So, you want to start a “good company”. One that gives away as much as it reaps, makes a “Best Places To Work” list, and allows you to go to bed each night feeling like you’re fulfilling your duty as a human to leave this world a little better off. Bravo. But, I won’t lie: it’s harder to be good and make money. Do I think it’s worth the heavy lift? Absolutely.
These days, 89% of consumers say they’d rather buy something from a company that gives back. And over the last few years, more and more good companies have been acquired for or funded with the same kind of dollars that traditional ones have: Plum Organics, Earthbound Farms, Annie’s Organics, TOMS, Applegate to name a few. These entrepreneurs make the world better just by being in it, and they still make money! To be one of the ones that get there, you have to do things right, not just good.
Here are seven things to keep in mind:
1. Get Labeled – B Corp, Public Benefit Corp, or USDA Organic (To Name a few)…
There’s a whole network of support out there if you formally build your business with good in mind. Retreats, mentorship, and positive modeling are all yours if you get this thing started on the right side of the road.
2. Tell Your Story
Talk about your mission on your packaging and your website, integrate it into your branding, put your purpose in your business plan, make sure the content of your products is totally, utterly, really good. Being mission-driven is a way of doing business, a chance to change minds – and maybe someday, the world — through commerce. Don’t get confused and think this is a marketing tool. Consumers will smell it if you don’t mean it.
3. Create a Culture of Good
Doing good doesn’t just mean sourcing your goods responsibly, using the best ingredients, making a minimal impact on the planet with recyclable packaging. It also means taking great care of your people. Have a better-than-you-need-to maternity/paternity leave policy; give people PTO for community service (or better yet, do it as a group); let your employees be their full selves in the workplace; and when you finally have money to give away, let your employees help with the process of how and to whom to give. Live your company’s do good purpose in every corner of the business and the right employees will find you.
4. Find a Teacher
It’s infinitely harder to make money and do good, but it’s definitely possible. Reach out to someone who’s done it and ask her how. Where are the pitfalls, the watchouts, the opportunities? What mistakes did they make? Any aha moments they’re willing to share? Give them a piece of the action to be an informal advisor, or better yet, create a Board of Advisors. But make sure there’s something valuable in it for the people you’re asking for help. They’re busy making the world better, too.
5. Make Sense With Your ¢ents
Don’t just find a cause to partner with because everyone seems to be doing it. Be genuine with your company’s purpose. Think hard about which cause aligns with the essence of your business – and what you’re most passionate about – and then create a true partnership that’s really meaningful. How can you help each other? Then weave the cause through your business so it feels organically entwined rather than a Corporate Social Responsibility initiative.
6. Disrupt The Model
This one might be most important of all. Some of the most famous examples of successful socially responsible businesses started by asking “Why do we do it this way?” Think about supply chain, packaging, ingredients – all of the components of your business. Can any of them be rejiggered to make a more positive impact? How can you change the storyline? And it will be hard. But it’s worth it, even if change is incremental and takes a long time to be fully realized.
And last but not least…
7. Think Big!
If you want to change the world (or at least your corner of it) through the lens of good Business, you have to believe sea changes are not only possible, but also likely.