For a mission-driven business, success goes beyond profitability. The financial bottom line still matters for a triple-bottom-line enterprise — your business can’t achieve your mission if you don’t have a margin. However, success can (and should) have a broader meaning for businesses looking to generate impact alongside financial return. Success can mean bringing jobs with dignity to a community in need, creating amazing products that reduce waste or protect natural resources, or making it easier for your customers to access healthcare or education. So how do you achieve success when it involves so much more than your balance sheet?
At B Lab, we’ve been lucky enough to work with over 2,000 thriving purpose-driven companies in the community of Certified B Corporations. Here’s what we’ve seen they have in common that makes them not just the best companies in the world, but the best companies for the world.
1. Measured performance
To be a successful purpose-driven business, you need more than a mission statement; you need measurement. Finding relevant performance indicators and metrics for your business does more than help envision what success looks like. Measuring your impact is the first step to being able to manage it effectively. By benchmarking your performance against a meaningful standard, you can track your business’s progress over time and see if you’re reaching your potential. Without anything to measure against, it’s hard to tell if your business is achieving your purpose.
If you wouldn’t run your business without keeping track of your revenues and expenses, you shouldn’t run your business without measuring your impact either.
The life of an entrepreneur is unpredictable. The next six months could bring an influx of new investors — or a major downturn in the economy. Whether you’re celebrating good news or bad, big changes can have big effects on your mission. If you don’t build accountability into the legal structure of your business, then new investors, leadership or circumstances can make it tough to stick to the purpose you founded your company on — or push you to abandon it in favor of short-term financial gains.
More and more companies are using legal tools like the benefit corporation to bake their purpose into their legal DNA, giving it as much weight as shareholder returns in decision-making. For businesses focused on long-term impact, creating accountability mechanisms is key to protecting their mission.
Don’t keep all the amazing work you’re doing to yourself. Transparency about your company’s impact — both your strengths and areas you could improve — builds trust between your business and the stakeholders that matter most. Potential customers want to know that your company is doing more than greenwashing as a marketing strategy. Your community wants to support businesses that care about their local economy. Mission-driven talent is looking to work for a business that walks the talk.
Being transparent about your company’s impact might feel scary, but the risk will more than pay off by differentiating you from the competition and building the strong relationships that will carry your business into the future.
Jay Coen Gilbert, Co-Founder, B Lab, [email protected]