There’s a certain fast-food restaurant near my home that has a distinct impact on our community. First of all, it does meet the need for quick, inexpensive food. It also employs local teenagers. In addition, however, it accounts for at least half of the litter in nearby yards and alleys (both packaging and discarded fries and burgers), the drive-through window creates long lines of cars that extend into the street and cause traffic snarls (particularly during morning rush hour) as well as unpredictable and piercing noise for surrounding homes as teenage voices ask, “Can I have your order?” Finally, the nutrition that it delivers is suspect at several levels. So, while it delivers some measure of value to our community – and certainly to its employees and corporate shareholders – it also leaves a sizable negative footprint.

On December 1, CEOs from our chapter heard about an entirely different approach to providing value to a business’ stakeholders. Brian Schultz, CEO, shared how Studio Movie Grill (SMG) seeks to provide value to all of its stakeholders, especially the communities in which it operates. SMG operates 30 theaters in 8 states with a total of 314 screens. It creates a complete experience, including in-theater dining, and its declared purpose is to “open hearts and minds, one story at a time.” It pursues that purpose with five clearly defined stakeholders:

  • Guests (parents) – helping them to be better parents
  • Team members (employees) – ensuring a healthy level of compensation and a positive work experience
  • Communities (schools) – strengthening relationships with the parent community
  • Vendor-Partners (distributors) – creating a broader distribution for independent films
  • Investors – bringing in more guests and revenue

Through the lens of their purpose and stakeholder commitments, SMG has created numerous initiatives that extend beyond offering good movies. In the Dallas area, it started with a single school fundraiser that grew to 100 hosted events throughout its locations. They have created special events for youth with disabilities, adjusting sound and lighting to create a welcoming experience for the children and their families – offering a “family night out” opportunity that was previously unimagined. And, they now have a location in the neighborhood of Chatham on the South Side of Chicago.

Why Chatham, and not Schaumburg or Oak Brook or the North Shore? Because Chatham is a neighborhood that can benefit from a well-run, community-focused source of family entertainment. The theater has become an anchor that employs local youth, supports local schools and offers both fine movies and dining. Many local residents come to the theater for a family meal, whether or not they see a movie.

Conscious Capitalism includes four key pillars, and two of them are higher purpose and stakeholder value. Studio Movie Grill demonstrates both of these can be real in a business that makes money while making the world a better place.

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