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What is Thriving Michigan?

Thriving Michigan is a new program for Michigan Chambers of Commerce to enhance and grow their communities. It’s a “program for Michigan businesses to play a leading role in building strong and resilient communities through the study and implementation of the four pillars of Conscious Capitalism and related disciplines.”  These pillars are: having a higher Purpose, taking care of all stakeholders, the business culture, and leadership. The program is work …. definitely a lot of work. We have books to read, written assignments to complete, monthly seminars to attend and a lot of just plain old thinking to do this year. But it sure is fun! The Petoskey Chamber is participating, and I am the fortunate board member chosen to work with Carlin Smith, the executive director, on this project through the course of 2016. It’s also exciting to work with the other chambers involved – Traverse City, Alpena, Birmingham/Bloomfield, Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti and Monroe. All great chambers, located around the state with different geographic areas & constituents & a wide variety of ideas and needs.  All of us have different priorities and areas of focus, and the ability to share those ideas is fantastic.

What does this mean for Petoskey?

My goal is to share what I’m learning with anyone and everyone who wants to learn more. I encourage anyone to reach out to me with questions – you can reach me at, or at 231-347-8113 x231. I would love to get together and talk – Petoskey Brewing or Beards Brewery anyone? I will also be writing about our implementation process at the agency on a regular basis. These will be blog posts on our website and will most likely be shared by the chamber in an email newsletter (if I write well enough! :-) )

What does this mean for Harbor/Brenn?

“The true measure of the performance of a company is how well it takes care of its people. Not just its owners and shareholders, but its customers, employees, suppliers and community as well.”

When I had the opportunity to hear Nathan Havey speak last October in Petoskey, it crystallized a lot of random thoughts I had been thinking over the last few years. This concept of Conscious Capitalism, taking a look at your higher purpose, stakeholders, business culture and leadership gives me a framework to both make my mark on the agency as well as engage co-workers to participate in the process. As the newly promoted president of the agency, I feel a need to carry on the traditions my father started in the late 70’s, but maybe shift a bit, or formalize a bit, what we’ve done in the past to do even better in the future. This program gives us the opportunity to really look at what we are doing as a company. What should we be doing? What shouldn’t we be doing? Ultimately to figure out how we can do better. It’s an exciting opportunity!

The first book we’re reading for the program is “Confessions of a Radical Industrialist” which focuses on the environmental impact of a carpet tile manufacturer and the process they went through to reach zero impact. Side Note:  I probably should have realized, but really never did – can you even imagine how many chemicals go into carpet manufacturing?  While Harbor/Brenn doesn’t manufacture anything that produces harmful chemicals and tons of waste, we do have opportunities to look at our environmental impact as a small business and find ways to do better. That’s our first goal. Over the course of the next month, we are brainstorming ideas – looking at current impact (primarily production of paper) and energy usage – and figuring out ways to reduce both.  We currently recycle everything we can …. we think… but maybe there are additional opportunities?  Have you ever researched how the electricity you use is generated?  Are we using coal based energy? Solar? Wind? Natural Gas?  I have no clue. If you have ideas for us to consider, we would love to hear them. By early March, we plan to have a list of goals we want to accomplish in 2016 and beyond related to improving our environmental impact. Real actionable steps we can take to improve. We will be posting these goals transparently to our website and would love feedback. What did we miss? What should we consider? What can you do to help? I’m envisioning a long conversation with Lindsey Walker in the near future!  :-)

We will be having bi-weekly brainstorming meetings (probably over lunch at the office).  Our plan is to switch stakeholders every 6 weeks or so and brainstorm additional ways to do better.  We will be talking about employees, clients, insurance carriers, the community and our shareholder (aka dad) in addition to the environment.  I’m really looking forward to the process, and from the feedback I’m getting from co-workers, everyone else here is excited as well.

Next up: our preliminary brainstorming on the environment.