Mark Moore: Business Roundtable says it’s no longer business as usual

Guest blogger Mark Moore is the co-founder and CEO of MANA Nutrition, a nonprofit food producer that makes specialized emergency food for severely malnourished children. His perspective on a recent shift in the mission statement from the Business Roundtable is first in a series of alumni guest blog posts we’ll be sharing this year. It was lightly edited. 


There are many excellent entrepreneurial centers at American Universities these days. For the Waldron Center to strive to be the best at preparing student entrepreneurs over world-class efforts like Stanford and UC Boulder is a tall order. While we may never be the most connected or best funded, we could aspire to be a center for entrepreneurs who care deeply―primarily, perhaps―about justice, fairness, equal opportunity and creative thinking for the poor. These things, a traditional business person might say, are indeed interesting and important… but not the business of business. Not, that is, until today. 

Today could be a red letter day in business history—the day the very definition of business changed to a definition that more closely reflects the above aspirations. Today the Business Roundtable, a group of nearly 200 CEOs led by Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, revised its mission statement to prioritize employees, communities and the environment, along with shareholders. They issued a statement saying that the primary goal of business is more than the traditional notion of “seeking to maximize shareholder value.”


Prior to today, the Business Roundtable’s principle of purpose was aligned with what I learned in business classes. It was rooted in the words of economist Milton Friedman, who argued that the sole purpose of a corporation is to maximize shareholder value. For generations, business schools have considered fiduciary responsibility to shareholders justification for minimizing or ignoring social problems beyond the scope of their profit.

Today that changed, as the Business Roundtable expanded their goal of business to include not just the owners’ right to maximum profit, but to also include employees, customers, and the general public. 

It remains to be seen if this statement will become more than aspirational words. It’s a tall order: For the principle to inhabit the ethos of business leaders, CEOs will probably have to accept less than the 1000-to-1 pay ratios they currently enjoy over their lowest paid employees. Bonuses and stock options for executives may have to fall from millions to thousands. Business leaders might not have the guts to pull that off, but Harding’s young entrepreneurs might. They have not yet made millions and become addicted to the luxury that such disparity grants the people at the top of the heap. 


Nourish: A God Who Loves to Feed Us. 2015.

Today’s aspirational Business Roundtable statement could be the first step for a new generation of entrepreneurs from Harding and elsewhere to offer our world a version of business that does much more good than the version their parents were offered by Milton Friedman’s helpful, but arguably too narrow, definition of business. 

If you are a business student at Harding or beyond, the good news is that the business of business changed a little today. At the very least it will be harder for the true entrepreneur and business leader to say to the great issues we face in society and the people they affect, “that’s none of my business.” 

For more on the subject read and listen below:

Business Roundtable Redefines the Purpose of a Corporation to Promote ‘An Economy That Serves All Americans’

When the Bottom Line Isn’t Everything

Nourish: A God Who Loves to Feed Us

Moore is a graduate of Harding University and Georgetown University.  He’s held a fellowship in the U.S. Senate and has consulted with many large companies. He was selected as a fellow for the 2013 Unreasonable Institute Fellows program and in 2014 was awarded the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s Smart Power Award for his work at MANA.  He currently lives with his wife, Marnie, and four children in Charlotte, North Carolina. 


Jo Ellis is Making.Do in Searcy


Photo:  Ashel Parsons

In a colorful loft makerspace above the new Arch Street artist’s corridor in downtown Searcy, Jo Ellis is building a community. She’s connecting people who want to create and people who need to create with opportunities to explore new skills together. Equal parts Christian philosopher, entrepreneur and advocate for the arts, Ellis has a deep conviction about the therapeutic value of the creative process. She views creativity as one way humanity bears the image of God. Her belief, shaped during three years as a missionary in Ireland, underpins the business model for her nonprofit, Make.Do.

IMG_0672She sighed, her powerfully expressive face momentarily calm. “I’m careful how I talk about calling —  but I know that I am a co-creator with God in this work,” she confides, relating Make.Do’s origins in a group of “difficult” girls who were her charges while she was doing mission work. They were the girls no one wanted. They challenged her and pushed the limits in every way.

To keep them occupied, they made pillow covers out of strips of fabric. Ellis recalled, “They went through the entire creative process: They were overwhelmed with the fabric choices, they discussed possibilities, narrowed them down and learned to use the sewing machines. They made mistakes; they had to use a seam ripper to tear out and start over. They were frustrated. They had to deal with imperfection.”

IMG_0678At the end of the day, they posted pictures of their finished projects on Facebook. She beamed at the memory. “We spent the entire evening watching people ‘like’ their projects and comment on them. In a single day, they went from being the girls that ‘no one ever wants’ to being creators of something others valued — and that value was reflected back onto them. It was the first time I understood the deep impact creativity has on our hearts.”

Not only does Ellis want to be able to offer classes for free to places like Jacob’s Place or Hope Cottage, but she wants to be able to offer an affordable place for community to gather. For now, Make.Do’s class fees are “pay what you can.” Most people pay the suggested fee, a few people pay more, and some people pay less.


Clients may learn quilting, sewing, watercolor, hand lettering, embroidery, felting, knitting, cookie decorating, iris paper folding, macrame and more. Classes may last three to six weeks, but Ellis believes the social mission of Make.Do is best realized in six-week classes, which bring people who might not otherwise interact together over a longer period.  

To some degree, all entrepreneurs are risk takers and, although Ellis has a missional purpose for Make.Do, she seems bold in the familiar entrepreneurial way. The numbers have to add up, even for a nonprofit. “It didn’t feel brave. Committing to one idea and having to stick with the same thing day in and day out might have been a challenge, but Make.Do allows me to constantly look forward to the next, new class.”

To market new offerings, she publishes a newsletter and relies heavily on social media. Since Facebook users can share content in a way Instagram users can’t, Facebook is Make.Do’s primary expansion tool. But 30-something Ellis is an uninhibited natural on Instagram live, where viewers have a window into her life as they visit her eclectic apartment while she emotes about her babies (her houseplants) or bond with her on the merits of her new side-shave hairstyle.

She’s on a related mission to lure each of us away from projecting an image of polished perfection. “When the front that others see is one of perfectly-edited photos and captions, we can forget how to relate to someone in the moment. Face to face, I can’t edit what I say to you as I do when we text. When we’re constantly smoothing out the roughness to perfect our communication, and when that is what we are always seeing from other people, we become grossly more aware of our own insecurities.”


Photo: Ashel Parsons

Ellis shares a promotional photo of her taken in her studio. She’s awkwardly, enthusiastically telling a story. Her face is contorted. It’s the kind of photograph most of us would delete rather than post. But she loves it. “The more vulnerable we are, the more we post things that aren’t perfect, the more we give others permission not to be perfect as well.”

She sees the creative process as a metaphor. “When we take random scraps of something and give it a purpose, over and over, it makes it easier for us to draw a parallel in our own lives. We can zoom out and see that random pointless events are being woven into something more purposeful and beautiful. And that point is amplified when it occurs in community.”  

Comfortable authenticity is a goal worth pursuing, and it’s especially useful to anyone whose self-image has been weakened or fractured by life events. Ellis is currently working on fundraisers and is pursuing grant opportunities to provide scholarships to classes for those who might benefit. If you’d like to become involved, contact her through her Facebook page.

Know an entrepreneur whose story needs to be told? Email Patti Summers in the Waldron Center.