We had an all managers meeting in Florida, and it was one of the years they had been really battered by hurricanes. As we were planing the agenda, we had a block of time on a Wednesday afternoon for team building, and my immediate thought was, “We’re going to play golf, right?” Then a couple of ladies who worked for me said, “How about we come up with some ideas and we’ll come back to you?” And they came back and said, “Let’s take the whole team and do something giving back, do something philanthropic.”
So we went out to a Y.M.C.A. that had been just almost destroyed by a hurricane, and we spent five hours painting and cleaning. When we got back that night, the buzz was that it was the best team-building exercise they’d ever done.
Then when I became C.E.O., I stepped back and said, “O.K., how is it that a kid who lived on a dirt road in Georgia has become C.E.O. of a major tech company?” And I just realized that we have to run a good business, but there’s more to it. We need to take advantage of the power we’ve been given.
The recent Business Roundtable statement got at some of this.
The Business Roundtable statement reflects how most of us have been operating and how we’ve been thinking. It’s not like we woke up one day and said, “We need to actually do more in our communities.” We’ve been doing stuff. I think we all realize we do need to do more in our communities, but it’s not going from zero to something. The statement was sort of a stake in the ground and a public declaration that frankly creates a level of accountability.
What struck me in the statement is that there was no mention of sacrifice. The sentiments are laudable, but will the companies saying they care about the world and want to do more for all stakeholders say they are willing to take a little less and possibly pay more taxes?
It’s a balance, but I do think that is the discussion we need to have. And I don’t have the answers, to be honest. I think we have to do everything we can within the existing system, and then work with the public sector to figure out what does the next system look like.
I mean, we have to solve this as a country. As businesses, to maintain the U.S. leadership, maintain the American dream for everybody, we have to step back and figure out how we solve this going forward. Because where we are as a society is not sustainable.