This year as I update my business plan and set goals for 2011, I want to incorporate some of the principles that small businesses sometimes overlook. These are the principles that larger corporations use and by which we measure their success as good corporate citizens. As a web content writer, newsletter creator, white paper whiz, content curator, and communications consultant my business is small but the principles of corporate citizenship still apply.
Good corporate citizens adhere to the principles of “doing good, going green, coming clean.” How can my small businesses apply these principles and how can I measure their success? Some of my thoughts were inspired by an article by Jennifer Waller, “Social responsibility comes clean,” p48, Communication World, Sept-Oct 2009.
Doing Good – It’s more than helping the little old lady across the street.
It’s just a few days before Christmas, and it’s the season for giving. We can give in a variety of ways to our families, our friends, our peers and our community.
In the past, it was enough to give to charity on behalf of your business. Most charities rely on corporate donations and are thankful for their support. Company-sponsored benefit events make a huge difference to charities of all sorts. I firmly believe that a big part of being a good corporate citizen is giving. My company gives to the St. Andrew’s Food Cupboard in Brampton, Ontario. How much I give in 2011 will be determined by my total sales for the year. My business plan identifies the percentage that I will give.
There are other ways of giving – it doesn’t always have to be cash. In looking at my business plan and setting goals for 2011 I am looking at how I will budget my volunteer time, for mentoring and giving back to my community. Will it be continuing to serve as an ambassador for the Brampton Board of Trade, delivering seminars at the Small Business Enterprise Centre, acting as a judge for the Brampton Outstanding Business Achievement Awards, serving as Meeting Coordinator for the Halton Peel Communications Association? What other things can I do that will make a difference in my community?
How do you decide on what and how to give? I try to look at what principles are important to me and align them with my business goals.
How does your business do good? How do you measure the “goodness”
Going Green – seeking new opportunities
The carbon footprint of my business is proportional to the size of my business. In 2011 I will be looking for new ways to decrease my impact on the environment. With the assistance of grants from the governments of Canada and Ontario, improvements to the “physical plant” have significantly reduced hydro, natural gas and water consumption thanks to
- improved insulation
- new doors and windows
- improved heating and cooling systems
- low water usage plumbing.
In 2010, the business use of my vehicle changed. I now use public transit to get to meetings and seminars in Toronto instead of driving my own car. I now use Skype for conference calls whenever possible. When I have a request for a face-to-face meeting I consider, my time and my gas consumption before agreeing to attend. Commuting to meetings is a dreadful waste of time and gas. (But, if there is a free lunch involved at a really nice restaurant, well…!)
I have calculated my business mileage for the 2010 and hope to reduce that amount by 2% for 2011.
Saving trees and ink by printing less
My analysis shows that I have used 50% less paper and 30% fewer ink cartridges in 2010 over 2009. When I had only one monitor, I used to print reference and instruction pages. Now I just move the images of those pages to a second monitor and carry on. Of course, when I do print, I print on both sides of the paper. It may be an age-related issue, but I am getting better at reading long documents on the computer screen instead of printing! Maybe it’s time for an e-reader of some sort. Santa, are you listening?
I keep the blinds in my office open and thrive on the daylight. The ceiling fixture has new energy efficient bulbs, as do all the lights in the building.
At my request, the cleaning staff (the always reliable Doris) now uses phosphorous-free, scent-free products. Good for the environment and no more sneezing! It’s great.
As a small business what are you doing to reduce your impact on the environment and how are you measuring your success?
Coming Clean – the transparent part of your business
As an unincorporated, private company, there are no legal requirements for me to publish year-end results to shareholders. As a sole proprietor, I am accountable to me, myself and I and Revenue Canada. When there is a problem, I only need to look in the mirror to find the cause. But most of the time I seek solutions from other professionals with complimentary skills to my own.
I believe it is important to be upfront about my agenda, my goals and my successes. In 2011 I plan to set up a team of advisors to act as my unofficial board of directors. I hope these hand-picked colleagues and friends will act as my sounding board to help me follow through with my plan. I will share my goals and my strategies for achieving those goals. I hope they’ll push (inspire, cajole, and encourage) me to keep focused and on track and hold me accountable. Sometimes its that extra push that home-alone workers need.
There are other ways for businesses to be transparent. One of the key ways is by sharing information on Facebook and LinkedIn. Although I consciously set personal limits on the types of things that I discuss on these sites I recognize the need to be open and to share thoughts, experiences and convictions that I might not otherwise discuss with business associates.
So that’s part of my plan for 2011 – do good, go green and come clean. The part about getting and servicing clients is a topic for another day.
What are you planning for next year? What are your goals for 2011? How will you measure your success?
Merry Christmas to all. Wishing you a happy holiday and a good, green and clean 2011.