When Worlds Collide: Profitable vs. Social Entrepreneurism
In our nation’s post-recession, “progressive” economy, I’ve spoken with many businesses still struggling to adapt to the “new normal.” Most owners I work with are more worried more than ever. Why? Because now, credit comes with strings-attached, sales people often cost far more than they sell and while the Internet has changed everything, most owners still describe their social/digital strategy in terms of money spent instead of clear ROI’s.
And when it comes to reaping the rewards for decades of sacrifice, millions of baby boomers have learned their firms aren’t worth much. But just as passionate in our society are all the voices who take the profitability of small businesses for granted and assert that every firm must pass litmus tests of being clean, green, sustainable, inclusive, local and socially-focused, regardless of whether they are thriving or surviving.
If your business is finally having a decent year, and someone demands why you aren’t doing more good, remember, a great dignity itself lies in running a profitable business.
Here are four reasons to challenge all the reasons you are given to do more:
1. You can’t do much good over time if you don’t do well most of the time.
2. Your good years have to make up for your bad ones.
3. You have your own charitable and social priorities.
4. You took the risk.
This article may rile many who feel that focusing on doing well is an excuse for not giving to the millions of truly needy people and causes. Admittedly. doing both well and good is ideal. And a company who covets all its profits is a heartless organization, but a firm that embraces every form of social good may soon be looking to someone else for a handout. Creating social change from a position of strength is critical. Here and here are some suggestions.
Steering Clear of the Pitfalls: How to Do Well and Good
1. Charity Begins at Home. Make sure your employees, customers and vendors are healthy and give of your time and energy to see this happens. Americans are the hardest working people in the world. Anyone who is working hard for you deserves the help you can give.
2. Tie Your Charity to Your Best and Highest Use®. Strive to give away what you are best at doing to make your chosen cause better. For a professional service provider to sit on boards that do not exploit his or her skills is a terrible waste of time and talent. Find a cause that ties your skills to your passions and give this away. As the father of a handicapped child and as a businessman who serves entrepreneurs, I am always pleased to provide some pro bono help to business owner who is similarly challenged.
3. Run a Meritocracy and Demand Excellence. Avoid favoring employees, vendors or customers who are justifying their poor products or services by all the good works they must provide as well. Support your charities consciously; do not unconsciously let your business subsidize ones that may be subverting the needs of your customers.
4. Stay Connected to Your Customers, Employees and Vendors. Live and give in the real world of those you know and work with. Just as it is critical to understand your customers, make sure you comprehend the troubles and pains they face. The single cause I see for local companies declining to do this is how disconnected many have become from the needs of their marketplace. Understand the pains of your marketplace as well as you do of your charities.
5. Give Results and Outcomes Rather Than Money and Time. Every time I attend a big benefit, I always wonder how much I am really helping the people or problem the sponsor represents. Doesn’t it feel good to provide the person confronting the problem with the help, tools or actions he or she needs to succeed? So often, going right to the source gives you, the owner, a completely new understanding of how to resolve the pain and suffering you see. Just like finding new customer pains to solve, directly helping someone in need may take some interesting twists and turns and may reveal even better unconventional solutions.
Social good should be tied to your business goals and should never impede them. By focusing on your best and highest use, leveraging your good fortune to help others and expecting a positive result from every investment you make, you can truly do well and do good. By doing both, you can make an ever larger impact through your business, your charity and your legacy.