Make Your Business a Catalyst for Change
Beyond profits, businesses can create good into the world outside of the boardroom. We’re all familiar with socially conscious companies like TOMS, who donate a pair of shoes for every pair sold, or Patagonia, who incorporates environmental activism throughout every appendage of their company.
Still, money is often the driving force in entrepreneurship. The first question the Shark Tank investors ask is always about sales. They want the numbers, coming from a strict investment point-of-view. I have built a million-dollar company and know how life-changing money and financial security can be, but business isn’t just about numbers. Business can be the catalyst for change.
While some businesses are founded to create social change and solve some of the world’s most pressing problems, others can still create impact in a more indirect way. It doesn’t require turning a business into a non-profit or drastically changing the company. Sometimes it can be a subtle, simple shift that reverberates. In my own business where I teach entrepreneurs to launch and grow successful online courses and digital programs, I am having an impact directly on the students and clients I work with, as I help them transform an idea into a company.
If you consider the larger ripple effect of this work, it’s much more wide-reaching than simply starting a business. My clients go on to help their clients achieve some kind of success or solve a problem. One of my students owns a bakery in Illinois. After struggling to create financial success in the food industry with high costs and payroll stipulations, she turned her bakery around to become financially successful and one of the top bakeries in the city. I helped her leverage her knowledge and turn it into digital programs that help other bakery owners. Not only did I help her create a second business as an “education entrepreneur” that changed her own family’s financial life, but also she has now helped thousands of other bakeries and food businesses stay afloat during the pandemic.
As I’ve seen many times, one act of humanitarianism breeds many others. An example from my own family’s experience: The maternal grandfather of my cousin, Helena Bonham-Carter, was a Spanish diplomat who illegally signed visas for Jewish people who wanted to flee Nazi-occupied France to New York during the war. Not only did those illegal visas keep thousands of people alive, but also started a movement. One of the individuals who fled on those visas later became the founder of UNICEF. One person’s decision led to an organization that has gone on to help millions of people around the world. Integrating small acts of kindness can be powerful.
Another way to use your business as a catalyst for change is to dedicate a portion of profits to fund initiatives that align with your business’s mission and values. A client of mine runs a large, successful virtual conference every year. She took the funds from that conference and donated them to organizations that support veterans, food security, and a family battling cancer.
If you’re not in the place to begin donating a portion of your profit, providing opportunities for those coming from marginalized backgrounds is another powerful way to create change. This might look like creating more diversity in the hiring process, being selective about the content creators you work with in your marketing department, or providing sliding scale pricing or scholarships. Becoming intentional about your values and impact as a company will become increasingly more important to your bottom line.
Millennials and Gen Z consumers, those becoming the driving force of the economy, rate socially-responsible business practices as important. When deciding what companies to purchase from, a Nielsen poll from 2018 showed that 85% of Millennials and 80% of Gen Z consumers ranked the environment at the top of their list1.
How can your business be prepared to be a catalyst for change? The first step is to identify your business’s core values, digging into your purpose, your story, and your calling. Then create a set of goals to integrate those values throughout the business. Think about how you can color outside the lines and go on a change-making journey as a company. Your business isn’t just about your business. It can be the catalyst for so much more.
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