Blog

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by Becky Holt, Calypso Communications

The concept behind Just One Thing seeks to motivate businesses, with stories from their peers, to carry out one sustainability initiative - that one attainable idea that creates shared value, whether it benefits your employees, the community or the environment.

But what if this one attainable idea, also helped grow your revenue stream? As consumers, the influencer that is so fundamental to the way we choose products and services, is also one of the most overlooked ‘tactics’ in the marketing world: having a product or service that is remarkable, or worth sharing.

Does your company strive to deliver a remarkable product or service?  Do you feel like you are pushing your product or service on the consumer or is what you offer so extraordinary that it markets itself,  being talked about and shared within your current customers’  larger networks. By “shared” I am not referring to how many ‘likes’ your company has on Facebook, or re-tweets on Twitter, I am talking about the verbal referrals we give to our friends, family and colleagues when we’ve just had a great experience.

Remarkable doesn’t happen overnight, but it can be built with small steps -  maybe a customer service initiative, or an employee program that sparks employees to spread how satisfying their work life is, or even a financial commitment for a community cause. Not only will the parties affected share their satisfaction with others, they will share it with YOU – and there is nothing wrong with feeling good about what you do.

If I could predict one marketing trend that will continue to spread it will be the one that taps into our human instinct to discover and share. Don’t push annoying banner ads on your potential customers - impress the ones you already have by doing Just One Thing at your company to prove you’re worth talking about. Your bottom line will thank you.

Becky Holt is a Public Relations Account Executive at Calypso Communications in Portsmouth.

Help foster more sustainable business in New Hampshire by sharing your sustainability story, visit our Just One Thing page to find out how!

 

By Jay Friedlander, College of the Atlantic and 2013 NHBSR Conference Keynote Speaker

A perspective that matches your potential

We are surrounded by the constant churning of enterprises rising and being destroyed. In the midst of such competitive turmoil, a fresh perspective is critical to thriving and identifying new avenues of growth.  Unfortunately, many of the strategic models used by businesses today fail to connectspiderweb.jpg
sustainability and strategy, putting blinders on management. This prevents enterprises from reaching their potential and opens them up to being eclipsed by their competitors.  The context of business is ever changing and it is time for the models to catch up.  In over a decade of working in and with sustainable companies and teaching sustainable enterprise, I have found the need for a model that reveals a new perspective, one that makes sustainability strategic. Using such a model and gaining fresh insights uncovers opportunities and unlocks innovation. The model, called a Value Web, is a framework that examines business holistically. Applying it surrounds an enterprise with an interlocking and self-reinforcing web of value, generating wins for stakeholders across all of the activities of a business. In doing so, the Value Web™ offers companies a route to a continuously improving sustainable competitive advantage.

Creative destruction is changing the competitive context
The economy marches on evolving through the agricultural, industrial, as well as the information and service ages assigning the former titans of
industry to the dustbin of history. Either change or fall prey to this cycle of creative destruction. This failure to adapt has meant that only one
company listed in 1896, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average was conceived and when commodities and agriculture reigned supreme, has
been forward-looking enough to survive – General Electric. This constant turnover has been ongoing and is only speeding up. For example, in the
last five years nearly a third of the components, nine of 30 companies, have been replaced. While the Dow tracks what is happening amongst the
largest companies in the United States, the pace of change is similar for businesses large and small.

We are entering an age where sustainable companies will reign supreme. Reams of evidence from books like Conscious Capitalism to Harvard Business Review articles and academic studies tracking stock market performance exist to say that we are in an age where sustainably focused companies are outperforming their peers. They are finding new opportunities and unlocking innovation by asking new questions and approaching business from a different perspective.

Is your company operating with blinders on?
So, how do these phenomenally successful companies come undone? In a word: perspective. A slew of companies listed on the Dow followed the path of former Dow component Eastman Kodak and that of technology companies like Blackberry. They become entrenched in what made them
successful without keeping an eye on the change coming down the road. By using the models and frameworks of the past, these companies were
operating with a limited field of vision and as a result were blindsided by more forward-thinking competitors. This begs a personal question: is your
company going to be passed by? How do you find new opportunities for the next economic age and avoid becoming irrelevant?

Making people, profits and planet strategic
Considering people, profits and planet (3P) and making prosperity for all stakeholders a priority is often quoted and used with varying degrees of
success. Some efforts are intentional, others lip service and some happy accidents. Ideally, considering 3P drives managers and executives to
create a virtuous cycle whereby each action reinforces the other. Some of the results sought by pursuing this goal are highlighted below in figure 1.

Figure 1: Benefits from pursuing 3P practices. 
triangle_0.pngHowever, as much as 3P is touted, its impact could be strengthened by applying it to all of the activities of a company, from materials acquisition
and production to marketing and sales. This is key to making sustainability strategic. To maximize the impact for all stakeholders, each of these
activities must be passed through the 3P screen. Explicitly making waste or, more accurately, unsold production part of analysis also assists
companies in identifying new sources of value. Finally, companies should also reimagine their business by closing the loop and making unsold
production an input. (Figure 2)

Figure 2: People, Profits and Planet at Every Activity

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The Value Web offers a sustainable competitive advantage
This new model helps companies look at each aspect of their operation, uncovering latent value and spurring creativity. Furthermore, because the
interwoven parts are more difficult to copy, the Value Web (Figure 3) creates competitive barriers. Since the expectations of each stakeholder
group are constantly evolving, the Value Web is regenerative. It highlights potential opportunities to refresh and revive as the company seeks to
satisfy new stakeholder desires. As a result, this creates an atmosphere of continuous improvement, which is key to avoiding obsolescence.

 

Figure 3: The Value Web
value_web_0.pngLook no further than Triple Pundit to see copious examples of companies spinning their new web of value. As you read the stories and think about
your own company, ask yourself which activities are changing and if this is a piecemeal or systemic approach. It’s a question that competition will
answer soon enough.

To learn more about how to apply the Value Web to your business, register for the Corporate Sustainability Leadership Program at UNH on April 2nd - 4th.  Jay will be teaching a session on methodology.

(This blog was originally published in Triple Pundit.)

 

 

Professor Jay Friedlander is the Sharpe-McNally Chair of Green and Socially Responsible Business at College of the Atlantic (COA) in Bar
Harbor, Maine. COA has been repeatedly cited as a leader in sustainability and Jay’s work has been covered in Fast Company, Princeton Review, CNN, Chronicle of Higher Education, Christian Science Monitor and Money amongst other media. Jay has been a frequent presenter at conferences in the United States, as well as New Zealand, Australia, and the European Union on sustainability, enterprise and innovation. Jay can be reached
at jfriedlander@coa.edu.

Post by Alyson Genovese, Cause Solutions

“Though she be but little, she is fierce!” – William Shakespeare “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

philanthropy.pngSmall companies admittedly have it tough, philanthropically-speaking. Business owners are working hard to build a sustainable company, employ local workers, and create economic value. Small business owners are “chief cook and bottle-washer.”

One of the best parts of living in a community with a vibrant small business community is that the owners are highly accessible, which can sometimes prove a challenge: the owners must field requests for philanthropic funding. A lot. Unlike their large company peers, they do not have the luxury of creating an infrastructure to facilitate such requests or have dedicated staff for community giving.

Although small businesses have very different assets to bear than their large business counterparts, it does not mean that those assets are LESS valuable. Small businesses are nimble, they are close to their consumer, passionate and the lines between personal and professional lives are often blurred. On the front lines in communities, many small businesses are greatly affected by the economic and social health of their communities.

In short, they get it.

Small business owners can be highly effective philanthropic leaders. Adding staff or establishing a complex process are not necessary to serve your community and your business.

Understand How Philanthropic Giving Can Impact Business Needs
I know. We are all purists and want to think that companies give into communities because it’s just the right thing to do. But that’s not how it works. Cause-programs, corporate giving strategies and the like can help address strategic business challenges. Sometimes it’s marketing and developing relationships with consumers in an emotional way. Sometimes it’s attracting and retaining talent. When you figure out what your business pain points are – as though you don’t already know them – you can start to imagine how your philanthropic giving can help address those needs.

Determine Your Unique Value
Let’s just say it… nonprofit organizations always appreciate cash. However, cash can come from a variety of sources. High quality professional services can be much harder to come by. For small business owner Chris Conroy of Heartwood Media, it can be difficult to offer cash contributions to local nonprofit organizations. Instead, the company created the Nonprofit Challenge, where it selects one New Hampshire nonprofit to offer variety of strategic counsel, branding, video production and promotion support. This allows Heartwood to use its expertise and assets in a way that can be invaluable to the nonprofit partner that might otherwise never be able to afford such a level of communications tools, which can then be used to reach new audiences (and new dollars).

Focus Your Giving
It’s impossible to be everything for everyone. So focus on the social issue you care most about, the geographic area that is most important or themake-a-difference.jpg population you wish to affect and give there. This focus will allow you to articulate why, where and how your company can add value to its community. Some companies donate gift certificates only, while others dedicate cash funding to a particular social issue or neighborhood. Nonprofits appreciate this focus – by knowing what you stand for and what your organization chooses to support, it knows how to be better fundraisers. They may not even solicit your organization, or will know how to speak to you in a way that fits with your values. Also, hearing “no” is a lot more palatable when it’s given for a valid and thoughtful reason.

One innovative and local idea is Sequoya Technologies’ Sequoya SeedsTM program. Most simply, when a client subscribes to the company’s managed service plan, they designate a local nonprofit of their own choice to receive a monthly donation equal to 5% of their service fees. For clients that meet a stated threshold of business, an additional grant will be made in the client’s name to their nonprofit of choice. This program now averages approximately $500 in donations monthly. Customer loyalty? Check. Local impact? Check. Scalable with their business? Check.

Be Okay with Telling Your Story
A recent consumer study conducted by Cone Communications found that 88% of consumers “want to know what companies are doing” in sustainability and philanthropy. The most effective places for companies to share their good news stories? Topping the list are in-store signage, on products, and in social media. This means that consumers want to hear about your commitments, values and accomplishments as part of your existing communications efforts to consumers. These are communication vehicles that small businesses are already using to reach target audiences. Rather than thinking of philanthropy story-telling as yet another thing to do, consider it part of your overall brand story.

just_one_thing_003ae.pngThe perfect place to start is by telling your story via our Just One Thing campaign!  Ask your employees to share one thing about your company that they're proud to share; they just might give you a different perspective.  Send stories to Michelle or go to our Just One Thing webpage to enter your stories or submit your links to YouTube.

Our Just One Thing Media Sponsor, New Hampshire Business Review will help us to tell your story beginning later this spring.  Don't miss the chance to share your stories - send them now!

Having fun should be taken very seriously if you want a sustainable business. Trust me on that.
by Robin Eichert of PeopleSense Consulting LLC

Picture in your mind the workplace culture that demands the best from their employees. These employers task their staff to bring highly innovative products to market on a competitive time schedule, to provide exceptional quality service, and to ensure ample and consistent financial security.wirebelt_bwtb20140001_640x299_0.jpg

One might immediately think these highly-driven organizations require their employees to have their nose to the grindstone all day, every day, slaves to their work in order to achieve these high standards. You’d be wrong.

New Hampshire companies, several of them NHBSR members, are creating new and exciting paradigms for the workplace. These are workplaces where having fun rules. Seriously. These companies understand an employee is more than just the engineer or line worker that clocks in from 8 to 5, Monday through Friday. These exceptional employers see the whole person, one who has a family, friends, outside interests, and an array of needs, that when nurtured, provide a wealth of goodness in return.

Each year, NHBSR partners with Business NH Magazine to identify “The Best Companies to Work For.” It’s an enormous effort to whittle through the impressive programs offered by dozens of organizations to determine those that are the cream of the crop. These aren’t just the big companies, either. Significant ideas are implemented successfully at small companies, with as few as 10 employees.

There are plenty of your tried-and-true offerings, such as gift cards and pizza parties, even a Nacho Bar, and champagne toasts for achieving established milestones.  But lots of meaningful (and of course, fun) programs are also provided, such as paid time to volunteer at a favorite non-profit organization of the employees’ choice, generous tuition reimbursement , and free memberships to health clubs, even onsite gym facilities and access to yoga classes and massage therapists (hey, sign me up!).

It doesn’t stop there, though. I find the truly amazing examples are of policies that speak volumes of the mutual and deep trust that exists between the leadership and employees, at all levels. This kind of trust and autonomy can leave your run-of-the-mill executive feeling quite vulnerable and uneasy.

Imagine an organization that purposely has no policy on how much vacation time is allowed. The leaders at this organization aren’t thinking in terms of who will abuse it, instead they focus on the expectation of each employee to make appropriate decisions on how to balance their work schedule.

Picture the leadership that encourages all junior managers to spend up to $10,000 on customer-related projects or internal research -- without any approval. It’s clear than empowerment and trust are at the forefront of this culture.

This is more than having fun (though there is always a boatload evident in these organizations). The best companies demonstrate trust.

hypertherm_bestco20130001_0_0.jpgExecutives in CSR-minded companies are constantly seeking best practices for engaging employees. Look no further: there are numerous, impressive examples that could easily be happening in your own neighborhood. Nothing in New Hampshire is that far away, and we have the enviable opportunity to share and learn from each other to achieve our shared goals of doing well by doing good. 

Want to be a part of the movement? There are two immediate ways to get involved. First, leave a comment here about something you are doing at your organization – or even something you’ve considered but have questions about. Let’s learn together and help each other to be our best.

And secondly, come to a fun event on Valentine’s Day!  Join all the award-winners, including NHBSR members, Wire Belt Company of America, W.S. Badger Company, and Hypertherm Inc. for Breakfast with the Best. They will be sharing their stories of what they love at their companies, and you can enrich the conversation with your ideas and questions.

What’s not to love about being inspired by our fellow business leaders? Held at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester at 7:30 a.m., you can register here

These companies demand the best from their employees. But first, they offer trust. I’d love to see you on Valentine’s Day so we can all learn from the best.

Starting something new can be hard.  I’ve been thinking about this blog for months, stalling, almost frozen by the fear of not doing it right.  It made me think of how hard starting, expanding or even maintaining a sustainability program can be. start.jpg

“I wasn’t sure where to start.” That’s exactly how I felt about writing this blog, and it’s exactly what I often hear from many of your how to how to begin, or expand, your sustainability efforts.  It can be challenging for ground roots program to capture the attention of senior management, or even worse,  feeling the pressure of doing it just right, can be paralyzing.  Sometimes, we suggest ideas that are either dismissed or judged as not feasible.  Other times we just have a hard time getting to ideas that aren’t considered mission critical – they just keep slipping down on the To-Do list.  We all face challenges, even companies that we view as leaders in sustainability, deal with issues like ROI and short payback criteria. 

When I wanted to get past my own delays in initiating this blog, I reached out to NHBSR  member, Robin Eichert of PeopleSense Consulting (and an incredible blog author!) and asked her for ideas  to overcome my “writer’s block. “ She suggested that I just write down my thoughts, even individual sentences and then see how they fit together.  This simple encouragement and new perspective got me going; exactly what we want for you in your CSR efforts! .

The power of NHBSR comes from each of you.  Without your perspective, we’re missing an opportunity to learn.  We’re all at different places in our sustainability/CSR journey, so regardless of your level of experience, your perspective can help someone else. 

Our new initiative, Just One Thing, is meant to give us all the encouragement we need to move sustainability initiatives past our roadblocks.  We’re asking for you to share stories, efforts and challenges, hoping that  your story is  just the motivation a fellow member needs.  I believe connecting with each other, sharing ideas and encouragement will provide the support to move sustainability forward in New Hampshire.  Additionally our Sustainability Mentor Committee is developing a network for NHBSR members to connect with to answer questions and provide a new perspective.

sustainability_hurdle.pngSo take a moment, jump whatever hurdle is holding you back – (lack of time or feeling what you have to say isn’t noteworthy?)  and just jot down a quick email to me describing the initiative.  Or grab your smartphone and make a 30-second recording about something you or your company has done recently. Maybe you’ve started a recycling program in your office? Launched a green team? Spent a day volunteering for a local nonprofit?  Or perhaps you’ve seen even small impacts of your effort to lower operating expenses, engage employees or meet the needs of a wonderful community group? 

Email your stories, in whatever form, to me!  You can also fill out our short survey. Who will lead the way? The first five people to send/submit their "Just One Thing" story will receive free admission to a NHBSR Social of your choice.  Let’s see how many member stories we can gather!

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