By Lawrence A. Cunningham
That comfortable middle ground is often reflected in the mission statements of many companies that top lists of both QS density and profitability. Consider these three mission statements that focus on customers, employees, and communities:
• Nike /zigman2/quotes/203439053/composite NKE +0.99% : “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. If you have a body, you are an athlete.”
• Harley-Davidson /zigman2/quotes/207565294/composite HOG -0.43% : “We fulfill dreams of personal freedom.”
• Ford Motor Co. /zigman2/quotes/208911460/composite F +2.85% : “To make our cars better, our employees happier and our planet a better place to be.”
When companies focus on their constituents in these ways, shareholder profits should follow. QSs should be attracted, creating a virtuous circle that may explain the association between high QS density and superior corporate performance. While it may seem that the Business Roundtable now repudiates Milton Friedman’s views, quality shareholders rightly signal that there is far greater overlap than the heated debate suggests.
Lawrence A. Cunningham is a professor and director of the Quality Shareholders Initiative at George Washington University. He owns Berkshire Hathaway shares. Cunningham has written dozens of books including the forthcoming Quality Shareholders: How the Best Managers Attract and Keep Them (Columbia Business School Publishing, 2020).