Doing social good through your business, i.e. being a socially responsible business owner, is FABULOUS.
However, if you aren't being EFFECTIVE with your Social Responsibility efforts, you are wasting your time.
Now, before I continue, I'm expecting that a few of you may have just gasped. Or you may think, wow, that's harsh, or what the heck, has Tanya lost her mind?
No, I haven't. Promise. Stick with me for a moment.
I've learned that if I don't make big, bold statements, then my voice may not be heard. And I genuinely believe that what I'm saying is worth hearing.
Why? Because, just like you, I want to help make a difference. To help make the world around us better. And I want to do it through my business, not just as an individual. But even more, I want to inspire thousands of Small Business Owners to do more through their businesses.
Why In The World Would I Say That Doing Good Is Wasting Your Time?
I may have left off one small phrase at the end to grab your attention. So now that I have your attention let me say the complete sentence.
If you aren't being EFFECTIVE with your Social Responsibility efforts, you are wasting your time AS A VERY BUSY SMALL BUSINESS OWNER.
Doing good is never a waste of time. However, if you are doing it as PART OF YOUR BUSINESS, it needs to and should CONNECT TO YOUR BUSINESS. Otherwise, frankly, you have enough to do already. You can volunteer, donate, or make other contributions on your own time.
Doing Good is Good Business ONLY if it is EFFECTIVE.
But let's step back for a moment.
What Exactly Do I Mean By “Effective Social Responsibility”?
By this point, you have probably realized that I love a good definition. I own at least four dictionaries (yes, still printed hardback versions), have an app on my phone, and a desktop link to Merriam-Webster's website. I love to refer to the formal definition of a word. And sometimes to consider the connotation of a word. It always entertains me when they differ.
So for the sake of this discussion, what does effective mean?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, effective means producing a decided, decisive, or desired effect.
As a reminder, Social Responsibility is the concept that a business can be both profitable and contribute to the greater good.
Small Business Social Responsibility, as I defined it for Small Actions Greater Good, is a commitment to contribute to the greater good by efficiently acting as or making changes to your small business that improves the world around you while also effectively contributing to your small business growth.
Notice the two components to that definition: 1) contributing to the greater good AND 2) contributing to your business.
Everyone gets the first part – doing something that helps to make a difference. But VERY FEW people take the time to consider and plan how their efforts can also benefit their business.
I want your efforts to be effective – to produce a decided, decisive, or desired effect – both in the good you do and the benefits to your business.
Sometimes it's easier to understand a concept with a story.
I met a Small Business Owner, we'll call her Susan, at a conference in 2020. We started sharing business stories, and before long, she told me about her experience with social responsibility.
Susan owns a computer repair store. They have a physical location where clients bring laptops, desktops, and tablets for software support, hardware repair, personal training, and more. They also order and build custom equipment for companies that want specific configurations and support without having an IT department of their own. She employs ten people on average, has an established client list that keeps them busy, and has successfully operated for 15 years.
She's planned one social responsibility event each year. However, she's disheartened because she's passionate about their cause, but it feels like more work than it's worth.
What are they doing?
They volunteer as a company to build houses for one weekend per year (with a similar program to Habitat for Humanity).
First impression – Awesome! Susan and her team were personally making a difference for people in need.
But from Susan's description, it was not awesome. It turns out that she has to beg and plead and pretty much bribe her staff to attend. They aren't happy about being there. They get the job done and momentarily feel proud of their efforts, but the feeling is fleeting, and everyone starts the week the following week more exhausted than before.
Yes, it contributes to the greater good. But does this contribute to Susan's business in any meaningful way? No.
So is this an EFFECTIVE effort? NO!
How to Make Your Actions Effective
For your social responsibility efforts to be effective, they need to connect to and benefit your business.
To make your efforts more effective, ask yourself, how do your efforts connect to your business directly, and how do they connect with any of the potential benefits of social responsibility?
For example, if we look closer at Susan's activity:
- Does this effort connect with her employees? Not at all! They don't even want to attend.
- Does the effort connect with her customers/clients? Unknown. She's never even shared her efforts with them before.
- Does this effort connect to her brand? Doubtful. Her business didn't seem to connect to building homes, although I didn't learn her values or mission.
- Does this effort connect to her community? Nope! The organization is not even within her community.
It's apparent quickly that this is NOT an effective effort for Susan. And I told her that.
She was pretty shocked at first. Probably a bit offended I didn't gush over her goodwill.
I clarified that the idea and the intent were fabulous. That I had no doubt they had helped a lot of families. But to make her efforts EFFECTIVE, she needed to connect them better to her business or pick something else.
Did she make the change? I wish I knew. We had this discussion while waiting for a keynote address to start, and we both had to rush out at the end to make a different session. I didn't catch her for the rest of the conference. I'm hoping that she heard me.
Don't Be Susan
Are you doing great things to contribute to the greater good, but not sure they connect to your business? Or do you think you could connect your efforts even more?
Don't continue to make mistakes or wonder.
Don't be Susan.
Make sure that doing good IS good business for YOU.
Learn the details about how to make your Social Responsibility efforts easier and more effective by implementing the Small Actions Framework, a unique approach to Small Business Social Responsibility.
About This Content
This article is part 7 of an 8-part series that introduces foundational concepts about Small Business Social Responsibility, Small Actions Greater Good, and the Small Actions Framework. Links to these articles are provided below.
- What is Small Business Social Responsibility?
- What is the Small Actions Framework? (A Unique Social Responsibility Approach for Small Businesses)
- How Can You Do Good as a Small Business? (Categories of Social Responsibility)
- Why Should Businesses Be Socially Responsible? (Or More Specifically Small Businesses)
- What Are the Potential Benefits of Social Responsibility?
- What’s Holding You Back? (Social Responsibility in Small Business)
- (This Article) Doing Good is Good Business (IF You Do It Effectively)
- Levels of Social Responsibility (How Socially Responsible is Your Small Business?)
As an alternative to reading each of the blogs separately, you sign up for a free 8-part email series, An Introduction to Social Responsibility for Small Business Owners, which includes most of the content from these 8 blogs.