Does Your Business Have a Soul? Here's How To Tell...

Photo by  Oliver Cole

Photo by Oliver Cole

Why the Benefit Corporation Is So Right for the Times

I’ve been around.  And I have many chapters in my life to prove it.

An executive at several major healthcare organizations, an ED at a nonprofit agency, a lead strategist at a branding agency, a coach and a consultant for many local and national government agencies, and an entrepreneur launching two start-up companies.   

AIong the way, I’ve worked in a multitude of capacities, partnering with many public and private organizations with Boards and top management. And it’s been very rewarding.

But I’ve also been deeply disappointed and frustrated with the elephant in the room. Which, of course, is the EGO at the top, wanting control and more times than not, getting in the way of serving.

Now don’t get me wrong. There are companies, businesses, and organizations I’ve run across with bright spots and feature some truly enlightened, authentic managers and leaders.  But sometimes these are the same ones whose hands are tied when the culture does not support conscientious leadership.

Truth be told, I’ve been guilty on occasion of wanting control, insisting my opinion is right. Yet we know and research underscores it that the sum is greater than any one part. The best solutions often come from collaboration and letting go of ego.

So, I submit to you that it’s time for a fresh way of looking at leadership beyond the MBA. New leadership attributes are emerging as a better way to run a business embodied in the core philosophy of Benefit Corporations. These qualities maximize community good while serving customers and clients and at the same time, making a profit.

It’s called the “triple bottom line” with reference to “people, planet, profit.”  But what does this philosophy mean in practice. It’s an approach or call it doctrine, based on actualizing conscientious leadership, or to put it bluntly, “Putting Soul into Business.”

As the only Oregon-based third-party certifier of Benefit Companies,,  we meet businesses every day. And in our process of certification we are encouraged and inspired by entrepreneurs and businesses who embody these new leadership traits that drive what I call, “The Social Sharing Economy.” These forward-thinking leaders:

1.       Think differently from traditional American business leaders

2.       Lead from a different set of attitudes and beliefs, and as a result,

3.       Act and behave differently.

What this means is that the conscientious leaders of Benefit Companies don’t just decide to start programs that support people, planet and profit. Rather, they begin with truths discovered and embraced from their own personal beliefs.

These truths they reflect and practice include:

·         Authenticity

·         Transparency

·         Diversity/Equity

·         Simplicity

·         Humility vs Ego

·         Kindness

·         Sustainability

·         Purpose or cause-driven

·         Stewardship

We’ve been honored to meet leaders who live and breathe these principles. Angela and David Anderson from Canvas Host, Kim Flick from Mighty Ephiphyte, David Cascadden from Left Coast Raw, Erik Croswell and Ryan Menacho of Bridge City Media, Lori Gaffney from BPN, and all the Benefit Company and B Corps leaders featured in our book Putting Soul Into Business:

  •  Shannon Keith, Sudara Inc.
  • Hussein Al-Baity, The Printory
  • Jaime Athos, Tofurky
  • David Simnick, Soapbox Soaps
  • Augusto Carniero, Nossa Familia Coffee
  • Sarah Joannides, formerly of New Seasons Market
  • Christian Ettinger, Hopworks Urban Brewery
  • Amy Prosenjak, A to Z Wineworks
  • Jon Blumenauer, The Joinery
  • Mac Prichard, Prichard Communications
  • Diane Henkels, Henkels Law

Isn’t it time to create a better business model – one that reflects a new set of conscientiousness?

Here’s to applauding the Benefit Corporation and promising the hope for “Putting Soul into Business.”   Join the movement.