Doing well is hard enough for most entrepreneurs. How on earth are they supposed to make their business a force for good, too?
Six altruistic members of The Oracles share how you can make the world a better place while building a wildly successful company.
1. Start today, no matter what.
The best advice is: start today, start right now! Many business owners think that corporate philanthropy is something that happens down the road. The reality is, anyone can make their company a force for good—whether you’re one person working out of your garage, a well-funded late-stage startup, or an established brand.
At Salesforce, we baked corporate philanthropy into our ideals when we founded the company more than 18 years ago. We believe that all companies can make a big difference and the only thing you need is a desire to do it. If you’re just getting started, do one thing and get very focused on it. Think about the core competencies of your business and start from there.
If you’re a small organization and just getting started, adopting a local public school is a great place to start. Our CEO, Marc Benioff, believes that everyone can adopt their local K-12 school and ask the principal, teachers, and kids how they can help. Being a force for good isn’t only about money. Volunteering at a school is a great way to have a big impact on your community.
Also, think about ways to reduce your environmental footprint. It can be as basic as ensuring there are enough recycling bins in your office space or switching over to a SaaS (software as a service) platform that will reduce on-site energy consumption. Another easy thing to do is to reconsider your hiring practices. How much consideration are you giving to diversity when it comes to hiring or gender equality when it comes to salaries? What about hiring a veteran?
There are many ways to give back. It’s incredibly important to assign an owner to each of these efforts—someone who will be responsible for it. Maybe you only commit to one project a year, but give that project a name and an owner. Go all in!
2. Do right by your community, even if they don’t buy from you.
I run a real estate coaching business, and the reputation of the real estate industry is only a step above used car sales. In today’s era of automation and technological advances, consumers simply won’t accept the broken real estate experience.
I’m all about providing education and tools to real estate agents who may or may not ever become a client. We provide free content to the real estate community as a whole: how-to videos, blogs, and my regular #TomFerryShow episodes on YouTube. It’s all in the name of creating a new, stronger generation of real estate experts.
I’m also fortunate to have built an audience where everyone can support important causes. After my wife’s battle with breast cancer last year, we donated proceeds from my new book, “Mindset, Model, and Marketing!”, to breast cancer research. We raised more than $200,000 for that cause.
Even more recently, we rallied some great people and partner organizations like Zillow and Boomtown to contribute to Hurricane Harvey relief.
3. Realize that doing good is integral to company culture.
Social entrepreneurship is based on doing good, but it’s tough to continuously run any charitable effort without some profit. For startups focused on building initial revenue, doing good may seem like a low priority. When I advise founders, I encourage them to take a different perspective.
Doing good is an integral part of building a sustainable company culture. It drives people and keeps them happy and healthy. And if you can build a team that sticks together around these values, you can overcome all your mistakes and hurdles on your startup journey.
So, how can you implement this? One company I worked with met off-site once a month to volunteer. These opportunities provided bonding moments, and employees found them rewarding because they were helping society. Try using a mobile-first communications platform like SocialChorus to get employees on board and excited to give back. This kind of culture is key to ultimate growth.
4. Think about hybrid business models that do well and do good.
My dream was to be financially successful and set my family up for life. Once I achieved that, there was a great responsibility to address the world’s inequality. I run a large-scale food aid program that fed more than 31 million meals to the poor in developing countries this year. This was possible due to our massive investment in agricultural land and the crops they produce that pay expenses.
Start thinking about hybrid business models that both profit and solve problems for people and the planet. Surprisingly, you will not only create massive impact but also make more money in the process. We all have a responsibility to the world once our necessities and quality of life are met. No one can do a better job at this than entrepreneurs if they evolve their business models.
5. Understand that giving back is profitable.
My company, ListenTrust, has donated nearly a million dollars over the last seven years to charity. Today, those charity dollars go to BuildOn.org, which supports education and kids learning to give back. Kids in the program have a 95 percent graduation rate compared to the 50 percent rate outside the program.
This all started because we did an in-depth survey about our employee happiness. We found that charitable contributions increased happiness more than pay raises. This drove us to look at our culture and teach happiness. Our internal program, DreamTrust, teaches our employees to live their dreams even if it means helping them quit. So far, we have granted nearly 100 dreams, including refurbishing a house, creating a better marriage, or spending more time with family. I would suggest investing in your culture and your people to teach them about happiness and living their dream life.
6. Focus first on your own company.
You cannot give what you do not have. Those who cannot give need a vehicle to provide them the resources to do so. For business owners, businesses can be a force for good if they truly want to help people. The main reason I started Fairchild was because I had experienced first-hand the life of poverty and the burdens it brought. I wanted to help as many people as possible escape the shackles of financial insecurity.
To me, culture in my business is the most important ingredient there is. If someone does not fit our culture, I will not employ them, no matter how technically skilled or gifted they are. We must all be working for the same purpose. When your staff’s purpose is aligned with your company’s purpose, they are automatically inspired to make a difference. When staff love what they do and do what they love, this translates into a force of good.
Want to share your insights like those above in a future column? If you’re an experienced entrepreneur, please get in touch here.
Want to suggest a future topic for these entrepreneurs to answer? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and it’s very possible we’ll make your suggestion the focus of a future article!
Originally published on Entrepreneur.com. ©2017 by Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved.