Business, For Purpose, Sustainability

Are we doing this wrong?

More and more we’re asking ourselves, how can we support the new generation of social entrepreneur.  

The Gen Y’s (and an increasing number of Gen Z’s) are setting up businesses with a goal of making the world a better place. Environmental, community, health, whatever drives their passion also inspires them to be creative around how they can build a business model that is both financially sustainable and purpose focused.

We jump up and down, with all of our worldly experience and seek ways we can support them on these awesome journeys. We love what they’re doing and we want to help.

Wanting to help isn’t wrong and yes our experience can assist this new wave of entrepreneur. So we ask, can we help you?

I’m increasingly thinking that this isn’t the way it should be. Is our unconscious ego hiding a better solution?

We’re not the experts on the new way of doing business, they are.  What if we turned things around and ask “will you help me?”

The purposeful economy is coming and we’re encouraging the change but not doing it ourselves. It’s time the teachers became the students.

Instead of simply sharing what has worked in the past, why don’t we work together exploring what could work in the future? Imagine the possibilities!

This approach will only work if us ‘oldies’ take a leap of faith and let the new breed lead the way. Wisdom and maturity is still a vital part and we will help guide them but let’s allow the next generation to show us what the future could be.

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Business

It’s never just about the money

If you believe the movies, business is a world of corporate cut throats, prowling Wall Street looking for victims to fleece. We all know that our local businesses are nothing like that (in fact I doubt there are many in New Zealand like that), however we all still need to pause at times and remember that business is always just people dealing with people.

Staff, managers, owners, customers and suppliers are all just a collection of individuals, each trying to do the best they can for their organisation and themselves. In our ever changing world it’s easy to get bogged down in the day to day and forget the things that really matter. Call me an optimist, but I firmly believe that most of us genuinely agree that people matter.

Being a good employer is expected these days, both by staff and legislation. Employers know that it’s not just ticking a box, that there are real advantages to having a happy workforce. Staff quickly learn if you are genuinely interested in them or just playing the game as outlined in some text book. I find it odd that the reverse isn’t seen as so important – managers and owners are people too. They are important to the success of the business and it’s that success that flows onto employees. Bosses will never be perfect and traditionally as they were perceived to be ‘in power’, they were, if not the enemy, certainly not an ally. What really springs to mind about this is where business owners go to great lengths to look after their staff and ensure a healthy work life balance – and then work all hours themselves, striving to make the business a success. Somehow this needs to change. Business success is usually driven by the sheer hard work and commitment of the owner, but at what cost? Their health and their families matter as much as everyone else’s.

Sales should always be about solving a customer’s problem, not pushing your products onto them. Let’s be honest, we can all tell a story about a pushy or dodgy sales person that we simply wouldn’t transact with again (and often even their organisation is on our ‘no go’ list).
Trust and a long term relationship is often the result of being told by a sales person that while I could try using one of their products, it wouldn’t be ideal and that there are better options provided by X and Y. A potential sale lost but a repeat customer gained, with the added bonus of a story being told that tells others about your honesty and desire to do what’s best for the customer.  No amount of advertising dollars can give you that!

Your suppliers may provide you with raw materials, but those materials aren’t who you transact with. The people behind those products can provide you with information and ideas to help grow your business or overcome issues you’re facing. The people add value to the product, something easily missed if you just focus on price.

Lastly I’d like to just touch on mental health. It’s an area I know very little about, apart from hearing the sad statistics around it but it’s something we need to open up about.  This is especially true for us blokes, because in all honesty we’re simply terrible at seeking help. We’re not going to sit down with a “BFF” or social worker and share our problems until we find closure. Call it stubborn, pig headed or just not conditioned for that – it doesn’t matter. We need to find a way to address this (maybe a beer over a barbeque after a day’s fishing with a mate?). We’re losing too many good people to keep ignoring this issue.

All of the above is common knowledge and much has been written about this subject. People have designed models and fancy terms to describe what we should be doing. Personally I don’t think we need to get complicated about any of this. Treat people respectfully as people and I have no doubts that your business will gain from it. At CSC our values are summed up by “people over transactions”. Most of us do it, most of the time – how about all of us do it, all of the time!

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First published by the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce in their Cambridge News (10 November 2017)

 

Business, Sustainability

With business, not against business

Attending a conference about sustainable business, it quickly became apparent that the approach of this conference (and the attendees) was very much about environmental sustainability, how important it was and the fact that business just has to come on-board. The message of the conference was, this is how bad the problem is, now you go and adjust what you are doing so it gets fixed.

Firstly I thought it was a waste of the first half day explaining to the audience that environmental sustainability was an issue. Being members of a sustainable business group and attending a conference on that topic would sure indicate some awareness and buy-in already.

Secondly, their approach seemed to forget that they are a business group not an environmental group. A group of businesses concerned about sustainability not a group of environmentalists interested in business. This is a fundamental difference and one that I believe is holding back widespread innovation and action by businesses.

Most people want to do what is right for both the environment and their communities. If they could achieve their outcomes without causing damage to the wider eco-system, then they would probably at least look at it. What they don’t want to be told is that they’re the problem and it’s up to them to fix because they’re the bad guys here.

The message really needs to be more positive than that. We need to do better for our environment and communities and we need businesses help because they can make an awesome difference. How can we work together to make this happen?

The systems, resources, people, planning and ‘smarts’ of business can be a massive part of the solution, they’re not the enemy and being told by outsiders what to do isn’t the way to tap into all the positives they can bring.

The actions of business to these big issues need to be driven by business people, using business techniques in a way that isn’t detrimental to what business is trying to achieve.

Coming back to the conference, I was looking forward to listening to business people discussing what they have done and advice as to how businesses can look at their operations with a view to promoting positive changes.

If we take the approach that we all want the same outcomes, then we can use each other’s strengths to get the job done. Business is a great resource but it is business and changes need to come from a business perspective.

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Business, Sustainability

A Journey Begun

There was a time when doing good was left to those who ran charities, but in recent years we see a growing number of businesses taking on social and environmental issues as a core part of who they are.

Businesses can play their part in building sustainable communities through sensible strategic and operational processes. Having seen how a business can operate in a commercial market while contributing to a greater good, I want to see more business practices that make good sense from an organisations perspective but also help the communities in which they operate.

You don’t have to run a large corporation to make a difference in the world, nor do you have a registered charity to make a meaningful contribution toward social change. Small business owners can easily incorporate social and environmental activities into their daily business and create an impressive public image in the process.

Sustainability ‘experts’ have been telling us for years how we should operate to make the world a better place – according to them. This approach continues to see a level of disconnect between the worlds of commerce and sustainability. Turning this around, I always start with looking at how businesses operate so they can play their part in making this a better world.

Sustainability is gaining significant momentum and will increasingly become a major focus for customers, suppliers and shareholders.

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Some of the terminology being used to discuss sustainability may appear a bit foreign in the mainstream business world but fundamentally I have a very simple and optimistic view, whatever the current fad, ultimately most of us want to see a better world.

This story began for me when I attended a Masterclass in Advanced Strategic Governance held by Steve Bowman from ConsciousGovernance. I didn’t know it at the time but one simple question was to start me off on a whole new adventure.

The simple question that led to my light bulb moment was “What difference does your organisation make to the communities you serve?”

Enthused by the answer that the question produced, I explored how the company I was working for interacted with its communities and the many ways it made a difference to people’s lives.

money-2810338__340.pngLooking back, it was interesting that profits were never explicitly part of the thinking process, however they were always there as an assumption. From a business owner who wants to get rich simply to buy nice things, through to full on charities who are attempting to alleviate poverty in the third world, money coming in (profit) is a necessary tool.

Having started on this journey, I now realise that there is a growing acceptance of the importance for ‘human’ issues within the business sector. It really feels like now is the time for businesses to full-heartedly embrace community sustainability and the impact they can make.

Talking to inspiring business and social entrepreneurs has made me really take note of the need to build on this enthusiasm; to grow and develop social enterprises that operate as businesses but with multiple methods of achieving their social goals.

Why do we need to limit this to social enterprise though? We need to remember that people in business are ultimately…people first and foremost. There are a lot of great people in business who want to make a difference. These people need to be encouraged and supported because when their businesses do well, others can also benefit.

An efficient business is a tool that can be used to achieve many different outcomes. Both the business world and the Not-for-profit sector should be embracing the possibilities that successful business can bring.

Everything a business does will have some impact on the communities in which it operates or interacts with.

  • Where you operate from
  •  What you produce
  • How you manage your operations
  • Who you employ
  • Your supply chain and procurement practices
  • Where you sell to
  •  Your corporate social responsibility activity

The concept of community sustainability goes well beyond complying with the law and giving money to your local rugby club. It’s about the impact from all aspects of your operation.

Ask yourself: Is your business making the world a better place for the communities it impacts?

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Uncategorized

A Positive Future

I met another awesome Social Entrepreneur yesterday.

The more you talk to people like this, the more optimistic you become about the future of our communities. Businesses with heart and passion seems to be increasingly mainstream.

It’s truly inspiring seeing how many fantastic people are out there looking to use a business idea to do good.

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Business, For Purpose

Well said Darren Walker

The Ford Foundation in the US has said that it’s committing up to $1 billion from its $12 billion endowment over the next 10 years to mission-related investing (MRI). I really like what their President has said about MRI

“We are making this commitment because we believe MRIs have the potential to become the next great innovation for advancing social good,” said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation. “We need to expand our imaginations and our tools if we want to tackle the large-scale problems facing the world today. We can’t neglect the tremendous power of markets, including the capital markets, to contribute—and with today’s announcement, we are putting a significant amount of our money where our mission is.”

Yes indeed!

I’m so confident that social enterprise, purposeful business and mission-related investing will be responsible for the next great wave of social good.

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