THE BLOG

Profit + Soul = The New Sustainable Business Model

08/14/2014 01:38 pm ET | Updated Aug 14, 2014

Small businesses make up 99.7 percent of U.S. employers and have generated more than 65% of the nation's net new jobs since 1995. Beyond job growth, Americans are entrepreneurs at heart and start approximately 543,000 new businesses each month. With all of this activity and entrepreneurial spirit in the small-business space, there lies a great opportunity for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to redefine corporate responsibility and impact the globe for greater good.

What does this mean for the small-business owner? How can an SMB prioritize giving back? By setting goals, considering the bottom line and taking small steps throughout the year (versus a once-a-year canned food drive), SMBs can make a huge impact on the larger community while creating goodwill (and profits) for their own companies.

Set realistic, scalable goals for corporate giving

As a small business, you want to ensure that you set yourself up for growth and are not making excessive expenditures. Giving back should be the same. That doesn't mean wait until you have an exceptionally good year.

Take a cue from the big guys. (It doesn't need to be intimidating.) Since its inception, Salesforce has donated one percent of employees' time, products and profits to charity. As a business grows, so does the amount it gives back. Since 2000, the Salesforce.com Foundation has given more than $65 million in grants.

Set reasonable goals that align with business success. Making a one-time-only donation of 40 percent of your profits sounds great; however, a smaller percentage makes a much greater impact the longer your company is in existence. For example, at SurveyMonkey, we donate fifty cents each time one of our SurveyMonkey Contribute members takes a survey. These small contributions have raised over $3 million dollars in total for our non-profit partners. Proof that small steps lead to big accomplishments.

Consider a triple bottom line

When running an SMB, it comes down to the bottom line and whether your business has made the cut in a way that enables it to battle larger competitors. It can seem scary and impossible to delegate any amount of time or resources that could take away from this.

Take a breath and add two more bottom lines: social and environmental concerns. The three together are often paraphrased as "Profit, People, Planet" or referred to as "the three pillars," forming a guiding principle in charitable business plans.

Whether it means closing early to go volunteer with your staff or installing energy-efficient lighting in your store or business, the effects on staff bonding, consumer awareness and the environment are worth the slight impact to your bottom line. Morale, local accolades and customer loyalty all directly correlate to these values.

Tip: Learn from a master. Method cleaning supplies is a huge champion of the triple bottom line and outlines it in the company's Humanifesto. Through paying workers 40 percent above the livable wage, making its products' bottles from a 100 percent recycled plastic and more than 50 percent of energy coming from a renewable resource, Method lives the triple bottom line ideal.

Find the "glass slipper" business model that works for you

Corporate responsibility means something different to every business, depending on its industry and where it is in the business growth process. Whether it's a donation of monetary means (Wells Fargo), time (Feather the Nest), product (TOMS) or expertise (LinkedIn), it is important to know what's right for your company.

So ask yourself, what part of your business best aligns with social good? Here some great examples from small businesses:

o Example: Time

Anton's Cleaners of Lowell, Mass., for the past 17 years has conducted an annual Coats for Kids drive. The program encourages more than 200 businesses in New England to collect coats that are then given to the needy through charitable agencies.

o Example: Product

Goodspread of Nashville, Tenn., provides a malnourished child an equivalent amount of therapeutic food when consumers purchase a packet of the company's all-natural peanut butter.

Zoning in on the part of your small business that makes the most sense for supporting a non-profit area makes giving seamless.

A final thought

Changing the world cannot fall solely on the shoulders of nonprofits large companies and consumers. SMBs must dedicate their resources to effect positive social and environmental change. Today, the biggest opportunity lies in underpinning business models with altruistic values, particularly in early-stage companies. This is easier said than done, but not impossible by any means. Push forward, because giving back is essential for your community, goodwill and ultimately the longevity of your business.

Comments

CONVERSATIONS