How a World-Class Research Firm Found its Big ‘Aha’ in Becoming a Force for Good

From left to right: Joy Bell, Danette Parsley, Jennifer Norford

From left to right: Joy Bell, Danette Parsley, Jennifer Norford

When Marzano Research decided to become an Oregon Benefit Company, they knew that a Triple Bottom Line approach to business was the only way for them. After all, they believe that a business must go beyond just making profit to be of value in the eyes of their employees, their clients and their communities.

Recently they felt the time was right to certify those beliefs and practices of serving People, Planet and Profit through Benefit Corporations for Good.

We interviewed Marzano CEO Danette Parsley about becoming a certified Oregon Benefit Company. Here’s what she had to say about it, her motivation for doing it and why it was right for her business.

1.  What motivated you to become a Benefit Company?

It’s really important to us that we run our company in a people- and purpose-centered way, applying values and principles that are traditionally associated (in theory, not necessarily practice) with running a nonprofit organization. Becoming a Benefit Company allows us to formally signal to employees, clients, partners, and the community that we are dedicated to and willing to be held accountable for the Triple Bottom Line.

2.  Was it difficult getting internal support for embracing this model?

We (the executive team/owners) knew from the beginning that we wanted to be a benefit company – we had researched the options when we started talking about forming our company. So, we elected benefit company when we registered the company in the State of Oregon. We have found that the model really resonates with our colleagues and they are excited to help the company continue evolving in that direction.

3. How long did it take you to officially become a Benefit Company?

For the certification process, we reviewed the options available to us as a new company and chose Benefit Corporations for Good (BCFG) because we thought it was a good fit for us and where we were as a company. We dedicated a few hours of uninterrupted time to work through the assessment together. We used the time to take stock of where we are and discuss areas where we want to strengthen our efforts. After completing the assessment, we spent about 30 minutes on a call getting feedback from BCFG, which was another valuable component of the process.

4. Have you seen any change in culture since you became a Benefit Company?

It’s too early to gauge. It has definitely influenced our decision-making on many fronts – from setting up employee benefits to planning for paperless systems.

5. Have you experienced any positive outcomes since becoming a Benefit Company?

In addition to generating internal excitement, we have had a really positive response from industry peers and partners.

6. Would you recommend this business model to others? Why or why not?

Absolutely! Just this weekend I was talking with an industry colleague who was thinking about starting a new business as a nonprofit to send the “right” signal to education clients and stakeholders, even though she didn’t think nonprofit was the right fit. I suggested looking into establishing a benefit company as an alternative structure. I think it’s really important to dispel the myth that for-profit companies are inherently bad, and nonprofits are inherently good. What really matters are the principles underlying the way the organization is run and how it conducts its work.

7. What is the most important trait to have as a conscientious leader of a Benefit Company?

I think the interrelated traits of humility and an improvement-oriented mindset are really important. When it comes to striving for Triple Bottom Line outcomes, you never really arrive at a final destination. Rather, it’s an ongoing process of purposeful experimentation and continuous improvement. We recognize that we will make some mistakes along the way; the key is making timely course corrections. And we recognize that brilliant ideas are more likely to emerge from engaging the collective rather than originating from the top.

8. What lessons have you learned in the process?

Even as a new, small company, you can choose the path of a benefit company and become certified.

9. Is being a Benefit Company part of your current brand message?

We are in the beginning stages of (re)branding, so being a Benefit Company will definitely be an important part of our messaging moving forward.

10. What is the single best reason you'd give for another company or peer to become a Benefit Company?

It helps signal and provide common language for companies committed to decisions and actions intended to achieve a much more expansive notion of positive impact and sustainability – for the good of employees, clients/stakeholders, community, and the environment.

You can learn more about Marzano Research here.

If you want to know more about why your business should become a benefit corporation, watch this. If you want to understand the 6 simple steps to becoming an Oregon Benefit Company, go here.