CLE Means We: Calls to Action
Three things you can do to advance equity and inclusion after reading this article
Email [email protected] to get more information or ask questions about possible ideas. Starting June 3, the website will be live and ready to accept submissions at: www.paradoxprize.com.
The Commission on Economic Inclusion has launched a year-long storytelling project called Racial Equity Sketches, in which they demonstrate how racial equity is interconnected with issues affecting both the business community and our larger community.
These fictional stories are meant to imagine what making an "equitable decision" could look like. Through them, they hope to reveal that equity is not always a major comprehensive strategy, but rather the compilation of many small, informed, and thoughtful decisions.
Read "The Relocation" below:
It was a sunny morning in Cleveland. Through a crack in the curtains, a ray of light made its way through the bedroom window of a historic suburban home. Inside, Daniel had been awake for nearly an hour, trying to contain his excitement and contemplate what the next few hours would bring.
Today was the day. For months, Daniel had been in negotiations with real estate developers and city leaders to finalize the plan for what was sure to be one of the biggest wins for his company in years: a relocation.
When Daniel founded his company, Illustra Inc., nearly 20 years ago, it was only him and a couple college friends. Picking a “headquarters” wasn’t difficult?—?all three lived near downtown at the time, and Daniel was able to find office space that met their modest needs. Back then, Daniel could have never expected the predicament he found himself in now.
What was once a small enterprise burgeoned over the years into a successful and profitable professional services firm with more than 200 employees. They went from a one-room suite to renting the entire office building. But this year, several departments within the organization were ready to expand. And that meant Illustra Inc., would need a new home.
Luckily, Daniel found the perfect place. It was closer to where his family lived now, which meant he would have time in the mornings with his 3-year-old daughter before leaving for work. His executive team agreed it was the ideal business decision. Costs would go down, their employees would pay less for parking, the building was beautiful—and not to mention, the deal came with a fairly attractive tax incentive. Unlike most deliberations Illustra’s C-suite experienced in the past, the relocation decision reached an effortless consensus.
Nothing about this day could possibly go wrong, and Daniel’s fingers were itching to finally sign the official papers. When he walked into the office that morning, the excitement on his face was apparent.
“Looks like somebody just got a new client today!”
The chirpy voice came from the front desk where Irene, always the first person at work, was sitting. Irene was Illustra’s fourth hire and stayed with the company through the rocky times. Though he didn’t say it aloud enough, Daniel was deeply grateful for Irene. Her lively greetings and loving nature brightened everyone’s day and set the foundation for Illustra’s friendly workplace environment.
“Even better than that, Irene!” Daniel responded. “Very soon, you won’t have to be working in this dark, gray room anymore!”
“Are we finally painting?” Irene laughed.
“No, we’re moving! Not too far at all and the new offices are so much nicer. The lobby is all glass—on a day like this, oh Irene, you will absolutely love it!”
“That’s, uh, wonderful news!” Irene exclaimed.
Daniel could notice a hint of hesitation in her voice. A few moments later, she asked, “So, is this final?”
“Not yet, the agreement will be finalized this afternoon. But I’m not expecting any roadblocks. It’s been in the works for a while. Is something wrong, Irene?”
“Well, actually Mr. Daniel …,” Irene’s face became clouded with a look of concern. Daniel couldn’t remember ever seeing Irene like this before.
“The problem is, well, you see, right now our office is right on the Red Line. I’ll have to agree with you, it isn’t the prettiest office, but my commute is only 30 minutes each way. I’m not even sure if there’s a bus that’ll get me to …”
Daniel interrupted. “Wait a second. I didn’t realize you didn’t drive to work. Do you have a car?”
Irene looked down and fidgeted with the beads of her bracelet. “My son would usually drive me around, but he recently moved to Chicago, so …”
Daniel was taken aback. He never considered that, for some of his employees, the new location wasn’t just a matter of a few added minutes of drive time. His executive team was so certain this decision was purely good news, they hadn’t thought to get feedback from employees at all levels. The possibility of Irene, especially, being hurt by the potential move devastated Daniel. He was moved by the way she positively affected the lives of everyone at Illustra. Even as the CEO, Daniel sometimes felt like he didn’t have that kind of daily impact.
“I’m really sorry, Irene, I had no idea …”
“It’s okay, Mr. Daniel,” Irene quickly comforted him. “I know you will do what is best for your company.” She smiled, with the same sense of calm and ease that everyone loved about her.
Unable to say much else, Daniel shuffled in the direction of his office. The confidence and conviction that enveloped him this morning seemed to be fraying at the edges. How could he have moved forward so quickly on a deal without having considered the full extent of consequences for his employees?
Suddenly, he remembered the words of his father the day he established his new company. “Business isn’t about profit, son. It’s about creating opportunities for people that weren’t there before. Create opportunities for other people first and that will create opportunities for you.”
He thought of Irene and everyone else that depended on Illustra for their livelihood. Had he taken all their perspectives into account in this decision? In every decision?
Before walking into his office, Daniel pulled out his cell phone and made a call. After two rings, the man on the other line picked up.
Daniel could feel his heart beating fast, but his voice was firm, confident.
“Hey Mark, it’s me, Daniel. I know we’ve got that meeting at 2 p.m. today to finalize the deal, but unfortunately we’ll have to cancel. Illustra has got a little bit more research to do. Hope you understand.”
To read the afterword for "The Relocation" and more information and recommended reading suggestions, please click here.