By: Yanik Silver, a Special to Overdrive
In his book “Maverick Startup,” serial entrepreneur Yanik Silver lays out his strategies for turning your big idea into a profitable business, without taking on debt, partners or even a business plan. In the following excerpt, Silver focuses on strategies for building a meaningful mission that can also boost your bottom line.
What if you could combine making more in your business with creating a bigger impact on the world? I truly think this proposition is not as far-fetched as it seems. The name of the game for entrepreneurs is to change the way businesses keep score. It’s all about breaking down the barriers between work and play and value-boosting activities. That is a central belief for many entrepreneurs. Quite simply, the more impact you create, the more profits you’ll generate. The more joy and happiness you create, the more profits you’ll have.
It’s even better if you can “bake” the philanthropy into your business model. For example, I made a public vow last year to provide three scholarships for every educational training course I sell. Scholarships go to 13- to 23-year-old entrepreneurs, as well as veterans and people with disabilities. Our “scorecard” is based on providing 100,000 scholarships by 2015, but in the process that means our team needs to sell 33,333 courses. That’s where the profits came from the Maverick MBA educational component of our business units.
Notice this was not simply about “giving back.” This is all about providing something that becomes a multiplier beyond the original transaction. Here are five ideas to consider as you seek to add inspiration to your business:
1. Focus on a compelling, engaging mission.
This shouldn’t be something pulled out of the air. Look at what your business already does — no matter how mundane or insignificant it may seem at first — and then focus on a byproduct that provides more meaning, happiness and even a better bottom line. The restaurant can promote better nutrition in the community. The clothing store can promote better self-confidence through style. The ideas are endless here.
2. Make the mission authentic and tied to profits.
A business can leverage good at the same time that it boosts the business. Santa Monica, Calif.-based TOMS Shoes, for example, has its One for One mission. The company matches every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes donated to a child in need. The company has a powerful and profitable business model in which customers, retail partners and vendors feel motivated to spread the story, increasing sales in the process.
3. Invest some of the profits back to the mission.
Your business’s mission should involve some mechanism in which a portion of the profits are donated toward causes that can have a multiplier effect of producing more good. Some of America’s wealthiest Americans, including Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, are already doing this through The Giving Pledge. To get more small businesses on board, I’ve co-created the 3% Forward movement — with a goal of 1 million entrepreneurs taking the pledge of providing 3 percent of either their revenue, talents or products toward causes they care about.
4. Think outside the box with your giving.
Your giving can involve not only money, but also free or discounted talent, products and services for a cause that matters. You might give to an innovative nonprofit in education, health care or the environment. But you also might invest in a startup or micro-enterprise with a groundbreaking idea. Just focus on what is most important to you, not whether the Internal Revenue Service will count it as a donation.
5. Create a multiplier effect.
Think of your own mission and charitable giving as a catalyst. A small amount can ferment a great deal of good in the world at large. Take your entrepreneurial and business creation talents, and focus them on evaluating what causes, organizations and businesses are providing the most bang for the buck. Then focus your mission and giving accordingly. Don’t be afraid to get customers involved, since that creates another reason for them to bond with you.
Having a big mission interwoven with your financial goals also provides a more profound “why” for what you’re doing in business. It gets your team, customers and community involved, helping your bottom line grow faster than it would have if you were on your own.