I’ve been reading Raising The Bar: Integrity and Passion in Life and Business, by Gary Erickson (the founder of Clif Bar, Inc.) recently. I really like his model of a balanced ecosystem for a thriving business. Following this model has allowed Clif Bar to become one of the fastest growing privately-held businesses, and the leader (at least in my opinion) in the energy bar market.

Essentially, his business has five aspirations:

  1. Sustaining Our Brands — Keeping Our Mojo
    • Natural Demand
    • Innovation and Reinvention
    • Nutrition and Quality Control
    • Connecting with Consumers
  2. Sustaining Our Business — Living Within Our Means
    • Extraction, Reinvestment, Profit
    • Rate of Growth
    • Business as Stewardship
  3. Sustaining Our People — Live Life to its Fullest
    • Find and Retain the Right People
    • Compensation
    • Learning and Growing
    • Wellness—Work Hard, Play Hard, Recover
    • Meaning and Purpose in Work
    • Morale
  4. Sustaining Our Community — Giving Back
    • Do No Harm
    • 2080 Program—Giving Our Time
    • Partnerships and Sponsorships
    • Product and Cash
    • Influencing Others
  5. Sustaining The Planet — Reducing Our Ecological Footprint
    • Sustainable Ingredients
    • Environmentally Friendly Packaging
    • Greening the Office
    • Fight Against Global Warming
    • Partners in Sustainability
    • Learning from and Encouraging Others

It would be really nice if every company followed this model, but most corporations, especially public companies (including my own employer) tend to chase the almighty dollar.

Michelin (in France) publishes a series of maps covering most of Europe, and in different scales. On many of the maps, roads are marked in red, yellow, or white. The red roads are the major thoroughfares which get you from point A to point B as quickly as possible. The yellow roads are arterial roads which are not as big as the red roads, but still well-travelled. The white roads are the small country roads that allow a traveller to really experience the country.

Most businesses try to always take the red road to profitability and growth. When travelling the red roads, the only that that is important is the destination, but not the journey itself. Just as it is in one’s personal life, the life of a business should also be about the journey and not simply about the destination. It is possible to have integrity and still make money.

God willing, if/when I open my own business, I will be able to focus on the journey.