Why Give a Damn:
This is the third post in our series documenting the launch of our company. In week one we fessed up to our fears, in week two we made the best of all types of rejection. This week we felt it was time to get on with some work, and explore the principles that will underpin the business we (and you) are starting. Let’s look at how to work toward your triple bottom line (and make it work in the real world).
The authors of this post, Andrew Missingham and Ben Gallagher, are problem solvers who specialize in strategic planning, prototyping and facilitation. In this series they are documenting the launch of their company benandandrew.com
The Good Samaritan wouldn’t have been able to help out if they were broke. Tweet This Quote
Like us, if you’re planning to be an impact entrepreneur, you’ll probably aim to work towards the “triple bottom line” and not just create a business that’s profitable, but also one that’s environmentally sustainable and fair for all the people involved too.
But how do you do this in the real world? What do you do when the bill collector is at your door and an opportunity comes along that’s ethically compelling, but might not stack up financially? Or when you’ve developed an idea that you can’t seem to balance against all three of the triple bottom lines? Is it wrong? Should you toss it in the trash and start again?
In starting Ben&Andrew, we found ourselves asking, “How are we going to deliver on a triple bottom line in the real-world?” Because, no matter how unsinkable your social and environmental ambitions might be, you still need to pay the bills to be able to deliver on them. To paraphrase an (in)famous British politician, the Good Samaritan wouldn’t have been able to help out if they were broke.
Triple Bottom Line:
Create a business that’s profitable, environmentally sustainable and fair for all involved. Tweet This Quote
We think a Triple-Bottomed boat will spring a leak and start to ship water when it sails you towards trying to deliver on all criteria equally all the time to succeed.
So we flipped the script to see if there was a model that could deliver on the same ambitions, but was more achievable in the real world.
Here at Ben&Andrew, we think that to be successful in the 21st century every businesses needs to consider three elements, which are broadly analogous to the triple bottom line, but slightly different – and in our humble opinion slightly more accommodating.
We believe that every business needs to do what for-profit businesses, social businesses (like charities, social enterprises and NGOs) and cultural businesses (like arts organizations) do best.
Why this combination?
- For-profit businesses have created and delivered some of the worlds most transformative ideas. Take Visa for example. Visa enabled anybody anywhere to pay for things on credit. This gave people freedom and the ability to make decisions and most importantly put payment in their hands, in their control. And there are examples in the developing world too – SafariCom’s mobile money solution, M-Pesa, gave liquidity to people without formal banking services, but with access to a mobile phone.
- Culture stretches the boundaries of possibility. Artists and creatives conceive situations and scenarios, impossible at the time of the artist’s conception, but which fire the imagination of creatives, technologists, inventors and even policy makers to make the imagined manifest. One great example is Martin Cooper, who as a boy loved to watch Star Trek. When he grew up, and eventually became lead product developer at Motorola, he created a clam-shell telephone inspired by the communicator used by the crew of the Starship Enterprise. Art can lead the imagination of real-life innovators.
- Social businesses create a sense of purpose. They ask the question “WHY?” in capital letters, then are great at galvinizing people to join together to solve and answer the biggest challenges facing mankind. Great foundations, like Mohammed Yunus’s Grameen Foundation, build movements and communities that are hugely committed and passionate. Purpose driven organizations make us feel and empathize on a visceral level.
As a start up, if you can deliver in each of these fields you will build a business that is financially viable, is relevant and resonant to people and is delivering impact on the world. And if you do it in this order, with social, cultural and for-profit principles as core to your approach, rather than setting the profit, people and planet as a set of goals, then wondering how you can balance them, you’re more likely to satisfy your triple bottom line.
The challenge is, most organizations start life in one of the three worlds, then build vertically, isolating their thinking. Their world becomes a silo. Try hard not to do this. Living in a silo you’ll risk not seeing, hearing, experiencing or learning from what goes on or is created in the sectors you don’t occupy. A silo is a thought pigeonhole. And the only thing you’re guaranteed to find in a pigeonhole is pigeon poop.
The good news is, because so few look outside their own world, if you dare to extend yourself, you’ll stand a better chance of creating an innovative, distinctive, defensible enterprise – and steal a march on your competition.
Have a think about the business, enterprise or ambition you’re nurturing, and ask yourself (then tell us!) how you might learn from worlds outside your own.
Next week we’ll be back to share with you how we act on our own advice to build our business.
Cheerio from London. See you in a bit.
To be successful, a business needs to do what for-profit, social and cultural businesses do best. Tweet This Quote