More than 5 million American businesses earn less than $5 million annually in gross revenues. These businesses account for more than 40 percent of the Gross National Product, yet they have largely been ignored in federal government’s stimulus and financial reform efforts.
How are today’s businesses to survive and thrive at a time when the economy remains shaky at best and growth continues to stagnate? The answer is Conscious Business Development, also known as Triple Bottom-line (3BL) or Conscious Capitalism.
Conscious business is defined by Wikipedia as “expanding the traditional business framework to take into account ecological and social performance in addition to financial performance.” This is a new way of doing business that is good for people, profits and the planet. It’s about building wealth, in the sense, whole wealth – something that you’re deeply passionate about, you care about, that you want to do the rest of your life.
As a veteran entrepreneur of 25 years, I’ve witnessed a shift happening in small business today. People are realizing that they can actually make money doing what they love, doing it with integrity, and creating a life they love. And it is not just a feel good fad. The Conscious Capitalism Institute (CCI) has found that businesses that adopt this model outperform the S&P 500 long term.
This movement is emerging at a critical moment when untold numbers of workers are starting their own businesses after losing corporate jobs during the recession. Supporting the success of these new entrepreneurs is critical given the findings of a new study by The Kauffman Foundation titled “The Importance of Startups in Job Creation and Job Destruction” (http://www.kauffman.org/uploadedFiles/firm_formation_importance_of_startups.pdf). It found that startups are responsible for virtually all growth in the U.S. economy over the past three decades.
So how can business owners tell if they are aligned with the conscious business model? Here are a few guideposts.
- Stakeholders – How decisions are made is critical. When making critical business decisions do you choose the cheapest route or highest short term ROI? Or do you engage with your customers, vendors, employees and investors to make a decision that serves them all the best you can?
- Impact – A conscious business helps to solve a need/problem for a customer. A positive impact is not limited to charitable contributions or social entrepreneurship. Do you and your stakeholders support causes that are larger than your products or services?
- Connection – Is there separation in the way you behave in your business versus in your life?
Being 100 percent aligned with your business and how it behaves is the true measure of a conscious business, walking the talk always in your life, in business and in public.
Image credit: David Foster
EDITOR’S NOTE: Correction made to the link to the study from the Kauffman Foundation, 29 July 2010.