Profit, profit, profit. The focus of every business, right?
True, profit is important. Essential, in fact, for a sustainable business.
But it doesn’t have to be your primary focus.
When you make making a difference the focus of your business, you profit.
Businesses that consciously focus on making a positive difference, on having positive impact, make 12-14 times more income than those who just focus on financial profit. Does making more than 10 times more income sound appealing to you?
Making a difference isn’t just for non-profits. It’s not even just for social enterprises any more.
You could even say that the purpose of business is to make a difference! Why did you start your business? You wanted to offer something that would be valuable to other people, right?
So really, what I’m encouraging you to do here is to bump that up a notch (or two… or more).
Leila Janah of Samasource did just that. Samasource provides data solutions for projects that require human judgment. The way they are doing this is unique: they hire people with little or no experience. Their teams work on projects that can be broken down into smaller, manageable, and trainable tasks. They’ve established micro-work centers in developing areas like South Asia, Haiti, and Africa. Employees earn a living wage. The quality of their lives can fundamentally change.
I would bet that Leila started with just an idea. Your impact does too.
The world is changing. We can no longer rely on government or religion for social change. We must become the change ourselves. Each one of us. One way to do that is in and with your business.
That gives you, and every other entrepreneur, a great responsibility. To paraphrase Mary Oliver: What will you do with your one wild and precious (business) life?
What problem do you see? How can you contribute to a solution?
Stacey Boyd of Schoola noticed that art, physical education, and language programs weren’t getting funding in schools. So she created a platform to organize clothing drives for students who outgrow their clothes. When the unused clothing that is sent in is purchased through Schoola, 40% of every purchase goes to fund a program.
You can have impact. In fact, you already do, whether you realize it or not. You affect everything within your business. And you affect your world around it.
Keep the financial health of your business in mind. It’s only through developing a viable business model that you can continue to make a difference.
Your impact doesn’t have to come out of your own pocket. A Neilson survey found that 55% of online consumers in 60 countries are willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies committed to positive social and environmental impact. You can get help in making a difference from your own customers, and they want to help!
How can you have impact? How can you make a difference? Here are 3 ways:
1. Making a difference starts with your vision. Include making a difference in your vision and planning. Consider your impact purpose: what impact do you want to have? What does that mean for every aspect of your business?
What contribution could you make to a really big problem, like poverty or hunger? How can you engage your customers to give back too? Brands like shoe seller TOMS have a buy one, give one model. Good Food for Good has a buy one, feed one model with their cooking sauces and ketchups.
When you’re building this vision, just make sure it makes financial sense for your business.
2. Make good use of your money. What will you do with the money you make? You could donate to a cause you value or sponsor an event – easy-peasy. You could support your employees in donating their time, by giving them time off to do so, and money through donation matching. Doing this work together can be a great team building opportunity too.
And that’s just the beginning. Invest in ethical and environmentally sustainable business practices. Can your product or service change the way your customers see the world or interact with it? Pay at least a living wage to raise the living standard of people closest to your business.
3. Collaborate. You don’t have to do it alone. Collaborate with other businesses with similar impact aims and see what you can accomplish together. Business can be a powerful force for good.