Anybody here wish they could reduce their energy bill? Yeah, me too.
Well, there’s a motley crew in Austin, TX doing their best to build a business based on three pillars – People, Place, and Profit.
I hereby introduce to you Treehouse!
Your first question, like Kevin Benz of Austin, TX magazine Culture Map is probably “Sure, if your budget is unlimited, and you don’t mind everything coming in beige, right?” Read his story for a good bio of the company and summary of their product offering.
So what does it mean that a company values People, Place, and Profit? Do they teach on that at Harvard School of Business?
We’re hoping that the world is waking up to the need to have other values in business besides profit. Unfortunately it will probably take us a long time to recover from this, because it started with the enlightenment ideal of dualism: that we are a person made of two separate, but temporarily joined parts. Mind is separate from body. From here, industrialism separated business from place. Eventually CEOs who flew in for work and back to their family on the weekend separated family from work, and also profit from community. A job truly became the equivalent of a “bank heist,” aka job. (Some new friends of mine have an acronym for JOB – Just Over Broke.)
Enough history, but you get the point. A company that values People, Place and Profit as equal pillars of their business is an oddity in the Corporate West, which is quickly becoming the Corporate Globe. Unfortunately most Western ideals of business which celebrate schisms are being adopted by the developing world. Doubt this? See page 15, the first full paragraph of this recent issue of Scribner’s Magazine I downloaded through GoogleBooks if you find that hard to believe.
I find comfort in the fact that the author says there is still a class of disenchanted Easterners who hold to their traditional values hidden underneath the veneer of Westernism. Of course, it is this sort of dichotomy that leads to terrorism in some instances. But, if properly used it can lead to the development of businesses that honor People, Place and Profit equally as well as TreeHouse, albeit on a smaller scale. I think of my favorite eatery in Harrisonburg, VA – El Charro. They pay their employees well enough for them to travel on a regular basis back to their country of origin, where they have family, friends, and rootedness. And they also play futbol together, go to worship together, etc. Work is more than a “job” for my friends there.
And at TreeHouse they are making great strides to institutionalize a sense of “wholeness” in the home-building / DIY industry. Their value products are comparably priced to their counterparts in other Big Box stores of their type. Read the above article for examples; their paint sounds spectacular. So, they’ve got the place and profit part down. They’ve figured out a model that I hope bears out to be competitive w/the Orange guys and the Blue guys. We’ll see. But if you can do more efficient AC systems, recycled cotton jean insulation which does not require a ventilator to install, and clay wall finishing that actually cleans the air in your house for a cost competitive w/the big guys, I say you’ve got people and profit figured out.
A definition of terms seems apropo. People – those who work for you and whom you find yourself surrounded by in your community. Place – The earth you live on, and the institutions around you that make life what it is. Profit – Moola, cash, dinero – more assets building to your cash flow and towards your ability to stay in business than your liabilities subtract. You can also look at this as a Triple Bottom Line – success being measured by performance on all three with a baseline measure in place for all three. I first heard of this Triple Bottom Line from my dear friend and mentor Steven Garber. You can read more about it – Mike D – here. 🙂
So here’s hoping TreeHouse can make the three P’s work for Austin, it’s employees, and the earth they inhabit. I’ll be watching closely. Hoping I can buy a franchisee option when I make my millions, because I love the idea of this store, and I hope to visit it soon.
Let’s seriously consider how our economy and our cultural products – ie: a hardware store – align with or stray from the way this earth and we were created to flourish. I think TreeHouse is on to something.
Hope you’ve enjoyed. Cheers.