Last week I had the opportunity to sit in the Chick-fil-A headquarters dining hall with Mr. David Salyers, VP of marketing at Chick-fil-A. He has co-authored the book, Remarkable which my team will be reading together this fall. I shared with David my story, the story of ESP and about our dreams for the future of Camp Hooray....but, I mostly listened and managed to scribble 10 pages of notes. His wisdom came not just from experience, but from a genuineness of who he is. He talked about being one of the only two people in the marketing department more than 20 years ago and now managing hundreds, the successes of Chick-fil-A and his other business ventures. And as I briskly wrote and hung onto the advice of this expert, I recognized that his conclusions (while on a vastly bigger level) were the same conclusions that I had come to see about businesses I work with in my small corner of the world.
Today I stood before generous business partners in our community who are the foundation of support to our mission every day. I thanked them for not just believing in what we are doing, but for being a part of it. David shared with me the idea that every for-profit company is created to make profit. True, right? But many companies stop there. Every business owner has the choice to strive to get rich or to be rich. In his experience, companies who strive to be rich find a better product and a better culture which leads ultimately to greater financial success.
As a non-profit leader, I have the opportunity to see this on the front lines. I have seen a struggling construction business double their profit in one year after employees connected to the mission and work of ESP; I have seen a fencing company donate $5,000 because they felt called and two days later they received an unexpected bid for $5,000 profit. I have seen a car dealership sell more cars in their history when including our mission in their monthly sales. I have seen a small start-up become a medium-sized local staple after setting up their employees as regular volunteers. The success of these companies was not driven by giving, but the giving itself cultivated growth.
So how can a company be rich?
1. Find a local organization to get behind, one that has a tangible mission and that your employees can connect to.
2. Be available to the leader of that organization. They don't just need your money, they need your time and your advice. You have built a successful business for a reason, help them guide their own business decisions to the success of others.
3. Give time for your employees to give back. It's common knowledge that people will continue to work in places where they enjoy working. It's also common knowledge that we are creatures who make decisions more often with our hearts rather than our heads. To improve the culture of your organization, provide an opportunity for people to give to something greater than themselves. You will thank yourself for it.
4. Sacrifice some of the bottom line in order to raise people from the bottom. Your bold sponsorship of an organization or event may be the funding needed for a child to find a friend, a mom to receive the counseling she needed before she called it quits, the meal the child needed during the summer or the care a family needed in order to provide basic necessities for their family.
5. Embrace the trifecta being a rich company: time, talent and treasure. Give time and allow employees to give time; give wisdom and talent and encourage employees to give their talent, and give treasure -both in-kind and cash gifts to further other's bottom line.
Who knows, the simple act of raising people from the bottom may in turn raise your profits from the bottom. If you're a business owner - try it, and see for yourself!