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A Stake In The Outcome™

“Shawn has brought [his suppliers] an open-book transparent business system which ties them directly to the success of the company. He understands the brighter side of capitalism, and as he experiences success he is constantly sharing it and teaching it to others.”
—Jack Stack,
The leading expert on Open Book Management

A Stake in the Outcome™

Read more about Askinosie Chocolate's Direct Trade practices in their new book, Meaningful Work: A Quest To Do Great Business, Find Your Calling, and Feed Your Soul

Askinosie Chocolate likes to get personal. Whether it’s with our employees, our community or our farmers, we think developing strong relationships improves everything from the fast-paced factory environment to the balmy cocoa bean farms around the globe. These relationships begin with giving everyone A Stake in the Outcome.™

A Stake in the Outcome™ (SITO) is an idea from the pages of the Open Book Management business philosophy, popularized by Jack Stack and originally intended for employees in the workplace. Stack believed that if employees shared in the profits and the outcome of a company’s success, they would feel greater ownership in the process leading up to the end result—in our case, a bar of chocolate. Invested, interested employees equal a better experience for them and better chocolate for you.

front of factory

Shawn Askinosie, who has been practicing Open Book Management since his days as a lawyer, engages Askinosie Chocolate employees in SITO within the brick walls of our chocolate factory, but he also takes it to the fields of each cocoa farmer across the world. At the factory, we hold bi-monthly finance meetings, involving each and every Askinosie Chocolate team member. We review financial statements and discuss the company’s condition. At origin, we employ similar practices. The relationships with the farmers and their families aren’t manufactured through Skype calls or middlemen negotiating between sides. We’ve formed connections by traveling to each origin—Ecuador, Tanzania and the Philippines—to meet the farmers face to face. We purchase our beans above the Fair Trade market price, then after those beans have been crafted into Askinosie Chocolate bars, we venture back again to meet with the farmers and share profits from the chocolate made from their farm’s cocoa beans.

During our visits, we present our company’s financial statements in the host’s native language to ensure clarity and transparency about how the bean purchase impacted the net profits of the company. Our Open Book Management policy shows them how we reached a profit using their beans and explains how they can influence that profit through superior farming methods. These conversations enable the farmers to connect the quality of their beans to the outcome of each chocolate bar. Through this process, we are able to collaborate with them on how to improve post-harvest techniques to ensure an even greater profit margin in the future, which means more opportunities for the farmers to share in a success they helped create.

pouring chocolate

This is how our Direct Trade relationships with each origin differ from the Fair Trade marketplace. Whereas the fair trade industry pays a price for the goods on the front end, our SITO and Direct Trade approach pays above Fair Trade market price on the front end and returns to the farmers and profit shares with them after chocolate from their beans is sold. The more the farmers see our—and their—profits increase, the more inspiration they have to continue improving the harvesting process and deepen their relationship with us and our company. The impact of these partnerships goes beyond benefitting each farmer’s business. After receiving their profit share, the farmers typically elect to invest it back into their business by purchasing better equipment and supplies, which stimulates their local economy. Also, because we are a small company, we don’t purchase all of the beans they harvest, and by collaborating with us to improve the quality of their crop, farmers are in a better position to negotiate higher prices from other buyers.

Since implementing SITO with our farmers, we’ve slowly seen the ripple effect positively impact their beans, their ideas and their fellow farmers. Each farmer group is insistent that Askinosie Chocolate obtains their premium crop, and other farmers are now asking how to get involved. Because of our Open Book Management and profit sharing practice, our farmer partners have a stake in our outcome. And because of our Direct Trade relationships, we have a stake in theirs.