I’ve just started working out of WorkBar in Boston. One of the many cool benefits of working here are the special programs for members.

On Friday there was a talk about coffee given by Equal Exchange (EE) based in Bridgewater MA. As I thought later about the presentation, I realized that it was focused on outlining EE’s intangible capital without ever using the terminology. 


Here’s what they talked about (annotated for ICounting:)

  • Human Capital – EE is a worker-owned cooperative. Each of the 100+ employees has an equal vote and receives a share of profits. The highest paid employee does not earn more than 4x the lowest paid employee. Everyone earns a livable wage.
  • Relationship Capital – EE does business with companies/organizations like theirs. The presentation included pictures of the farmers and talked about the programs they have to educate farmers about sustainable methods as well as how to grow beans that produce the best possible coffee. On the customer side, EE focuses on cafes/facilities where their story and value resonates.
  • Structural Capital – EE is a coffee roaster. There is considerable knowledge within the company on this process. There’s lots of other knowledge about sustainable business practices and, of course, coffee. A lot of the presentation was an informative overview of different brewing methods and other factors that affect the final taste of a cup of coffee. The company has some nice cards they use to explain these different methods.
  • Strategic Capital – EE has built a good business by connecting with cafes and consumers who share their values and interest in good coffee. Their values and culture are a key part of their value proposition and a big reason why they are able to compete in a crowded market.

When we talk about intangible capital, people often think we are talking about something abstract and esoteric. But it’s really a very practical set of ideas. And it explain why and how organizations are able to generate revenues and profits, including EE. Can’t get much more practical than that.

That's why our movement advocates for identifying and measuring intangible capital in organizations--because IC is the heart, soul and fuel that drives success in today's markets. Try the exercise for any business you know. Feel free to use our ICounts open source tools.  You'll see how important intangible capital really is to its future success.

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Comment by Mary Adams on November 27, 2013 at 11:19am

Thanks Thomas!  It has become second nature to me to create an intangibles inventory in my head when I hear about a company. What was fun here was how the representative of this company gave a complete inventory unprompted. She knew what was important in her business!

Comment by Thomas Mathiasen on November 27, 2013 at 9:35am
Nice, everyday example.

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