As counterintuitive as it may sound, you can run a very successful business by working to help others rather than working to help yourself. If you’ve seemingly hit a plateau, this could be the way to take your business to the next level. You can do well by doing good. Focus on doing good deeds and greater success will await you on the other side.
Take The Hippocratic Oath
Some of you are already familiar with the Hippocratic Oath that is taken by all doctors. “Above all, do no harm” is probably the best known line from this oath, reminding doctors that the health and wellbeing of their patients should always come first. They need to work in the best interests of their patients and this kind of philosophy easily extends well beyond the realm of medicine.
Whether you’re an accountant, lawyer, chef, or even a freelance writer like me, you should keep your morals and ethics in check. You do not have to take a formal oath like our physicians, but you must consider the ramifications of your business practices. In considering a tactic for expanding your business, think about the effects that this tactic may have on the environment, on your co-workers, and on society at large. Are you, above all, doing no harm?
While you may be led to believe otherwise, success is not necessarily a zero-sum game. In order for you to find success, you do not need necessarily to harm those around you. Instead, we can all work toward mutual benefit.
Thinking of Others Before the Bottom Line
And this is where you my find your greatest challenge. It’s far too easy to let your ambition get the best of you, pushing your priorities toward complete and utter greed. There is nothing wrong with striving for success, since we should all aim to be the best at what we do, but it’s also important to think of others along the way. What impact are you having on the world? Are you making a (positive) difference?
A good example of this would be a restaurant that only serves fair trade coffee. Compared to conventional coffee, fair trade coffee can add substantial costs to the business and this can cut directly into the restaurant’s bottom line. If profit came first, you’d want the cheapest coffee possible, casting aside any concerns for the wellbeing of the farmers who supply the beans.
This can be a seemingly small step, but a growing demographic in the marketplace is starting to recognize the importance of fair trade (and other similar practices). These customers may come to prefer your restaurant over the one down the street, because “the other guy” isn’t paying attention to such issues. Saying you care is one thing. Doing something about it is another matter altogether.
Beyond Corporate Responsibility
Yes, you want to ensure the success of your business and you want to keep the viability of your company in mind. You have an obligation to yourself, your family, and anyone else associated with your company. But you also have an obligation to the society around you.
Be a good corporate citizen, taking on a holistic view of the effects that your practices and tactics exert on both your bottom line and the “bottom line” of the world at large. In doing so, you may not enjoy enormous profitability early on, but in time, you may find even greater success by doing good first.