Interviews with purpose-driven leaders who are
making a meaningful impact in their communities,
industries, and around the world.
TELL US, WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU DO?
Alexander: My name is Alexander McCobin. I’m CEO of Conscious Capitalism, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to elevating humanity through business. We believe that business and capitalism are powerful forces for good, and want to help more people understand how capitalism can be this force for good by leaning into the human nature of business.
JeVon: I am on the board for Conscious Capitalism Inc. and the president and CEO of Scribe Media which helps authors write, publish, and market their books. Some of the bigger name authors we’ve worked with include David Goggins, who had the most sought after book in America last year second only to Michelle Obama. We’ve worked with the Nobel Peace Prize committee and with actress Tiffany Haddish, but the great majority of our authors are business owners, CEOs, and consultants who are looking to make a difference by writing their book and telling their story and that is what we help them do.
HOW DID YOU GET HERE?
Alexander: I had entrepreneurial instincts when I was a teenager. I started and ran several small businesses, both for-profit and nonprofit, but I thought they were side projects at the time. I wanted to make a difference in the world and so, being young and idealistic, I thought becoming a philosophy professor would be the way to do that. I went to graduate school and worked on my philosophy Ph.D. focusing on business ethics. When Conscious Capitalism organized its first public conference in 2013 and the book came out, I went to the conference to meet people and do research for my dissertation. I was so inspired by meeting people like JeVon and other business leaders that within a year, I was no longer in the Ph.D. program. I began building up a nonprofit I had started before, but running it on Conscious Capitalism’s principles. A few years ago, when Conscious Capitalism, Inc. was looking to really scale, I joined the organization to assist it with that and it’s been an incredible ride since then.
JeVon: The story that most people are intrigued by is the fact that my father was a Black pimp and drug dealer in the 1970s. He also fathered 23 children – I’m one of 23.
My mother is white. She was orphaned and was raised in a 1950s institutional orphanage where the kids were routinely beaten, neglected, and abused. When she graduated from the orphanage, they gave her $17, a small suitcase, and said, “There you go. Good luck in the world.” Unfortunately for my mother, one of the first people she met was my fast-talking, well-dressed, quite a bit older father. So, that’s how I came into the world. To this day, I don’t know where my last name comes from. My mother received the last name McCormick in the orphanage and when she went into labor with me my father was not around. My mother had to walk to the hospital on her own and when she gave birth to me, she decided to give me her last name.
Fast forward through some of that – I ended up in and out of juvenile detention three different times as a kid. I was sexually molested by one of my dad’s prostitutes from the ages of six, seven, and eight. At 15, I was academically tested and I was still testing on a fifth and sixth-grade level. No one ever taught me how to hold a pencil. When graduation time rolled around, I obviously didn’t graduate.
I only have a GED, no college degree, but I have been put in an incredible position where I’ve had the opportunity to scale a software company from 13 people to more than 100 people. We grew that company from a storage closet with 13 of us to offices in Austin; Houston; Dallas; and Monterey, Mexico. As I said, I’m the CEO of a publishing company. The joke goes that I was the president of a software company and can’t write code and now I’m the CEO of a publishing company and I can’t spell, so God bless America.
WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR? WHY IS THIS WORK IMPORTANT TO YOU?
Alexander: JeVon’s story is exactly what I, and we at Conscious Capitalism Inc., stand for and why this is so important. This has the potential to transform people’s lives. Not just a handful, but all of humanity can be transformed with this philosophy if we do it right. That’s why this is so important.
JeVon: To go off of what Alexander said, that was really the whole reason I became interested in Conscious Capitalism. I truly believe that capitalism is the backbone of this country. Capitalism took me out of my circumstances of how I grew up. I believe if the communities that I’m from truly understood capitalism, we could literally change the landscape of some of these low economic communities. The problem is, you don’t know what you don’t know and unfortunately, they don’t know the power of capitalism. Capitalism literally has provided me everything I have in life.
For us at Scribe, when we look at how we measure our company’s success, we look at the number of authors we’ve helped achieve their dream of publishing their book and we look at the number of Amazon reviews that have been submitted for books we’ve published – right now we’re at 1.7 million. Additionally, we publish books for what we call unheard voices – those who have an incredible story that needs to be shared with the world.
Finally, because I’m mixed race – half white/half Black – I want kids of color to see that there’s a CEO who came from where they come from and who has achieved becoming a CEO in America. When there are only three Black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, that’s a hell of a thing for kids of color to be able to see.
WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
Alexander: What we’re doing at Conscious Capitalism Inc. is a combination of changing the way that current businesses and business leaders think about what they do and how they operate by introducing the Conscious Capitalism principles to them. If you look at the history of Conscious Capitalism, meetings to discuss these ideas and the organization were starting to take place about a decade ago. At the time, the idea of business being driven by higher purpose with stakeholder orientation and conscious leadership and conscious culture weren’t taken seriously. Advocates were laughed out of conferences and board rooms. But it’s becoming the norm today because of the work of Conscious Capitalism and other ally groups and incredible leaders like JeVon who are showing that this is what business is actually all about and that there is a better way of doing business. We’re introducing this opportunity, business as a force for good, to the next generation and they are the people who have the potential to be the next generation of business leaders and use their influence to make the world a better place.
JeVon: They say that the cemetery is full of unfulfilled dreams, stories, inventions, things of that nature.
When I was a child, my mother always told me, “Never judge anyone because everyone has a story and you don’t know their story.” And that stuck with me. So, we’ve adopted into our company this idea that everyone has a story. It doesn’t mean that you actually want to know everyone’s story, but everyone has a story and we believe that people should publish their story, even if it’s just a legacy piece that they can pass down through their family.
When I wrote my book to tell my own story, I decided to give it out for free. We ship my book to students so they can read my story and see that there is somebody else out there who comes from where they come from and inspire them to believe they, too, can achieve their dreams and goals. While I wrote the book for my children so they know where I came from, it has now taken on a life of its own and made an impact for kids all over the country.
WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO DO THIS WORK?
Alexander: JeVon is someone who really inspires me to do this work. What he’s accomplished and what he brings to business and through the work that he does, is exactly why I was attracted to Conscious Capitalism in the first place. And it’s why we’re here to help, to support more people going into business as a way to elevate themselves and others, and to see the potential in doing that.
JeVon: I’m inspired by the kids and people in the low economic communities from where I come. Growing up, I knew there were three avenues for me: rapper, athlete, or drug dealer. No one told me about entrepreneurship. In fact, when I was 15 years-old, if you would said the word “entrepreneurship” to me, I literally would have thought you were speaking a foreign language. How are kids supposed to know what they can aspire to be when they don’t even know what exists? I feel a deep sense of responsibility, not obligation, but responsibility to give back to these communities because I know something that no one ever shared or taught me.
WHAT’S YOUR VISION, YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
Alexander: Our vision is a world where Conscious Capitalism is redundant. That this is just the way that business is practiced by everyone and capitalism is understood by everyone. That’s our dream.
JeVon: I am deeply passionate about how capitalism can change communities and believe that Scribe is a vehicle for me to put my passion into action.
WHAT CHALLENGES ARE YOU FACING?
Alexander: In this COVID world that we’re all living through, I could talk about the challenges of working remotely and building a movement of business leaders remotely. But actually what I want to share is that we’ve entered a new phase in Conscious Capitalism’s history. We are no longer making the case that business leaders and people should adopt Conscious Capitalism like we were 10 years ago. This idea is becoming well accepted, whether you call it Conscious Capitalism or “stakeholder capitalism” as Alan Murray at FORTUNE describes it as. We’re at a point where business leaders across the board are recognizing this is the future. This is the way they need to run their businesses if they’re going to survive.
We are moving past just inspiring people and convincing them to go down the Conscious Capitalism path. We’re now facing the challenge of helping them actually implement it, which is a different kind of challenge. We are looking for more examples of conscious capitalists in practice that we can share. We’re looking to share what they’ve been doing that others can learn from. We want to help more business leaders, both those already operating and those who want to go into business, figure out how they can build their efforts around the Conscious Capitalism way as quickly as possible. As an organization, we are creating more programming with more practical how to’s, especially sharing the best practices of conscious capitalists between one another.
For the movement more broadly, the challenge is scaling up quickly enough to meet the rising demand and interest to make sure that we are helping business leaders who are inspired by Conscious Capitalism to actually follow through on it – not just give it lip service but actually take action.
JeVon: As a company, we are thriving. We are in an incredible financial position outperforming month over month. We have been blessed to be named the best company culture in America by Entrepreneur magazine and the #1 Best Company to work for in Austin/#2 in Texas. So, as a company, things are phenomenal.
As a person wanting to make a great difference, my biggest challenge is being able to scale my knowledge share. I can’t say it enough. You don’t know what you don’t know. As I’ve said, unfortunately in the communities from where I come, there’s a lot that we don’t know and I’m not sure if it’s a challenge, but it’s a massive pain point for me to figure out how to share what I know. The beauty of our Conscious Capitalism group is being able to connect somebody like me, who comes from my background, with well-resourced people who want to make a change but who don’t even know where to star – they’ve never seen those communities. But the mutual evangelism for Conscious Capitalism can create that bridge between someone of my background with someone of a different background to come together and make the right change.
WHAT’S ONE THING YOU WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT THE WORK YOU’RE DOING?
Alexander: We’re building a movement of business leaders, changing both the practice and perception of capitalism. If there are any business leaders out there who want to be a part of us, reach out. We want them to be a part of this movement. We want them to share what they’re doing to elevate humanity through business and work with other business leaders to learn from them, to improve what they’re doing, and create this transformation.
JeVon: That everyone should write their story. Don’t wake up three years from now still wanting to tell your story; write your book. And that what we’re doing with the Conscious Capitalism movement is powerful and that it can truly change the world. One of my greatest accomplishments in life is that I joined the board.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE QUOTE OR WORDS OF INSPIRATION TO SHARE?
Alexander: There are several quotes from my father that have always stuck with me. One is, “If you lose your integrity, you lose everything.” That’s been a north star for me my whole life.
JeVon: Mine is, “You only fail if you stop trying.” We live in a society where the phrase “fail fast” is celebrated. The phrase itself actually disgusts me because I’ve spent my whole life trying to learn faster. I don’t want to fail fast. We all make mistakes in life but the goal is to learn, grow, and not repeat those mistakes. We’re all going to make mistakes, but you only fail if you stop trying.
HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
Alexander: Get involved. Go to our website to find virtual events to participate in during COVID, connect with other conscious capitalists in your area, share your story, and learn from others to elevate humanity through your work.
JeVon: What Alexander said.
And if someone’s interested in writing their book, they can find us on scribemedia.com. We answer every possible question you can have about what it takes to write your book.
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