You must always maximize shareholder value, over and over, which is important, very very important, but we often forget that the shareholders are also members of our communities. Maybe it comes down to the definition of value, money is one, but another is sustainability, and the most crucial value is community, businesses should never forget they are part of communities.
It is all connected, and no business operates in a vacuum.
Some wise words from a businessman, Yvon Chouinard, who does it right.
I live for the moment. I'm basically a Buddhist-type person. I'm just here right now, and I don't think about what's going to happen a hundred years from now. I try to concentrate on what's going on right now.
But I’m really trying to run this company like it is going to be here a hundred years from now. That's what's important.
I had always tried to live my life fairly simply and by 1991, knowing what I knew about the state of the environment, I had begun to eat lower on the food chain and reduce my consumption of material goods. Doing risk sports had taught me another important lesson: never exceed your limits. You push the envelope and you live for those moments when you’re right on the edge, but you don’t go over. You have to be true to yourself; you have to know your strengths and limitations and live within your means. The same is true for a business. The sooner a company tries to be what it is not, the sooner it tries to “have it all,” the sooner it will die.
Growth isn't central at all, because I'm trying to run this company as if it's going to be here a hundred years from now. And if you take where we are today and add 15% growth, like public companies need to have for their stock to stay up in value, I'd be a multi-trillion-dollar company in 40 years. Which is impossible, of course.
So all of these companies that are going for the big growth, if it continues for any length of time, will outlast their resources and outlast their customers and go belly-up. And that's why these huge companies have massive layoffs all the time.
Since I'm trying to run this company like it's going to be around a hundred years from now, we have to limit our growth and keep it to what we call "natural growth." In other words, I don't advertise on billboards in inner cities so that kids buy our black down jackets instead of The North Face's. In fact, we hardly advertise at all.
We grow by letting the customer tell us. So when the customer tells us that they're frustrated, that they just got their catalogue and we're already out of a product they wanted, then it tells me that we're not making enough. We let the customer tell us instead of creating an artificial demand for our products. Any time you're making products that people don't need, you're at the mercy of the economy, you're at the mercy of whatever is going on. So we tried to avoid that situation.