If you look at mission and vision statements for various organizations, plenty of them seem to pay some sort of lip service to deeper values than making money for shareholders, but how many of them really carry out their mission? Is it possible to pursue entrepreneurship within an ethical framework and make a difference in the world? The answer is yes, absolutely, but it does require a somewhat different approach than the usual one.
Identify Your Values
The first step is to identify your values. You may be surprised to realize that it can be difficult to separate what is truly important to you from what others tell you is important. Take some time to consider this carefully. Maybe it is helping others achieve their potential. Maybe it is being a good steward to the earth or supporting education or making sure that everyone has access to food and a roof over their head. Make a list of everything that matters most to you. You won't be trying to fulfill every single value on your list, but having several options to work with will make this process easier.
Align Values and Company Aims
There are two key things that you need to do here. One, you must choose a value that is in alignment with the aims of your company. Two, you need to focus. One mistake that organizations often make is trying to be all things to all people. You don't have to and you can't solve all the problems in the world. Furthermore, even if you choose a value that you are very passionate about, this is not sufficient for business success. The question to ask yourself is what you can provide to your customer base that is in line with the values that you have stated. If protecting the environment is important to you and you are creating a construction, renovation, or landscaping company, you can focus on sustainability in your methods and creations. Create a mission statement that reflects what your business will do in the context of those values, and use it as a guiding principle.
Start Your Business
Many aspects of building a new business are the same whether or not the one you are working to create is values-driven. You still need to create a business plan, think about how to market your product or service, and find ways to fund your business. You also need to think about contingency planning, considering some of the most likely problems or even catastrophes that you may face and how you will respond. You can find a number of models online for creating a business plan depending on how detailed you need for it to be. For marketing ideas, take a look at your competition and consider how you will position yourself as different from them. Look at your potential clients or customers as well, both online and offline if appropriate, and think about the best way to reach them.
Finally, examine ways to fund your business. Even if you don't have access to investors or loans, you may be able to self-fund your business, especially if you keep your current job to start with. You can reduce your expenses in a number of ways, starting with making a budget and looking at where you may be spending more than you realize. Another way to cut monthly expenses may be to consolidate your student loans. Reviewing a guide on what you need to know about student loan consolidation can help you decide if this is right for you. For credit card debt, see if you can move the balance onto a lower-interest card.
Transparency with your employees and your customers is vital. A regular corporate responsibility report can review your efforts to live up to your mission statement and run a socially responsible company. You can post this on your website or share it with your customers in other ways, such as by newsletter, as well as sharing it with your staff. You can also be upfront about the areas where you need to improve along with a plan for improvement.
Responsibility Within the Workplace
A mistake some companies make is having an outwardly socially responsible image but internal problems, such as treating employees poorly. While it is true that you cannot be all things to all people, it is imperative that your company operate within an overall ethical framework. You will need to think ahead of time about what this means to you, and it may be more complicated than you initially imagine as simply offering a good wage and benefits. How will you handle employee conflicts or dissatisfaction? How do you feel about employees unionizing? How much say do you want employees to have about the company's direction? Try to be transparent about your answers to these questions before conflicts arise so that even if someone is unhappy with your stance, you have been clear and consistent from the start.
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