Founders and Abundance Profitability is Necessary but Not Sufficient
Founders and Abundance: The definition of “to found” is to ‘set up or establish on a firm basis or for enduring existence’. Abundance means ‘an amount that is more than enough.’ An enduring existence depends on abundance. Founders of new businesses and nonprofits go through the process of determining the components necessary to achieve lasting and consistent yields of high quality: it’s also called a business model.
At the moment of inception, founders of the past were often fixated on how to achieve profitability, or maximizing income. While financial viability is vital, leading founders of today are more fixated on how to achieve abundance.
We all talk about “growing the organization”. Growing things need fertile ground. In the past, growth has meant the same as scaling. Increasing numbers of founders are showing the new way by recognizing that a sustainable organization is one that seeks growth in quality, more than quantity and does not ignore ‘externalities’, or consequences of business activity that impact the commonwealth, without affecting business operating costs.
This new way is in stark contrast to the behavior of companies manifesting antisocial corporate behavior, like improper marketing, downstream pollution from production waste, or tax avoidance. For instance, according to the Manta-Dell survey in 2014, 12% of small business owners are motivated by giving back to the community, creating commonwealth, as opposed to passing on costs to third-parties. I suspect that by now, that percentage has grown.
Negative contributions to society deplete the fertility of the business environment, and are manifestly unethical, even though legal (or in some cases like GSK’s or Wells Fargo’s, not even legal, it seems). Personal achievement is the biggest motivator for founders. Those founders who solve a problem about which they are passionate, even if the solution doesn’t result in wealth, are still thrilled by solving it.
Founders at the forefront are abundant. Guy Kawasaki says, “Great companies start because the founders want to change the world… not make a fast buck.” Here are five examples:
- Coleen Costello co-founded Vital Vio, that makes disinfectant lighting, a breakthrough in nonstop protection for bacteria-sensitive environments, after witnessing her grandmother contract an infection while in hospital.
- Kimberly Bryant founded Black Girls Code to increase the number of women of color in the digital space by empowering girls of color ages 7 to 17 to become innovators in STEM fields, leaders in their communities, and builders of their own futures through exposure to computer science and technology.
- Ben Rattray founded Change.org (a B Corporation) to enable people everywhere to start campaigns, mobilize supporters, and work with decision makers to drive solutions.
- Jessica Mah founded inDinero to build a company that would stand for helping fellow entrepreneurs. Not only do they offer accounting software, they aim to completely change the way business owners think about their operations, by taking care of all back-office activities.
- David Lindsay is the co-founder of Oncora Medical, a platform that analyzes big data from cancer treatment centers around the world to predict the most effective treatments for specific cancer cases, something unavailable when his mother was diagnosed with cancer.
Benefit Has Become the Dimension
The five founders I have named represent the hundreds of thousands of other founders round the world, who don’t seek to change corporate minds, but by their very existence do just that. Founders like these, have beneficial purpose as their higher goal and it’s the dimension they care about.
Business culture is also changing around them. For example, the massively successful B Corporation movement (my own company, Venture Founders, was a founder BCorp), and the spawning of new corporate forms like the Benefit Corporation and the L3C, underscore the massive impact of founders at the forefront. Business has always provided value in terms of supplying customers what they want, employees with jobs and investors with a financial return. However, we are now witnessing a fundamental shift in purpose throughout the business world.
The numerical drivers will remain, simply because they are the means by which we measure results. However that measurement of organizational success is shifting relentlessly from focus on financial results to the achievement of benefit. The Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) era is being overtaken by a thrust towards business making meaning and creating abundance, balancing the welfare of all members of the commonwealth. Founders and abundance are two words that will become more and more commonly associated.