Day 12: Tuesday, April 14, 2020 

Danny Meyer, Union Square Hospitality Group: Getting to the Other Side and Way Beyond

Danny Meyer gave us a candid look into the ways he’s been caring for himself and his people while staying true to his Higher Purpose during this crisis, as well as his vision for caring for people well beyond Covid-19.  

Here are a few highlights from his fireside chat with Amanda Kathryn Roman:

Caring for others requires empathy.

In hospitality, the Golden Rule is “Do unto others as you believe they want done onto them.” It observes the universal truth that every person is different and the only way to truly succeed at caring is to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Danny uses HQ (Hospitality Quotient) to get to the heart of caring by asking, “If I were that person, what would it take for me to feel better in this situation?”

This crisis has created more opportunities to be a human being instead of always being a human doing.

Danny reflects on the extreme challenges of this time before acknowledging that – even in the midst of loss and tragedy – he has had an opportunity to be close to his family, to observe the changing of the seasons, to listen with new ears to songs he’s heard hundreds of times before, and he has been fulfilled by these highly spiritual experiences. As many of our speakers have shared, this crisis has produced silver linings. He tells us, “We have sick friends. We’ve lost friends… By no means am I saying I’m glad this happened, but there are opportunities to try to be a human being instead of always being a human doing.” This moment has shown that going more slowly may be the best RX right now. We can’t solve anything today that being a little bit more thoughtful wouldn’t make it better a few days from now. 

You may need to reconcile being a great employer with being an exceptional un-employer.

Doing the right thing for your people may not always look like the right thing, especially to an outsider. For some, the only way to return to being a great employer may be to stay in business and remain solvent. For some businesses, that will mean layoffs. In that case, leaders have to make it the responsibility of everyone in the company to bring your people back to work as soon as possible. In the meantime, take care of all your people by communicating with them constantly. Be transparent, realistic, honest, and provide them with hope. Union Square Hospitality Group is caring for its people by holding open Zoom calls every week with everyone who has been laid off in the company to answer questions. They have created an Employee Resources page which includes a variety of resources from how to care for your kids to providing emotional support for people who are really struggling right now, and they have set up a 501c3 to provide additional financial support. 

You can prepare for the future by visioning what it might look like and creating a plan to support that vision.

Danny tells us that he’s been doing a lot of visioning about the future.  Envision what you want the future to be like and then build the plan to get there. There are a couple of key areas to consider:

  •     Re-opening the business and planning for what that will look like post-Covid-19, and
  •     Getting beyond the other side of Covid-19. Start by asking – How can we add to life? How can we serve people who are learning to live life differently?
Riane Eisler, Center for Partnership Studies: How To Build a Caring Economics of Partnerism

Riane Eisler presented an evidence-based exploration of a new type of economics that strongly aligns with the principles of Conscious Capitalism – The Caring Economics of Partnerism. 


Here are the key takeaways from this webinar:


We cannot solve problems with the same level of thinking that created them.

We have an opportunity to make fundamental changes now, changes that, had they been in place, may have lessened the economic impact of Covid-19.


Need to develop a new language of economics, so we don’t go back to the status quo.

The most important capital is high quality human capital. Resilient, flexible people who work well with others are critical to business success. However, this type of personality and work ethic largely hinges on the quality of care and education children receive early on. The problem is that we use an outdated approach to economics that shuns “caring” work as soft, feminine, and free. The social categories we inherited ignore nature and ignore the majority of humanity – women and children. There is a need for new language and new categories that will illuminate the possibilities of exploring the full expanse of the economy inclusive of the caring categories.


There are five key steps to move to a new economics that can meet our unprecedented global, social, and economic challenge:

  • Go beyond socialism and find the next level of capitalism.
  • Recognize the interconnection of economic and social systems.
  • Debunk the old assumption that caring policies and practices are not economically effective.
  • Change our measures of economic health.
  • Join together to support caring government policies at all levels
Laura Eich and Jeremy DeRutter, Biggby Coffee: Learning Lab on How to Launch Your Higher Purpose

Laura and Jeremy shared an incredible, heartfelt story of the highs and lows of transitioning to a purpose-driven company, and shared their insights gained and the exciting possibilities you can experience through their guidebook, recently published by CC Press, the Moonshot Guidebook.

Michael Strong, Radical Social Entrepreneur and Magette Wade, Skin is Skin: How to Promote Entrepreneurial Solutions During a Crisis- and Beyond

Michael Strong and Magatte Wade explored the role of entrepreneurship in leading us through this Covid-19 crisis, overcoming global racism by liberating African countries from the shackles of poverty, and its capacity to increase global happiness and well-being.


Here are a few key takeaways from the webinar:


We need entrepreneurial solutions now more than ever.

Michael opened up the webinar by sharing his favorite definition of an entrepreneur – Someone who lies awake thinking, “what sucks and how to fix it?”. Just think about the evolution of the alarm clock. Not long ago, it was a metal device that rattled, then it played music, then it made your coffee, and today it can lift your shades to let the morning sun in. That was what happened with no crisis forcing the need for better alarm clocks. Imagine what solutions entrepreneurs will develop to solve the Covid-19 crisis. We should do everything we can to promote entrepreneurism locally and globally to maximize the possibility of more solutions to this global health crisis.


Schools and governments play a critical role in the promotion of entrepreneurism and the capacity to create solutions.

Schools have an opportunity to support creativity and initiative and purpose in young students, but too often it’s the opposite. There are growing data points that suggest anxiety, depression, and suicide are correlated with the high school experience. Similarly, governments that hinder free market capitalism, are creating debilitating levels of poverty. Many African countries provide a stark example of this.


There is a strong correlation between economic freedom and poverty.

Magatte reminds us that before there was slavery, Africa was a continent of people practicing free enterprise. There were markets where people exchanged in a free and voluntary manner, there were great centers of knowledge, and even in the villages – the people were free to leave if they disagreed with a tribal leader – they had the right of exit – the ultimate freedom. African countries, upon gaining independence in the 1960’s, had the mindset that capitalism – not colonialism – had caused the issues and in an attempt to correct the damage, they chose the path of statism. As a result, most Africans are deprived of economic freedom, and this has created poverty on a massive scale.


People don’t think of Africans as co-creators of prosperity and innovation, because they do not have the freedom to exercise entrepreneurship.

Despite countless examples of African entrepreneurship, there is a stereotype that is attached to black skin, which translates into racism in many cases. The world does not think of Africa or Africans as accomplishing great things. Until Africans are able to be seen as creators of prosperity – racism will not diminish. If you care about racism – buy African products, invest in African companies, mentor African entrepreneurs, contribute to African e-government initiatives to reduce corruption, and support African Startup City initiatives.


The notion of entrepreneurial solutions reaches its pinnacle in entrepreneurial governance.


At the highest level of “what sucks and how to fix it”, if we can produce entrepreneurial governance that’s higher quality, we can have a really powerful tool for making the world a better place. Michael concludes with Strong’s Law – “Ultimately just as alarm clocks have gotten better… properly structured free enterprise always results (over time) in higher quality, lower cost, and more customized products and services. This principle applies just as forcefully to the entrepreneurial supply of law, governance, community, housing, education, healthcare, and other environments supportive of happiness and well-being as it does to technology. Our world suffers because we have not allowed entrepreneurial initiative to fully address the most important issues facing humanity.”