Our Path To Conscious Capitalism

Posted by Monday, February 6th, 2017 @ 6:06 pm

Our Path to Conscious Capitalism

The four founders of Abrasive Technology met when they worked together at a large billion-dollar company. When they didn’t feel their talents were being utilized, and were frustrated by inefficient processes and bureaucracy, they left that organization. They simply wanted to be engineers who could create great things and trusted others would want to do the same. While the principles were not rooted in Conscious Capitalism back when Abrasive Technology started in 1971 – things have certainly evolved – today’s mindset really got its formal beginning in 1996-97. That’s when Abrasive Technology started its movement toward a flat organization. In our global organization (nine sites around the world), we have no  managers, no bosses – nothing – and haven’t for 16 years.

In 1996, we began working with the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) in an effort to modify our organizational structure with the goal to empower people. Even within the great CCL leadership transformation think tank, we didn’t find a group of people in the organization at that time who said, “Oh yeah, we get this. We know what you want to do.” When we started on this more intentional journey that would include culture and people and alignment of incentives, we largely felt “out there” on our own.

We gave CCL our purpose (in its most simplistic form): to make people’s lives better. We now encapsulate that idea using the phrase “shaping the world around us.” This means that a person could use a product made by our diamond grinding wheels in almost every facet of life, every day. We’re literally shaping the products and the things around you. Additionally, with our values and our behaviors and the way that we engage with people and our culture, we shape our world, our individual world, our team world and our collective world by how we interact with each other. We do so intentionally. And so again, we believe we shape the world around us.
Conscious Capitalism works very well with a flat organization based on empowered associates and mutual trust. I find it’s a tribe of people who believe Conscious Capitalism is a language – a way to communicate how to put people and doing the right thing first, and seeing profit as a manifestation of those efforts. That’s the fundamental principle of Conscious Capitalism, and the major difference between it and strictly profit-seeking organizations.

Conscious Capitalism is a collective who are seeking to do business in a more pure and authentic way. But this isn’t a concept where you can say, “I’m a Conscious Capitalist and this is all I’m going to go follow.” A movement of the heart isn’t really like that. When you have people involved and emotions and dynamic atmospheres, applying a one-size-fits-all conscious capitalism concept doesn’t work. I don‘t feel that is what Conscious Capitalism ascribes to be. I find it’s a place where people can come and share ideas and do work in a different way than the majority of the businesses in the world.

Conscious Capitalism is a subset of this more human movement that we’re seeing in the world. Everything in the world is becoming more authentic. In some specific circumstances I see some automation actually going away – people want to talk to human beings and interact with each other. Technology enables us to act in ways with other humans, in ways that we haven’t been able to before. In the past, people were thought of as resources. They were just another piece of equipment which enabled the company to create profit. What we’ve learned with self-actualization and our ability to be more self-aware, intentional and conscious, is that we are all individuals. And that being individual is a critical thing. The business that ignores a person as a complete person is only going to get part of their story and engagement.

In some regards, in the most macro scale, self-awareness and self-actualization are luxuries that have been bestowed upon us by the success of the Baby Boomers. The boomers and previous generations didn’t have the luxury of asking: “What are my values and what do I really want?”
These notions around “Who am I as a human and what does a company want to be from a purpose based thing?” are new and largely possible due to the successes that have been created by previous generations. For that we are most grateful.

Daryl Peterman
CEO, Abrasive Technology

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Trust, Accountability & The Abrasive Technology Way

Posted by Friday, January 20th, 2017 @ 2:58 pm


Abrasive Technology was founded in 1971 by my father and three partners, with a very simple belief: People are inherently good. He must’ve passed that down to me because I, too, strongly believe in the good in people.

Unfortunately, businesses, structures and corporations often can get in the way of people doing the right thing. This is why at Abrasive Technology, we strive to create an environment where people feel trusted and safe. From there, we believe they will do the right thing nine times out of 10. When companies don’t trust and believe in its associates, it becomes a place where people become disgruntled, and perhaps feel the inclination to lie, cheat and steal.

An example of how we build trust in our organization? If someone needs a material to finish a job that costs $1,000, he or she can go purchase it. Without asking. We have found that our people have a great deal of accountability for the company’s money, and spend it wisely (and frugally). Without the authority to go buy what’s really needed to complete a task, we saw people trying to “MacGyver” a solution, which oftentimes was less than ideal.

When you don’t trust people with company resources, they’re more willing to grab a dollar here or grab a meal there to “get even.” When we create the accountability and the trust, which says your “job is to make the entire work process better,” everyone wins. We don’t undervalue the process of that trust either; we don’t require multiple forms to fill out or signatures of approval to collect. By keeping it simple and trusting people to spend wisely, we believe it makes sense from a profit standpoint, an efficiency standpoint, and a trust standpoint. If not, how could you ever look that person in the eye and say “I trust you and you’re the cornerstone of our business.”?

Daryl Peterman
CEO, Abrasive Technology

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Committing to Conscious Capitalism at Abrasive Technology

Posted by Monday, January 9th, 2017 @ 5:51 pm

concapAfter attending the 2016 CEO Summit in Austin, Texas, I remain a committed believer in conscious capitalism, which exists to elevate humanity. As a conscious capitalist, we make intentional decisions to do the right thing for our associates and anyone who touches Abrasive Technology. That is the first priority. And profit is the manifestation of doing the right thing. Not the other way around: that’s really the founding principle of a conscious capitalistic business.

It’s a red pill/blue pill thing. If you eat the red pill, you really have to believe people are inherently good. If a business creates an environment that is safe and trusting, and is dedicated to the best of its people and those around it – while remaining authentic and transparent – then profit would be the manifestation of that.

The blue pill works the other way – looking at spreadsheets, dollars, numbers and profit first. When that’s the case, people do everything at all costs to make sure the bottom line looks strong, and perhaps be good to people along the way. The two approaches are fundamentally different beliefs.

How to proceed must come from the leaders of the organization. While there are a lot of people who say they believe in their people or stakeholders, or want to do the right thing, their actions and business methodology revolve around costs and expenses and the bottom line of profits margins. Anytime you hear leaders talk about “people first” and you see “profits first,” you know those folks are not completely aligned with a more conscious mindset that comes from the inside.

Believing in conscious capitalism involves trust: it’s one of those things where you wake up in the morning and make a decision about who we’re going to be today.

I believe people are inherently good. People are born good, babies are good, they’re smiling and curious, for example. There’s a lot of data that shows children are far more curious, inventive and creative than adults. One of the primary reasons for this is as adults gain experience, they create walls and put on armor to protect themselves. If I can create an organization with an environment where people can be their best selves because they feel safe and trusted, they’ll develop their work skills and their skills as a human being. It’s incredible what people can accomplish. If you need proof of that, look around us every day. There hasn’t been a major problem in the world that people haven’t been able to solve when they work together and they collaborate to do great things. The proof is in the wonder of the world around us.

Daryl Peterman
CEO, Abrasive Technology

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LEADERS Key to Manufacturing Success

Posted by Monday, August 22nd, 2016 @ 4:05 pm


I recently read the article “7 Habits of a Highly Effective Manufacturing Culture” by Jill Bellak, President of MBX Systems, and was thrilled to learn of another manufacturer recognizing the need for culture change in the manufacturing sector. I spend a great deal of time thinking about how to bring a “Silicon Valley mentality” to our facilities around the world that manufacture superabrasive grinding wheels and tools, as I always believe in the possibility of a new and/or better way.

Ms. Bellak discussed moving away from a traditional top-down organizational structure, dominated by primarily white men, towards nimble organizations inspired by startups and the mindsets of millennials.

At MBX Systems, the initiatives to achieve change included:
1. Run Fun Cross-Functional Team Exercises
2. Actively Engage Employees in Process Improvement
3. Get Creative with Your Change Campaign
4. Put Power Directly in Employees’ Hands
5. Go the Extra Training Mile
6. Communicate Loud, Clear & Often
7. Keep it Fresh

I applaud MBX for its concerted efforts to open its work culture and engage the employees of the company to drive improvements from within. At Abrasive Technology, we also utilize all seven of the initiatives mentioned above in our flat, Process Centered Organization.

Additionally, we created the LEADERS program to help leverage each other’s expertise and understand that as a team, we’re far more capable than we are on our own.

L = Learn. Be curious and ask “What if we did it this way instead?” We hope our associates suggest and support new and better ways to make diamond grinding wheels and tools, and not give up if ideas aren’t immediately accepted. We encourage asking questions, offering new solutions, taking risks, challenging assumptions, and accepting decisions.

E = Excellence. Be excellent, taking initiatives to improve skills and embrace continuous learning. At Abrasive Technology, people move to where the work is and when challenged, take a step back to evaluate the problem with a clear mind.

A = Appreciate. Have Fun and recognize that coming to work is a new experience each day to celebrate successes, try new things and explore new ideas. We blend work with learning and personal well-being, pursuing interests beyond job duties.

D = Dependable. Do what you say you will do, knowing that we are as good as our word. Our team works hard to set clear expectations at the forefront of every project to help avoid surprises and deliver what we promised.

E = intEgrity. Do the right thing when thinking about our colleagues, our customers and the environment. When armed with the proper knowledge and expertise, we encourage associates to trust their gut and go with their instincts.

R= Respect. Treat others with honesty and respect, checking personal agendas at the door and recognizing open and honest communication fosters a successful work environment. We believe it’s important to consider different viewpoints and appreciate everyone’s input, while also learning how people prefer to communicate.

S = Safety. The highest standards of safety allow us to do our best work. We put safety first with use of the proper personal protective equipment, safety training, and documented work procedures.

Abrasive Technology’s beginning, back in 1971, is rooted in believing in the goodness of people. The result? A place where associates are self-motivated and accountable. We are engineers, manufacturers, developers, researchers, salespeople, customer service professionals and more. We all believe we have a stake in the company because we ARE the company.

Daryl Peterman
CEO, Abrasive Technology

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