Building Goodwill into Your Business Model

By Rob Jordan, an EO Portland member and principal of Idealist Consulting

As I wrote about in a recent post, Using Practical Idealism as a Business Strategy is part of our DNA at Idealist Consulting. The beautiful thing is, doing well as a business and doing good as part of the global community are not mutually exclusive. The term for this is the Triple Bottom Line (TBL) concept, and in the past decade I have seen this concept light up the private sector, most excitingly with recent B Corp legislation around the country.

So what is this TBL, anyway? Here’s an example: If a corporation shows a monetary profit, but their oil fields cause hundreds of deaths from leaks, and they pollute the ocean, and the government ends up spending taxpayer money on healthcare and ocean clean-up, the full societal cost-benefit analysis is pretty murky. The concept of a triple bottom line adds two more “bottom lines”: social and environmental concerns. The three together are often paraphrased as “Profit, People, Planet,” or referred to as “the three pillars.” Traditionally, this has been often overlooked as idealist stuff for dreamers, not for practical business.

As a certified B Corp with more than 60% growth in 2013 and recognition as one of Top 100 Fastest-Growing Private Companies in Oregon, Idealist Consulting is showing that a company can do more than just make money … it can make a difference. We achieved this in three ways.

First, goodwill alignment of labor and materials. Our model of providing tech consulting to socially responsible organizations while leveraging gifted technology has shown that everyone can win. The client wins because they get the technology gifted or discounted resulting in a reduced overall cost. The tech solution wins because they are able to receive a tax write-off for gifting their solution to a non-profit organization. And of course, Idealist Consulting wins because we are able to attract more leads and prospects due to the reduced overall deployment costs.

Second, goodwill alignment of labor and client. We encourage our consultants to gift up to 15% of their time when they have an affinity with the client’s mission, wish to build client rapport or feel the time is not warranted for billing. The result is two-fold. The client builds a stronger relationship with the consultant, resulting in a smoother project deployment. Idealist Consulting has less admin time associated with reconciling billed time because the client has seen that the consultant is vested in their project’s success.

Third, goodwill alignment of labor and marketing. We enacted a program referred to as “Pay it Forward.” This program allows our private-sector clients to gift one hour of tech consulting to a non-profit for every 20 hours they work with Idealist Consulting. This no doubt benefits the non-profit because they’re getting Idealist Consulting resources at no cost. It also benefits the private-sector organization because they can utilize their gift as a marketing message showing their clients (and staff) that they are supporting the community. Idealist Consulting benefits by having another way to encourage non-profit clients to work with us because they can leverage the benefits of the program.

So there you have it, a business model that embraces goodwill within its business process. The outcome is a positive work environment, happier clients and more robust marketing … all of which helps maintain positive growth.

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