“It’s time to admit that the playbook that’s guided businesses and CEOs in the last 40 years is broken,” says Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO and founder of Chobani, the popular and successful Greek yogurt brand, in his TED Talk in Vancouver. To that, he adds that the idea of maximizing profits solely for the purpose of benefiting shareholders is “the dumbest thing I’ve heard in my entire life.”
Additionally, speaking about the situation that lead to his purchase of an old Kraft yogurt factory in upstate New York, “The company (Kraft) wasn’t giving up on yogurt, it was giving up on them (employees), as if they weren’t worth it. I was so angry at the CEO far away, in a tower somewhere, looking at a spreadsheet and closing the factory. Spreadsheets are lazy: They don’t tell you about people, they don’t tell you about communities. But unfortunately, this is how too many businesses are run today.” Seeing this began Ulukaya’s evolution to the view that the prevailing profit-over-people model of most businesses is seriously flawed and must be changed.
What Ulukaya proposes is what he calls the anti-CEO playbook to bring about a change that puts employees, community, and customers at the center of business rather than profit and shareholders.
As to employees, in Ulukaya’s words, “The anti-CEO playbook is about gratitude. Business should take care of their employees first.”
As to community, “Today, the businesses that have it all ask communities, ‘what kind of tax breaks and incentives can you give me?’” Instead of this approach, he say, “Businesses should go to struggling communities and ask, ‘how can I help?’ Go to communities, ask for permission, be with them, and succeed together.”
As to customers, Ulukaya urges CEOs to be open and responsive to the needs of their consumers. He tells a story about the early days of Chobani where the 800 number listed on the side of the package was his direct line and how he sometimes made changes based on what he heard. Ultimately, he says that businesses need to focus on the expectations of their consumers.
Ulukaya’s anti-CEO playbook is a bold proposal from a very successful entrepreneur who is living what he says. Perhaps it is really more of a prescription for what ails our workplaces and so much of our world today. It is worth consideration.
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