On the Drawing Board: How to Build a Purpose-driven Business

I’m creating a guide to starting a purpose-driven business.  This guide is aimed at you, the entrepreneur or small business owner.  You can help shape it by:

  1. Sharing what worked for you and other suggestions you have to entrepreneurs in the early phases of company building.  I can feature you by name or anonymously.  Email me here.
  2. Telling me what else you need to know that should be included in the guide.  Some of my upcoming interviews will focus on several of the topics below, so if you have questions, I can dig deep to get you answers.  Email me here.

Here’s the outline:

1. Why?

  • Why create a purpose-driven business
  • Why small businesses, in particular, can build successful purpose-driven companies

2. What your business can provide (beyond social impact)

3. Mission statement

  • How to write a mission statement
  • Why you should share it and why it should alienate some people

4. Get support

  • From the community. Suggested communities to join
  • From advisors. How to find and leverage the right people

5. Tax standing and legal status (L3C or not?)

6. Start small, be focused

7. Build purpose into every element of your business. Possible tools:

  • Cause Marketing
  • Employee Volunteer Programs
  • Corporate Giving
  • Board Leadership
  • Socially Responsible Investing
  • Employee Stock Ownership Plan
  • Supply Chain
  • Facilities
  • Employee Matching Gifts Programs
  • e-Commerce Philanthropy Platforms

8. Create outstanding partnerships

  • Who to choose, how to ask, how to work together, what to expect

9. Transparency--what it really means, how to create it, why it should scare you

10. Market

  • Market your company using a guerilla approach and The Gort Cloud
  • Market yourself (or founding colleague) as an expert in your field
  • Unique marketing ammo

11. Keep costs low and pay attention to the numbers; who can help you

12. Measure & evaluate

  • Why to measure
  • How to measure
  • What to do about the results
  • CSR reports

13. Should you become certified (B Corp, LEED, etc.)?

14. Find Funding— for businesses with lower return on investment and higher ‘return on integrity’

15. Peer support–not everyone understands or likes business with a social component or social programs with a financial component.  The normal confusion or qualms, what other social entrepreneurs experience and how they deal with it.

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  1. Corey Grusden April 20, 2010 at 8:22 pm #

    Wow. I like the outline already… made me rethink a few things while reading it… awesome.

  2. admin April 21, 2010 at 9:43 am #

    Corey, I’m glad. If you have anything to add in the next 3 weeks, drop me a note. Glad even the outline can inspire deeper or newer thinking. Keep building, keep bettering.

  3. Russ April 21, 2010 at 4:02 pm #

    For myself the first, and most important, step in developing your purpose is to discover/find what you are passionate about. Really passionate. Not mildly interested, not something you think you can make money at, not what your parents and/or peers think you would be good at, but what you are passionate about in your life.

    Your business is an extension of yourself. Developing a business from this perspective can sometime seem every scary because in a very real way you are presenting yourself to the world. However, for me, it is the best way to go. Not the easiest maybe but the best.

    Passion is what will draw you through the challenges of staring out where you’re putting immense amounts of energy in and not seeing a whole lot of results. Passion is what will cause you to wake up every morning excited to go to work for the day. Passion is what changes “work” into … well passion.

    That one aspect is what has caused the success The Healing Center and motivates me to always search and desire more and better.

  4. admin April 21, 2010 at 4:42 pm #

    Russ, absolutely. Thanks for brining up this aspect. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes harder to connect with our passions than it seems it should be. I’m glad you’ve found your passion and have built it up into a business that affects others. Thanks for the comment.

  5. Steve July 18, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

    Great blog. I just launched a startup & appreciate the perspectives & insights. Certainly, authenticity is paramount. What I’m wrestling with is, how much? Each situation is unique; however, I’m interested in some guidelines or examples. To me, a percent of profit is not transparent enough (for obvious acctg reasons), so I am leaning toward a percentage of sales. Specifically, is 5% enough (to walk the walk) or is 10% too much (to sustain the business)?

    My plan is to align with local organizations & focus on the local community. I had cancer last year, but no longer, & feel compelled to spend the remainder of my life building a sustainable “give-engine”. You talk about passion & alignment. Cancer is certainly relevant to my situation, but I didn’t come out of this with a passion to help those with cancer, or cure cancer exclusive of any other social needs – but it is one that is important to me. What I did come away with is, OK – I’m healthy again, grateful & blessed, so now what am I going to do with my life. Help others.

    So can anyone provide some advice/experience regarding what percentage is significant financially? Something that moves the needle, without hampering healthy growth. Thanks!