Corporate responsibility. Triple bottom line. Social entrepreneurship. When it comes to businesses doing good in the world, the terminology can be a lot to swallow. What do all these phrases mean? How are they different?
It’s not my intention to delineate their nuances. Instead, I want to simplify things. There are only two words I want to focus on: impact and purpose. Impact is the positive difference your company can make. Purpose is your company’s reason for being — the “why” behind the “what.”
And if you want your business to make an impact, it needs to have a purpose.
When it comes down to it, the reason is simple. When employees connect with a company purpose, turnover goes down and profitability goes up. In other words, the company achieves a higher level of success. And before an organization can make a lasting impact, it needs to be successful. As Torrent CEO Daniel McCollum recently put it to me, “You can’t achieve social impact if you’re losing money every month.”
The six qualities of a purpose-driven business
During my conversation with Daniel, he also pointed me to Small Giants, a community of like-minded leaders that was initially inspired by the book of the same name by Bo Burlingham. In their words, “Small Giants are companies led by purpose-driven leaders who believe that success is about growing a business with purpose.”
According to the community, these are the six qualities of a Small Giant:
- Purpose: Small Giants have a vision, a powerful mission statement and core values that can be brought to life.
- Leadership: Small Giants are made up of servant leaders who believe in leading by values.
- Culture: Small Giants foster a culture of intimacy by putting employees first, caring for them in the totality of their lives.
- Finance: Small Giants believe in protecting their gross margins without compromising company values.
- Customers: Small Giants cultivate meaningful relationships with customers, suppliers and all stakeholders.
- Community: Small Giants understand the value of establishing deep roots in their community.
Even as a relatively new hire, I can clearly see all the ways these criteria have influenced Torrent’s growth as a purpose-driven business. From our core values to the Customer Lifecycle, the traces are obvious.
Moving from purpose to impact
But what about impact? How do you make the jump from purpose-driven to actually creating an impact?
One way is to integrate it into your business model.
Think of Toms, a company that helps a person in need every time one of their products is purchased. Or Cascade Engineering — they’re a manufacturing company that hires individuals on welfare and guides them into career-track jobs. These organizations aren’t just donating profits to causes they believe in — they’re building impact into their day-to-day business processes.
With these companies, it’s not about generating the funds that will help other people solve a problem — it’s about solving the problem directly. That’s impact.
Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions about starting or scaling a business built with purpose. As consultants, it’s our passion to help companies that strive to make a difference.