“The reality is, shareholder value or stock price is not something you can create anyway. It’s a by-product that only happens if you make a difference in people’s lives.”
Panera [Bread]’s [Ron] Shaich says it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture when company leaders start caring too much about quarterly financial results. “The reality is, shareholder value or stock price is not something you can create anyway,” Shaich maintains. “It’s a by-product that only happens if you make a difference in people’s lives.” And you can only do that, he adds, by continually asking mission-related questions--about what truly matters to you as a company and what’s needed in the marketplace or the larger world.
But unfortunately, says Clayton Christensen of the Harvard Business School, many business leaders have been trained to care obsessively about short-term results--specifically, he says, they tend to put too much weight on financial metrics like IRR (internal rate of return) and ROCE (return on capital employed) because they’ve been conditioned to treat capital as precious. In reality, Christensen points out, “Capital today is abundant and cheap” (so much so, he notes, that “investors had to pay Square for the privilege” of having the hot startup take their funding). With so much available capital, it’s an opportune time for companies to invest in expansive, game-changing innovation--and in “people who have the skills to solve not only today’s problems but to ask what tomorrow’s challenges will be,” Christensen says.
Yet many businesses have remained focused on what Christensen calls “efficiency innovations” (aimed at reducing costs) in order to free up more capital, which in turn is used to create more efficiency. How to break this cycle? Christensen thinks tax incentives for long-term investment may help, but he also believes, like Shaich, that business leaders must step back and ask: what do we actually care about, beyond today’s stock price or short-term return on capital? What are we trying to achieve and how will we get there, in the long run?
Read more: Forget The Mission Statement. What’s Your Mission Question?
HELLO, MY NAME IS EVAN TAN.
I'm a writer and communications professional based in Manila, Philippines. Outside of my regular job, I like to travel, work out, volunteer, watch movies and plays, go to art galleries/ fairs and museums, read books, and eat vegetarian food.
More about me here.