September 15, 2020
Business as Usual Won't Cut It
Having spent my formative working years as many do, at the mercy of my employers, on the day that I somehow woke up a business owner (that’s a story for another time), one thing stood paramount – business as usual wasn’t going to cut it. Thankfully, I jumped into this thing with a business partner who felt the same way – the typical model of running a business wasn’t even an option to be considered.
Purpose driven businesses are launched for a multitude of reasons, and thankfully this has become a more broadly accepted way of operating over the recent past. Business is a driving force in our world, and it stands to reason then, that business is a driving force in our communities, in our homes, and in our individual lives. It requires more intention, more sacrifice, and more vulnerability to lead a business that lives up to the claim of being driven by purpose, rather than profits, but it is worth it for the feeling of ease and confidence with which I can proudly declare myself a business owner.
Four things that have risen to the top as great decisions so far in helping to keep running a business in line with feeling like a decent human being are broken down here, so that if you, like me, tend to think “ew, business”… you can see a way of turning that around and creating something that has an awesome impact on your community, your workforce, your customers, and also you!
- Commitment to paying, at minimum, a Living Wage – A living wage is a complex calculation that identifies the rate at which a person needs to be paid in order to make ends meet in their specific geographic area. This includes costs like food, rent, daycare, clothing, etc… but does not include things like savings. It is a living wage, not a thriving wage and that is an important distinction. In most regions, this wage is significantly higher than the legal minimum wage, and so a commitment to it is a commitment to investing a higher amount than is mandatory into your employees. While this can seem like a very direct and negative impact on your bottom line, there are many studies that indicate that in the long run, a commitment to a living wage actually costs an employer less – employees who earn at least a living wage tend to commit for longer, provide better results, and require less time off than those earning a lower wage. Making this type of commitment to your employees can make a world of difference.
- Getting involved in the community – Using your business as a way to contribute to your community is a great way to ensure you keep purpose front of mind, and feel good about the overall impact you are having. Get involved by joining a board, gathering your employees for a group volunteer opportunity, donating to a local not-for-profit, or undertake an environmental initiative. Just make sure that whatever involvement you commit to is inline with your mission, values, priorities, or whatever it is that guides your moral compass. Getting involved just for show doesn’t do anyone much good – do something that you can really get behind, and you will see a huge impact.
- Recognizing and valuing the real-life Humans that make up a workforce – Your workforce is not made up of robots. You know this, I know this, and every other business leader does too. The key is keeping this knowledge front of mind. Not exclusively, but predominantly, women play key roles at work, at home, and in their communities. This is a beautiful but heavy load for many of us, and having an employer who recognizes this can make a world of difference. You do not have to approach staff leadership the same way it has typically been done; leave home and home and work at work. This just isn’t realistic. Take time to get to know the people you work with and what their lives look like. Take the details they share into consideration when you are setting expectations, giving assignments, and providing feedback. Do you know that they have a child starting school for the first time? Offer them a delayed start on the first day of work. Are they providing care duties for an elderly relative? Give them an extended lunch hour every now and then so that they can have an un-rushed guilt free visit.
- Accountability – This is all just lip service if you don’t have some accountability measures in place. The purpose driven, environmentally conscious, business world has had its fair share of inauthentic players, and folks can usually see right through that crap. Set up some checks and balances so that you can show yourself, your team, and the general public that you are walking the talk. This could look like putting out an annual impact report, becoming a B Corporation, or signing a public commitment of carbon neutrality – there are so many options depending on what exactly it is that you are working towards, but having some sort of accountability in place is crucial in making sure that your commitment to steering away from the same-old same-old is really helpful in maintaining your course.
Business leadership was never on the table for me simply because I was only aware of the typical mindset and methods behind running a business – provide a good service, maximize profits, staff are replaceable – those sorts of things. Having my mind opened up to a new way of doing business that focuses on people, the planet, AND profits, feels much more like home to me.