D. C. Conscious Capitalist: David Gardner

David Gardner

The Motley Fool

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David Gardner is the Co-founder and Chief Rule Breaker of The Motley Fool, an investment platform that offers free and premium investment guidance to millions of individual investors around the world. Although The Motley Fool began 16 years before co-founding brothers David and Dan were introduced to Conscious Capitalism, the company already was operating with purpose before profit. The Motley Fool’s purpose is to make the world smarter, happier, and richer. In fact, they help millions of people around the world achieve their financial goals every day by treating every dollar as an investment in the future their clients want to create. They believe that investing in great businesses, for the long term, is the most effective path to wealth, and they strive to fulfill our purpose by truly serving every Fool, from their employees to their members to their community. That’s why in all their work, they endeavor to follow the “Golden Rule” of treating others as we ourselves would wish to be treated.

With these values and the Conscious Capitalism framework, David has been able to help grow The Fool into a global stock advisement platform with more than 600 employees. His vast experience as a stock-picker has only reinforced his belief in Conscious Capitalism, noting that companies who are aligned with these tenets usually also have the best ROI!

Tell us about how you came into the Conscious Capitalism movement. 

At The Motley Fool, we have a long-standing speakers series, to which we invite accomplished people from the worlds of investing and business. “Come over to Fool HQ to speak (for free) if/when you’re passing through the Washington DC area,” we tell them. One such speaker was John Mackey, who accepted our invite and on July 14, 2009 spoke to our employees. Mackey talked about something called “conscious capitalism,” a phrase we’d not previously heard, but whose concepts seemed very well aligned both with how we did our own business as well as which businesses we looked to recommend as stocks. We had a coffee with him after that talk and he invited us to the Conscious Capitalism CEO Summit held in Austin, TX in October of that year. We attended, loved it, “found our tribe,” and have pretty much been going back ever since. Today, John is on The Motley Fool Board of Directors, and I am on the Board of Conscious Capitalism.

How is your business deploying Conscious Capitalism, or using the tenets to shape the organization and how it operates?   

In addition to having John on our board, and me on the CC board, I regularly discuss Conscious Capitalism on my Rule Breaker Investing weekly podcast, and have had numerous guests — authors, CEOs, businesspeople — to illustrate and discuss the principles. Many of our Motley Fool stock-pickers and analysts would know of these principles and likely use them to factor in their decisions on which investments to recommend. And one more concentric circle out, many of our members and followers would also likely know the concept and some of the principles because of the work that we do. We are very much an organization aiming to deliver on all four tenets, and our higher purpose (which all of our 600 employees well know) is, “To make the world smarter, happier, and richer.” The Motley Fool corporate culture has often been awarded and written about, in part because of our consciousness, longevity, and efforts to win for all stakeholders.

Is there a significant professional challenge that Conscious Capitalism helped you overcome? 

Prior to our adopting conscious capitalism, had you polled our roughly 200 employees back in the day and asked them what our mission or purpose was, you would have gotten about 80 or so different answers. As I mentioned above, if you polled our 600 employees today and asked them our purpose, they would almost to a Fool all answer: “To make the world smarter, happier, and richer.” That alignment around our purpose, with everyone paddling hard the same direction, is a very powerful and important attribute of Fool Inc. The primacy of Higher Purpose and the alignment that we have today around it, communicated to all our stakeholders, is priceless.

Why should others join the movement?

As investors, if you focus on investing into conscious companies you are much more likely to beat the market averages. That has been my own experience, translated out to many others, for nearly 30 years. As an entrepreneur, if you adopt the four tenets, you are much more likely to be one of those minority number of startups that not just survives, but thrives. That has also been our experience. Finally, because Conscious Capitalism is also a powerful competitive advantage, I predict it will become “table stakes” to succeed  as a business going forward. Thus, if you are not on this train, I think you’ll be extremely disadvantaged and will have trouble scaling. The winning nature of Conscious Capitalism is very attractive, in my experience, to most of the best people you could hire as employees.

For someone trying to become a more conscious leader, what is one piece of advice you would give them?

I believe that “organizations cannot rise above the level of consciousness of their leaders.” Thus, the best way to ensure growth from here is to make sure that you are growing.