Business Impact & Sustainability: A Simple framework

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Let’s talk about how to maximize the impact of your business.
When I say Impact, I’m not talking about being noticed. I’m talking about how to create a business that you’re proud of because it has a positive impact on the world.
My Tedx Talk about how to find your passion has more than 1 million views but it’s really a talk about how to maximize your impact.
I have been living and breathing this issue for twenty years. We’re  can easily get into a long and complex discussion about it but my objective in this article is to provide a very brief, practical and succinct outline of how you can maximize your impact with your business.


The simplest way to think about the impact of your business is to break it down into your impact on your:
  • Employees
  • Customers
  • Owners
  • Community
  • Environment
Let’s briefly discuss each category.


Always start by answering the obvious question – what can my business do that will have the biggest positive impact on my employees? Possible answers include:
  • Respectful and positive attitude toward co workers
  • Enough pressure to be challenging but not so much that it becomes stressful   
  • Alignment of business goals (and what the business stands for) with employees’ goals
  • Encourage individual expression
  • Reasonable compensation and bonuses or profit sharing
  • Enjoyable work that allows employees to take advantage of existing skills and develop new skills
  • Workplace policies that encourage inclusivity and equality
  • Comfortable workplace: comfortable furniture, temperature, noise levels, or letting employees work from home.


What can my business do that will have the biggest positive impact on my customers? Possible answers include:
  • Target customers: you can maximize your impact by targeting specific people that need more help e.g. a specific minority group  
  • Target result: you can maximize your impact by offering products or services that help the customer achieve a result that has a positive impact on their lives e.g. services that help with weight loss, mental health, getting out of poverty, etc. 
  • Quality products & services: the higher the quality the of your products and services the bigger the impact they can have on your customer
  • What you stand for: People like to buy from people that share similar values
  • How your product or service is made: If you use forced labor or do something that harms the environment a proportion of your potential customers will not buy from you.  
When creating your products or service ask:
  • What can I do that will have a positive impact on my customers. Make a list.
  • Take this a step further and ask, what is one thing we can do that will have the biggest positive impact on our customers? 
  • Every customer is a person (or a person representing a business).


The owner of a business could just be you but it can also be a family, partners or, if it’s a publicly traded company, it could have thousands of owners.
Regardless of your situation, you will still need to answer the same question – What can my business do that will have the biggest positive impact on the owners of the business? Possible answers include:
  • Make sure you spend their money wisely. Get their input in to make sure that your objectives are aligned with your owners. The easiest way to have a negative impact on your owners (and subsequently on yourself) is to lose their money.
  • For example, one fantastic way to maximize your impact on your customers is to give your products or services away for free but, if you have no any other way to monetize your products or services, your business will die. Your business will not have a positive impact on anyone or anything if it ceases to exist. 


Your community might be geographic or it might include people from all over the world that have a common interest.
So, as usual, answer this question – what can my business do that will have the biggest positive impact on my community? Possible answers include:
  • Publicly promote and, if necessary, defend your community 
  • Help members of your community succeed directly with your products and services.
  • Help members of your community succeed indirectly by supporting other businesses that treat your community well or supporting nonprofits and causes that have a positive impact on your community.


What can your business do that will have the biggest positive impact on your environment? Possible answers include:
  • Minimize your footprint. Research all of the ways you can minimize waste and maximize the use of renewable energy.
  • If you sell physical products then you have a supply chain. Think about what you buy and who you buy it from:
    • What do these businesses stand for?
    • How do they treat their employees, customers, owners, community and environment?
Conclusion: It all comes down to this: Be clear about what you stand for in order to attract certain people and repel others.


This article was created by the team an IIMAGINE. Create a free account to get alerts about new articles and get access to multiple tools and strategies for growing your nonprofit and maximizing your impact.


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