuss the role that marketing has played and should play. We talk about growing an ethics first marketing agency. About how much money is to be made by being naughty. About never working with Nestle!
    Johnny's passion shines through strongly on building businesses a better way. And on the optimism of where we'll head as we witness a changing of the guard.
    Enjoy this episode of the Karmic Capitalist from a doer, a thinker and a grower of a successful ethical business.

    • 41 min
    As CEO, would you trust your team to set your pay? Henry Stewart, CEO of Happy Ltd

    As CEO, would you trust your team to set your pay? Henry Stewart, CEO of Happy Ltd

    Trust - much aspired to within companies - starts at the top. The more you trust your team, the more of a trusting culture you will build.
    Henry Stewart, CEO of Happy Ltd, took that to a place very few would be willing to go.
    At pay review time for the company, he asked his team to decide what he should get.
    It's a logical conclusion if the whole ethos of your company is about building trust-based organisations. Which is what Happy is about.
    In this episode of the Karmic Capitalist, a natural pair with Richard Clarke's episode on building a company around happiness, we learn some complementary considerations.
    While Richard talked a lot about building psychological safety, Henry makes much of building trust. Neighbours. Or perhaps co-habitants!
    We talk a lot about devolving decisions (we're both fans of much in General Stanley McChrystal's "Team of Teams"), of stepping out of your team's way (also eloquently illustrated in David Marquet's "Turn the ship around") and of self-organising companies (as lived in Ricardo Semler's wonderful "Maverick").
    But this isn't a conversation about books or talk. It's a conversation about what Henry and Happy actually did, what their clients have actually done, and the practicality of creating a human and happy workplace.
    It's also a conversation about how that fuels company performance - in Happy's case, going from having lost 95% of their income when the pandemic kicked off, to recording the most profitable month in their 30+ year history.

    Finally, it's a conversation about passing up the opportunity to have bought happy.com as a domain when the internet was scarcely a thing! Ouch.
    Join us.

    • 39 min
    Would you sack your biggest client to keep your team happy? - Richard Clarke of Secret Source

    Would you sack your biggest client to keep your team happy? - Richard Clarke of Secret Source

    Would you sack your biggest client if they were making your team unhappy? Create a BIG hole in your revenue and profit? Actually put some of your team at risk due to the financial hit?
    "We want our team to be happy".
    Pretty much every company says this at some level.
    And in the inimitable words of Greta Thurnberg, "blah blah blah". It usually is as real as the staged photos of smiling employees (or occasionally, as we don't have any real smiling employees, a stock photo of smiling white people).
    But not for Secret Source.
    Richard Clarke always wanted a happy company. But the reality is that at the outset, when the "not entirely happy" sh!t hit the "grow and make more profit" fan...
    Well, let's just say that the normal expectation of what a business should be, i.e. revenue growth and profitability above all else, just kind of ran its course.
    Until they hit *that* project. *That* client
     And had *that* project manager. Who backed him up against the wall.
    "Either our happiness counts and this client goes... or we keep the client, but we stop talking about happiness as THE thing."
    Ballsy? Yes. Direct? Yes. The right thing to ask?
    Absolutely.
    Richard chose happiness.
    And ironically (or not) the company has grown by 50% a year since.
    This has to be one of my favourite #KarmicCapitalist episodes. If there were a case study in putting team happiness front and centre, Secret Source have got to be it.
    In this episode, Richard talks openly about the transformation from wanting a happy company to making one. About how they made it happen - psychological safety was a foundational principle.
    He talks about how when you place happiness at the heart of what you do, it leads you in certain directions for your commercial, your sales and your people strategies. It drives not only client selection, but the model for engagement.
    We talk about hard customer decisions and the actual customer conversations to deal with them.
    We talk about the hard conversations with your team (which don't go away) and how to deal with them. 
    We talk about succession while maintaining your values (unsurprisingly, hello again Rachel!).
    About what worries Richard most.
    And a whole lot more.
    I genuinely loved this episode. Richard is so humble with what he's built and how, and paints a blueprint which many companies could learn from.
    Enjoy. I did.

    • 42 min

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