Can Business and Love Go Together?

Can you run a business with love? Can those two words even go together?

In fact, this is not a new idea. Reading Chocolate Wars recently by Deborah Cadbury, I was struck by the heartfelt compassion and love at the base of the Cadbury brothers’ chocolate company when they started out.  They were a Quaker company in Birmingham, England, alongside many other Quaker businesses at the time (in fact, in the early nineteenth century, around 4000 Quaker families in Britain ran seventy-four banks, and over two hundred major companies, according to spiritual principles).  Making money and taking care of their employees were of equal importance to the Cadbury brothers.

The very product itself (which was originally drinking chocolate), was introduced as a nourishing alternative to alcoholic drinks, which they saw as contributing to poverty and social problems of the day. They saw their business as a part of a socially responsible world view with profits as only a minor part of their values.

“For the Quaker capitalists of the nineteenth century, the idea that wealth-creation was for personal gain would have been offensive. Wealth creation was for the benefit of the workers, the local community and society at large, as well as the entrepreneurs themselves.” – Chocolate Wars by Deborah Cadbury.

The Cadbury brothers’ values were demonstrated in many ways. One that endures is the village of Bournville where, in 1895, they created purpose-built, quality houses for employees, at prices they could afford, with large enough gardens for families to grow their own vegetables. This was sited near to the factory to cut down on the many miles that were more usual as the daily trip to and from work; swimming pools were built for exercise and pleasure; and land was set aside for both women and men’s recreation grounds. George Cadbury had a big vision – to obliterate the slums of England – and his village was a big step towards this and remains there today as a powerful example of the vision of a spiritual businessman.

This was a company that was not afraid to include love for one another as one of its values – a company that was more than a century ahead of John Elkington’s idea of the ‘triple bottom line’.  Nowadays, 45% of the world’s top companies publish triple bottom line reports. (The traditional single bottom line is profit which ignores social and environmental impacts and costs.)

However, maybe it is time for the ‘quadruple bottom line’, where a company’s spiritual practices become of equal importance to these other factors. This was where the Cadbury’s found their values, in listening to the promptings of spirit (also known as intuition, gut feelings, hunches etc).  They already had the fourth bottom line. So there is no doubt that both love, or spirit, and business can work successfully together.

And it can work for you, in your own small business. In fact, if you’re reading this, it probably already does. So, how does love or spirit show up in your business? You might not have the vision of a village for your employees; you might not even have any employees yet; but I’m sure the presence of love will be infiltrating your business practices without you necessarily noticing. Here are some suggestions for how that might be happening:

  • Respect for yourself and all whom you come into contact with
  • Clear communication
  • A healthy balance between your work and home life
  • Holding clear boundaries
  • Being an inspiring leader
  • Holding a clear vision that everyone in your company can subscribe to
  • Trusting that your business is supported at the deepest level, no matter what it looks like
  • Asking for and receiving support regularly
  • Sourcing products that your business resells with respect for the quadruple bottom line
  • Taking pride in the quality of what you offer
  • Enjoying the flow of money through your business, both the giving and receiving
  • Treating each and every customer as a valuable being, whether they buy from you or not

How about you? How does love go together with your business? Where does it show up? How does it make you feel? Please comment below!

8 thoughts on “Can Business and Love Go Together?

  1. Hi Jane

    I really enjoyed reading your post Jane. I think I will print out the list above and pin it on my office wall!

    Thank you.


  2. Hi Jane
    How apt that you chose this week to highlight Quaker business values and their spiritual basis – this week is Quaker Week! (maybe you knew). The theme is Make Peace A Way of Life, and the Quaker settlement – Bournville does make me feel very peaceful. Just in case anyone out there is interested, there is a current “arm” of Quakers, called Quakers and Business, with various pamphlets/booklets about the topic.
    Thinking of you
    in peace

    • How wonderful Johanna! Thanks for pointing this out. I have been to many Quaker meetings and found them very sustaining. I’ll look up the Quakers and Business link.

  3. Hi Jane
    Many thanks for your blog this week. I have had the fortune of staying overnight in the Quaker’s College Hotel in Brimingham. The experience is one I won’t forget and have promised myself another journey some day to re-live it. I particularly liked the quiet table at breakfast time – something I had never gifted to myself.
    In the summer time, I also experienced the same at Rowntree village near York where our Highland Army cadets made use of the beautiful swimming pool which had been installed for the workers many years ago.

    It was a true delight to experience what it might have been like to be an employee of a family business that really cared in all senses.

    thanks again for the reminder. It brought a quiet smile to my face as a read it.

    Love and blessings


    • Hi Cathie
      I’ve been to Woodbrooke in Birmingham too – it is a wonderful retreat centre, isn’t it! Quiet table – yes, good to have that reminder too. Thank you.

  4. I think the Cadbury brother’s would be pleased then to see that there loving spirit is now being carried forward with Cadbury being the only chocolate company (other than fairtrade and divine) who are, as much as possible I believe, using fairtrade prouducts for their chocolate! Maybe the Cadbury brothers have had a part in that too!

    I send love, best wishes and healing thoughts to you and Philip.

    Sarah xx

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