What is an Aspirational Business?
If you’ve been in the business world for 10 years or more, most of your decision making has probably been guided by a tried and true balanced scorecard that includes profitability, liquidity, efficiency and stability. And of course, profitability is a critical component to building a world-changing business. But, I've got bad news: it's not enough anymore.
If you can’t inspire Gen Z, you can’t hire Gen Z, and you’ll have to compete with Gen Z. And that alone should scare the hell out of you, because these kids are not messing around.
An Aspirational Business is more than a brand. It's a different philosophy and business model than what most of us learned at b-school. It's not enough to assume that the only role of business is to maximize shareholder value (the Friedman Doctrine.) We now need to get our hands dirty; to impact the world through our business models, and we need to be able to measure this impact.
It's no longer okay to simply have an 'Aspirational BRAND'. In fact, businesses using world-changing terminology only for marketing ploys are likely to come under severe scrutiny. Here’s a quote from a 20-year-old student who was evaluating the authenticity of a community engagement marketing strategy:
“Their business model is fundamentally flawed, because it sells a feeling of "mind-cure" or a feel-goodism for industrialized nations, that is dependent on there being poor people in the world. They are offering very little agency to underserved/isolated communities, providing a gesture that focuses on the treating of symptoms, and does not cure the actual problem.
We can't beat the simulation: it has already won. The least we can do is be constant critics. Hopefully, this will lead us to more productive social enterprise.”
Now you may be saying to yourself: ‘That’s a 20-year-old?” which would be a perfectly appropriate question and the same one I asked when I received his email. But that’s the quote, verbatim. That’s what we’re dealing with folks, and these are the people who are going to be looking for jobs at your company and buying your product. Or not.
Millennials and Gen Z have completely different expectations for business, but most of our best leaders have no framework for how they do this.
Even our most influential and best-resourced leaders are unprepared to engage with consumers and employees who want to understand how their time, talent and treasure contribute to the greater good. Consider the difference below between 53-year-old Jeff Bezos and 27-year-old Shiza Shahid, of the Malala Fund as they discuss philanthropic dollars and impact.
Because Millennials and Gen Z intuitively understand how to combine impact and profitability, traditional businesses are at great risk if we don’t learn how to adapt. We must understand how our business impacts society, align our business models with an Aspirational Vision and communicate this work through both words and actions.
Now, I realize that at this point you’re probably saying to yourself, “Dora, I’ve already had to think about impact once, twice, or three times. I’ve created built mission and vision statements. I’ve even started with why!” But if you’ve like most other well-intentioned leaders I know, it’s likely that these ideas have still not come to life for your organization.
It’s not your fault: you simply haven’t had the tools to build it into the business processes we as leaders use every day. We’re going to change this.
Stay tuned for the following series of blog posts and upcoming Webinars. I'll share the things things aspirational businesses do to attract and inspire employees, build stakeholder engagement and change the world.
It's not as hard as it seems: I'll help you create your Aspirational Vision and create a plan for execution.