There’s an interesting idea that I’ve seen coming out of the social enterprise movement, which looks holistically at the value a business creates, both financial and social. Social entrepreneurs say that it will become more mainstream for businesses, especially smaller ones that can have a more idiosyncratic approach, to look together at both the social and financial value they create.
This aligns with what I heard a few months ago at a meeting of businesses from the environmental industry – speakers from successful environmental businesses talked about how intertwined their businesses were with their values. These were not micro-entrepreneurs, but rather people running thriving businesses in industries like power generation, waste management, and furniture manufacturing, who operated their businesses in as close to a sustainable fashion as they could manage. They spoke passionately about how bringing their values and their businesses together gave them integrity that they felt would do nothing but add to their ultimate success, including financial success.
Even if they don’t identify as social entrepreneurs in the slightest, part of the reason many people are in business for themselves is the chance to mold their businesses as they see fit. And they have always used their businesses to manifest their values. We are working with a client right now who’s a family-run business going into the second generation, and they clearly have values around how they treat their employees and customers that are part and parcel of their business. They are incredibly focused on client satisfaction because they truly see their clients offering them the privilege of being in business. This perspective permeates everything they do, and it’s absolutely a manifestation of their value system.
It may be that a new generation of entrepreneurs are just more conscious and perhaps more explicit about how their businesses enable them to fuse their economic life with their social values. This would, for one thing, enable them to connect more easily with others around common interests, whether business or otherwise, which can only create stronger communities across all facets of their lives and ours. What a great trend, if so.