Peter Matthies

Conscious Business Institute

Jessica Haynes interviews her newest Expert; Peter Matthies ~ Enjoy!



How did you come up with the idea for the Conscious Business Institute, and what is the mission of the institute?

Actually, I would say that the idea of the Conscious Business Institute came to me rather than the other way around. Throughout my career in technology and finance, I observed that the way we run businesses is very much dysfunctional. As a Venture Capitalist I asked hundreds of executives what they really wanted to do with their lives – and to my surprise, the majority of them said they would do something completely different: one wanted to open a small restaurant in France, another wanted to take managers out on sailing cruises, or they wanted to build an organization that worked with the handicapped.

There’s a deep yearning in our culture to work and conduct business in a way that’s more fulfilling and satisfying – more inspiring and humane.

For a long time, I felt the same pinch: I made good money, but when I put my head on the pillow at night, I knew that something was missing. So I decided to follow that subtle hunch and left my career to develop a better way to run organizations in these times of change. And, voilà, a few years later on a plane from New York to Charlotte, when I was half asleep by the window, the idea of the Conscious Business Institute with its 4 main areas of operation appeared in front of my eyes. The mission of the Institute is to expand the human capacity inside organizations – to provide executives and organizations with new leadership approaches that can address the increasing challenges and changes we are facing in this world.




Before creating the Conscious Business Institute, you were a successful Venture Capitalist.  How do Ethics, Productivity, Ingenuity and Success blend together with Financial Growth in the world market place?

Wonderful. Now it gets juicy! If we look at the world markets, financial growth is obviously still the leading indicator for success. That’s the system we operate in, and we would be naïve if we tried to ignore that. And bottom line is: businesses need to be financially sustainable in order to survive.

However, we must realize that most of our organizations and governments operate based on what we call the Model of Dominance and Subservience. This is a scarcity-based model, in which we are driven to dominate the “scarce resources”, because we think that otherwise we won’t survive. In former times, these resources were land ownership or food; today it is mostly money.

In our current world the tail wags the dog. We are focusing on money as the scarce resource that’s needed for our survival – or the survival of our organization. So, when a finance crisis hits, for example, we fall back and focus on securing profits and margins.

But take a look at the outdoor clothes firm Patagonia, for example. When they were hit with a crisis in the 90’s, they didn’t follow the money. Their focus was on staying true to their values and the deeper purpose of the organization: “to use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis”. This is not the typical Dominance & Subservience model, but what we call an Essence-Based Business Model. By the way: Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia’s founder states: “Whenever we have made the ‘right’ decision, we have made money.” So there is another business mindset to operate from – and it appears to work as well, if not better than the existing one.




Which companies follow the Model of the Conscious Business Institute and why?

Let me clarify: I don’t believe there’s one “Conscious Business Approach”, nor is there any company where you can run a few programs and then suddenly it is conscious. But there are a range of organizations that demonstrate how these conscious business approaches work in a business environment. Some of the well-known include Patagonia, The Body Shop as it was run by Anita Roddick, SAS software or TOMS shoes, for example. All of these companies show that “good business” can actually make “good money”.

The reasons for moving to a more conscious business model are manifold: First of all, it makes money. Independent studies, as well as the financial performance of above organizations show that the so-called stakeholder engagement firms substantially outperform their competitors – commonly by a staggering 500 -1000%. Secondly, organizations look for different leadership approaches, because they realize that the old ways don’t work in our changing world, anymore. Employees and customers make more ethical buying decisions and want to engage with organizations that operate with more integrity and purpose. So, in order to win and keep the best employees, organizations need to change the way they lead their people. Thirdly, in a world where complexity, uncertainty and workload are constantly increasing, leaders are more and more challenged with managing emotions and resistances in addition to managing operational aspects of their business. How many of us have learned to do that in business school?

We are currently working with organizations from 10 to 100,000 employees. While many smaller organizations want to grow using a more conscious approach from the get-go, our large clients recognize the importance of the issues I just mentioned. They want to prepare their future leaders to better deal with these challenges.




The Conscious Business Institute has a model for vitalizing organizations. Can you explain its elements?

Sure. If we look at this diagram (below), we find that there are 4 elements that make a vital and inspiring organization: the individual, the team, the organization (or purpose) and the business (or money) element. Think about it: if we can create a work environment where the individual does something she enjoys, where we can have genuine connections with other people (team), where we pursue a common purpose (organization) and where we make money (business), give me one reason why anyone would want to leave that company.

If we look at most organizations, however, only the money-quadrant is fulfilled. Sure, most organizations effort to satisfy their employees, to improve team morale, or maybe even pursue a common purpose, but when things aren’t going smoothly, most companies fall back on focusing on money. When a crisis hits, leadership and team programs are cut and the larger purpose is forgotten faster than I can say “Indiana Jones”.

Diagram 1. Traditional Organization


Diagram 2. CBI Quadrants for vital Organization


People feel when these efforts to fill the remaining 3 quadrants are merely a lip service. That’s the difference between traditional organizations and the more inspired companies I mentioned, before. To fill all four quadrants – that’s the task of our next generation leaders, and that’s what we help leaders accomplish in their organizations.




What is most rewarding for you in coaching, teaching, and expanding the Conscious Business Institute?

Most rewarding is to address the real issues with my clients – to have conversations where we don’t talk about all the day-to-day noise, but where we talk about the big pink elephant in the room. …and when I see my clients get this ahaa-moment, where they see something they haven’t seen before. A different way to lead; an understanding why they struggle with certain issues; a new understanding how to deal with the increasing resistance and emotions in their team or their customers; a new insight about their own or their team’s behaviors; an understanding of what the heck is going on in our world and how we they can better deal with it.

There’s a huge yearning out there to have these questions addressed in a fresh and different way – not the usual “you have to do more of this”, “you have push more” or “you have to work harder”. Statistics show that between 80 and 85% of our workforce is disengaged. People are asking for new approaches.




Is there a difference in how men and women lead in business, or are there similarities?

Now we’re opening a can of worms. This topic probably needs a little more time than we have here. We are actually conducting a diversity program for a large corporation that is focused on the different leadership styles and behavioral patterns of men and women.

To make it short: there are clear differences in how men and women commonly behave. I say commonly, because I do not want to stereotype here. To name just a couple of the ones that have been researched: women have a tendency speak up less than men; women tend to take the “busy bee” role, performing meticulously in every aspect, while men often focus more on their career advancement than on quality of performance.

But at the same time, statistics show that companies run by women or with more women on the board outperform male-run organizations quite substantially. In the case of female board presence, for example, by a 53% higher return on equity. Other statistics show that women-run hedge funds fared much better in the financial crisis: they only fell by half the amount compared to male-run funds.

I believe it is critical to learn from the way women run companies if we want to thrive in our times of change and increasing uncertainty. I also believe that we need to shift the discussion from “men” and “women” to the “masculine” and “feminine” qualities, which are represented by both genders. In the way our world is developing, feminine qualities such as sustaining, listening or caring, become paramount if organizations want to excel long-term.




In today’s uncertain political and economic world, what is your view of the future regarding business, innovation, and cultural diversity? 

That’s another big question, so please bear in mind that my answer can only be a very limited perspective. First, our world is becoming so complex that it becomes virtually impossible to consider all factors when making business decisions. So far, our world was like rolling dices and waiting which numbers come up. You can always apply scenario-planning to deal with that kind of complexity: if a 1 comes up, we’ll do this – if a 3 comes up, we’ll do that. But now, we don’t even know how many dices are in the game and whether they have numbers on them at all. There are financial and environmental crises, government interventions, emerging economic powers such as China, India or Brazil, resource crises, the generational value-shift from baby boomers to Generation Y or Z, technologies that completely change entire market segments, and then, out of the blue, a tsunami washes away a fab that provides you with microprocessors that are needed for every one of your products. How do you make sound business decisions in this kind of environment?

To answer your question: I believe we have to fundamentally shift the way we lead businesses in order to deal with these challenges. We need to implement leadership approaches that foster innovation, flexibility and connection to all stakeholders, so that we can react to all these changes as quickly as possible. This requires harnessing each brain cell available in an organization – whether it is in the head of employees or customers. This does not work in our traditional, dominance-based leadership approach – an approach that does not really care about people’s well-being; in which employees are never asked: “Tell me, how are you?”

This is why our Conscious Business Institute approaches receive much recognition: because they provide a leadership model that can actually build this kind of synergy, connection and common purpose in a team.


Peter Matthies is an international speaker, Venture Capitalist, and business consultant.

He is the founder of the Conscious Business Institute, a thought-leading organization that supports business leaders in growing their organizations in a more inspiring, effective and sustainable way.

Based on experience with well over 1000 companies, Peter Matthies’ speeches address the most pressing issues that are on the mind of today’s business leaders and professionals. He is taking his audiences where they have never gone before, opening the possibility to create truly outstanding organizations, which engage employees, investors and customers on a deeper level.

Peter’s genuine style inspires and engages the audience emotionally and intellectually, and his words have the power to initiate lasting change. As a result, our clients have consistently experienced well over 100% business growth, coupled with a sense of well-being and balance.