• May 2013

Is Conscious Capitalism + Financial Planning a Non Sequitur?

By Carmen S. Martinez
Financial Adviser
Egan, Berger & Weiner, LLC

Do financial planning and the idea of “Conscious Capitalism” share a common business culture?

That’s the question I asked myself when I read a fascinating new book called, “Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business,” by Whole Foods Market CEO John Mackey, and Raj Sisodia, a professor of marketing at Bentley University in Boston.

What is “Conscious Capitalism?”

Mackey and Sisodia explain that it’s the ability of companies to embrace four basic tenets that help business succeed by enabling capitalism to realize its highest potential.

These tenets include having a higher purpose, understanding stakeholder integration, insisting on conscious leadership, and developing a conscious culture among employees that includes thoughtful, engaging management practices.

This concept is starting to take America by storm.

In addition to Whole Foods Market, many of the nation’s biggest and most successful companies are embracing these practices—including Southwest Airlines, Costco, Google, Patagonia, The Container Store, UPS, and dozens of others.

In fact, USA Today’s March 26 cover story featured the idea in an article entitled, Millennials Spur Capitalism With a Conscience.

Written by marketing reporter Bruce Horovitz, the article describes how Millennials are demanding capitalism with a conscience—and some of America’s biggest brands are delivering.

He quotes Mackey saying,

“In an ultra-transparent world, where information zips from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram, just about everything a company does is out in the open. If everything you’re doing is seen, it’s human nature to do things that people would approve of.”

The mission of the growing movement, www.ConsciousCapitalism.org, is not merely to support free enterprise, but to encourage a business approach that releases the full potential of capitalism for social change.

Conscious Capitalism From the Financial Planning Point of View

As a financial planner, I believe in the inherent qualities of capitalism, especially free enterprise and the freedom of choice it promotes. I also believe in the importance of trust, accountability, caring, transparency, and integrity in business.

These are the qualities that I employ to help my clients—and these are also ideas that I encourage them to embrace when thinking ahead about their planning for retirement.

How can you incorporate these big ideas into your business and your life in general, especially as you plan ahead for retirement? Let’s take a page from the Conscious Capitalism playbook.

  • Be aware of your needs. Financial planning today has become less associated with any product or investment type, and is far more associated with individual investor planning and investor needs.
  • Keep your eye on your goals. While no financial plan is guaranteed, focusing on your long-term objectives is a better bet than chasing market averages.
  • Keep your advisers close. My experience shows that what clients appreciate most is to develop a trusted relationship with their financial adviser. Not only is this essential for maintaining consistency in their long-term financial plan, it’s simply nice to work with someone you trust over the decades as you work toward retirement.

The Bottom Line

As a financial adviser, I often reflect on my approach to managing my practice. The financial planning industry is relatively young. Indeed, the first graduating class of the College of Financial Planning was in 1973.

Certainly a lot has happened in the economic and financial markets since then, and our industry has undergone tremendous upheaval in just the last five years.

If you are like me, I have come to accept that change is inevitable, in both my professional life and my personal life, given the advances we can continue to expect in technology, regulations, economics, and financial markets.

So the idea of embracing a new form of capitalism seems like a logical next step. After all, the great challenges and exciting opportunities of our era demand visionary thought and bold action.

I think Steve Denning, author of “The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management: Re-inventing the Workplace for the 21st Century,” summed it up perfectly in his January 2013 Forbes article when he declared,

“No one can doubt [Mackey and Sisodia’s] passion for change. This is the best possible time to be alive, when almost everything you thought you knew is wrong. Their outside-the-box model upends almost all conventional business methods, and yet became a success.”

Hard data shows that, in the long run, conscious businesses outperform traditionally run companies by a wide margin. In fact, through all the practical advice and insight proffered from successful and compassionate entrepreneurs and businessmen, “Conscious Capitalism” demonstrates conclusively that in business, nice guys don’t always finish last. They may even finish first.


About Carmen S. Martinez

Martinez partnered with Egan, Berger & Weiner, LLC in August 2007. She brings 25 years of experience in the financial industry, having served as financial adviser, branch manager, regional manager, chief operations officer, and vice president of a regional banking institution.

A graduate of the University of Southern California, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science/International Relations, Martinez is an active member of the Rotary Club of McLean, a community service organization, and has served on its board of directors for five years.

She is also an active member of the Financial Planning Association and the Financial Services Institute, and she is currently enrolled in the College for Financial Planning.

Raised in California, Martinez moved to the East Coast in 1987 and now resides in Alexandria, VA. The oldest of nine children, she enjoys spending time with her 19 nephews and nieces. In her spare time she pursues one of her lifelong passions for art by drawing and painting portraits, landscapes, and still life.

For more information, send her an email at: cmartinez@ebwllc.com.

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