Committed and Competent

In Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand portrays the conflict between two world-historical forces. Her Eugene Lawson, the “banker with a heart” announces proudly, if a bit plaintively, “I am perfectly innocent, since I lost my money… for a good cause. My motives were pure. I wanted nothing for myself.  I’ve never sought anything for myself. Miss Taggart I can proudly say that in all my life I have never made a profit.” To which the heroine Dagny Taggart responds, “Mr. Lawson, I think I should let you know that of all the statements a man can make, that is the one I consider most despicable.”

Lawson is proud of his commitment to be the “banker with a heart”, while Dagny finds despicable his failure to see the incompetence behind his soulful banking practices. Therein lies the conflict; and through her lionizing of Dagny and mocking of Lawson, Rand makes very clear which side she is championing. Conversely, those who detest Rand, generally do so because they have chosen to champion the opposing side.

There is a group of building professionals who are convinced that Rand’s conflict is a false one inviting a false choice. These professionals have built up successful, profitable companies that are committed to effecting the social, political, economic and even psychological changes necessary to bring about a more sustainable relationship between humans and their world. They are builders with hearts who nevertheless take pride in their profits. They have adopted the idea of multiple bottom lines (people, profits, the planet) and have committed themselves to teaching other small companies involved in the building industry how to be soulful and profitable, how to be committed and competent.

John Abrams of South Mountain Company, Paul Eldrenkamp of Byggmeister, and Jamie Wolf of WolfWorks, have teamed up with NESEA and Yestermorrow Design/Build School, to create a peer network program whose objective is to establish and sustain competence in business practices within a group of building professionals already committed to sustainability and corporate responsibility. On Saturday, November 8, about 15 professionals met with Abrams, Eldrenkamp and Wolf in a focus group-like setting to measure the interest in such a group and to explore its scope and structure. The gathering was peopled by outstanding individuals who were deeply committed to their respective trades, to their companies and to the concentric series of societies within which their companies operate. All also recognized, however, their need to become better business people, to get better at attending to the bottom line while also expanding just what that bottom line encompasses.

The day ended with warm hugs and heartfelt handshakes. What emerged from it was a commitment by most in attendance to join the BE Bottom Lines peer network group. The group will launch in the Spring of 2014.  More information about the BE Bottom Lines program can be found on the NESEA and Yestermorrow websites.