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Increasing Shareholder Value

by Robert Ungemach October 29, 2017

Increasing Shareholder Value

In one moment, we increased our shareholder value, I resigned corporate America and quit my job.

I had lost my passion. I had been working a corporate job to supplement my income while my partner and I built our retail store into a profitable business. We had already passed that goal, but it was too easy to work my corporate  job and cash the paycheck. I had forgotten my shareholders.

One day we received the photograph above from one of our trading partners.  This photo brought me to tears. I had been so caught up in corporate dogma of increasing shareholder value for the huge multinational corporation I worked for, that I had forgotten about the shareholders of the company that I had started with my partner. That day, I remembered my shareholders, the artisans I work for.

 Our retail store specializes in Fair Trade and Social Enterprises. The products we sell directly impact families here in the US and around the globe. Over the years we have seen how Fair Trade empowers women, educates children and helps to end the cycle of poverty. The companies we work with help to bring women out of human trafficking and start life anew. These artisans are the people we are helping to build into leaders for tomorrow. 

Here is a real story of the impact one of our trading partners has had on the life of one woman in India.

Harshali was a 17 year old orphan living with her grandmother and two siblings in Mumbai. They were part of the millions of others who comprise Mumbai’s enormous migrant workforce. She had just started working at the co-op and soon after she was able to afford to send both her younger siblings to school, as well as start a college economics course. 
In the five years her life since she started working with us, her life has changed quite a bit! She found a love marriage (not arranged!), started a family, and has advanced in her job position at the cooperative. She is now the warehouse manager, overseeing the storage of fabrics and finished product, the labeling and packaging of all products, and the preparation of all orders for shipment.

Being a part of the fair trade community means that we are ALL connected to this positive change. It is these changes that drive my passion.

I left the security of a regular corporate paycheck and benefits; remembered my passion and move full-time into working for our company. I saw that by focusing on my needs, I was shorting the company that we have grown out of a simple moment of inspiration. This one change is adding benefits to our company for our employees and to our shareholders that we never imagined we afford to do. Starting next year, even as a small business, we will be able to add healthcare benefits for our employees. By applying my skills fully to our company, our business is growing and we are purchasing more products from our partners and artisans. I am empowering change.

In our company, we reward good decisions and good behavior and we learn from mistakes and turn them into opportunities for improvement. Our business decisions are made with what we learn from the voice of our customers, through the eyes and experiences of our front line employees. I realized that I had failed my company as a manager. In becoming a leader for our company once again, eating last, and quitting my corporate job, I have moved us forward and not backward. I am embracing my passion once again.

The reality is that the shareholder value principle has not failed management; rather, it is management that has betrayed the principle. 
-Ten Ways to Create Shareholder Value by Alfred Rappaport From the September 2006 Issue Harvard Business Report

My partner in life, my husband and I started our retail store in 2007, and we survived, actually, we thrived through the recession, by knowing who our shareholders are, but I had forgotten this one important fact.

Today, we have set our sights forward to find how we can help our shareholders even more. We have an idea for the new year and its taking shape. We are crafting a new mission statement, and we have set our sights on increasing our shareholder's value once again.  From the moment I turned in my resignation letter, I knew things would be different. I just didn't know how rewarding it would be.

Robert Ungemach
Robert Ungemach