I’ve long held the belief that if you want to create massive change, you do so through business. As my cynicism towards the government has only increased over the past year, a positive realization for me has been working with incredible individuals and companies who are using the realm of business to do amazing things and generate immense impact.
What I’ve learned is that for-profit businesses have the ability to move much more efficiently than government, scale more effectively than non-profits, and create ripple effect opportunities for others.
Business in Action
I recently interviewed Chris Mann, CEO and Chairman of the Gourd at Guayaki. This is an incredible company with an incredible (and tasty) product. You may have seen it at your local grocery store. If you live in Austin, walk into Whole Foods and I can promise you’ll find a cult-like following who swear by its taste and effectiveness.
While, yes, the product is fantastic, what drew me in the most about the company was the impact it’s having on a massive scale.
Their BHAG, or “Big Hairy Audacious Goal”, is to restore 200,000 acres of the rainforest and provide 1,000 living-wage jobs by 2020. They are likely to hit that goal by the end of this year. And oh yeah, they’ll also likely do about $75MM in revenue in the process.
Because of this mission statement acting as their north star, it’s impacted every decision in their business from their hiring, who they allow to invest in their company, their distribution partners, etc.
I particularly liked this interview because it helped shape my own beliefs about how companies can create big-value impact and I’ve deduced it into three camps, or what I like to call the “3 C’s.”
Companies that create big impact care about their people.
Take care of your employees. Businesses are an incredible way to groom and mold people, to put them in unfamiliar situations to help hone their skills and turn them into leaders. If someone can lead in their workplace, they can lead as a parent, a spouse, and in their community.
There used to be a phrase I would hear at my local church regarding the internship program: we don’t have people to get work done, we have work to get people done.
Essentially, work is used as a way to help shape and develop people.
The goal of any company that desires to create an impact is to use business as the vehicle for changing people’s lives. This starts internally.
Companies that make an impact care about their customers. These companies provide the best service because they know their business is an extension of serving others. This can often times get convoluted the bigger a company gets, but the most successful companies have a hyper-focus on caring for its customers and providing value.
This was a quote from Jeff Bezos on the success of Amazon, a company world-renowned for its customer service:
“If you want to get to the truth about what makes us different, it’s this: We are genuinely customer-centric, we are genuinely long-term oriented and we genuinely like to invent. Most companies are not those things. They are focused on the competitor, rather than the customer. They want to work on things that will pay dividends in two or three years, and if they don’t work in two or three years they will move on to something else. And they prefer to be close-followers rather than inventors, because it’s safer. So if you want to capture the truth about Amazon, that is why we are different. Very few companies have all of those three elements.” – The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
Ultimately, revenue is a by-product of the value a company provides for the market; not the other way around. Big-impact companies understand this principle and continue to create new ways to engage its customer base.
Companies that make an impact care about their community. In the case of Guayaki, their mission to restore the rainforest and provide jobs to South American yerba mate farmers (known as cebadors) has led to over 1000 jobs created in developing countries.
“Growing up, we always heard ‘money does not grow on trees.’ Well, today we are proving that ‘money does grow on trees’ and rainforest-grown yerba mate is the new green currency. It provides the peoples of the rainforest with income as well as the ability to steward their land.” — Chris Mann
Companies that create big-impact don’t focus on revenue being the end-all, be-all; revenue serves to perpetuate the positive impact a business can have. That means employing more folks, providing more jobs, giving people the opportunity to put food on the table, excel in life, and learn greater skill sets.
The capacity for a company to care layers into all three of these categories, and businesses that understand this model ultimately continue to grow. It’s why I’m so passionate about entrepreneurship and the ability companies have when the purpose and mission are in alignment with their product and services.
I encourage you to think through your business and specifically think about the impact you can have across each of these three levels. It’s a good way to begin laying the foundations of a company that’s built for more.