Let's change what "good business" means

WRITTEN BY DAN SALVA

"It's just good business."

I've heard this old saw for years. These days, I think more and more that we need to redefine what this means.

Who wants to be "adequate"?

It's a funny thing when people say, "It's just good business." I don't think they mean it's the most optimal thing to do for the business. More often than not, it means the numbers are in the right rows. The columns add up.

Don't get me wrong. Being fiscally responsible is critically important. I've been a co-owner of a business for over two decades. I have some experience with this. But too often, we miss exploring the full potential of what we could accomplish by hiding behind this excuse of fiscal responsibility.

The danger here is that this type of "It's just good business" thinking pretty much guarantees adequate results.

Is that what we really want to be? Adequate?

Don't answer that. Consider this first. By limiting ourselves, we may actually be exposing our business to more risk than what we were originally trying to avoid!

That doesn't even sound adequate. 

Putting the "good" back in good business

I'm not advocating that we forget everything that "good business" connotes today. No, we need sound and rational decisions. Otherwise we'll end up with another situation like the dot com bust at the turn of the century (anybody remember pets.com or eToys.com?) We need responsible practices. It's just that "good business" holds the potential to help us do so much more.

Imagine not only adhering to responsible business practices, but also embracing a larger purpose. Imagine a well-run business that also helps make a difference in lives, a community, or even the world (a Big Audacious Meaning as I call it.) This is not an either/or proposition. It's a belief that we can do good while we do well. 

This isn't pie-in-the-sky theory. Companies like Kind, Unilever, and Warby Parker are proving that this is a business acceleration strategy. Of course, that's not the sole reason they adopt this strategy (that would be exploitative - and, quite honestly, would backfire.) The genius is that they realize this isn't a zero-sum game. You can create good and create profit at the same time.

That can be a seemingly risky and even scary thing for those of us steeped in the old definition of "good business". Then again, retreating to the past isn't an optimal answer. 

So let's take a relatively risk-free first step. Let's clarify the profound purpose that defines why the organization exists. Let's find that difference we can make for those we serve. I guarantee that, once we do, we'll begin to see exactly what  "good business" could mean for all of us.

 

Dan Salva is a co-founder of Will & Grail, with more than three decades of experience in brand marketing and developing and implementing go-to-market strategies. He can be reached at dsalva@willgrail.com.