In this blog series, we’ll be looking at what it means for a business to be for-benefit. It goes without saying that everyone wants his or her business to do well. However, meeting revenue goals and performing on par with one’s competitors is only part of what consumers and employees expect. Companies don’t just have to do well, they also need to do good, which is exactly what we are looking at when we discuss a company as being for-benefit. That means that we’ll be considering the ways in which providing benefit for your customers, creating a healthy work culture for your employees, and giving back to the world around you not only elevates the meaningfulness of the work you do, but also makes you more competitive in the marketplace. Throughout this series, we’ll provide you with the lessons and insights necessary to infuse this sort of deeply impactful benefit into your own business.
Most people are already somewhat familiar with what a for-benefit company is, even if they aren’t familiar with that terminology. We all want our businesses to do good in some capacity, so you get the general idea of benefit as part of how you measure your success as a business. But, there are several key components of doing good that we look at when we’re talking about a company being for-benefit, and this blog is going to take a look at those elements.
Obviously, not every company is going to have every kind of benefit that we’ll discuss. Some might, and those would be great companies, but many just have benefit in a few aspects of their business. So, as you think about your own business, it’s important to consider in which aspects of it you can add or create the most benefit.
The first kind of benefit we’ll be looking at for a business is when your product or service is a direct benefit to people. You could think of hospitals as an example of what I’m talking about. They have a direct, obvious benefit. Hospitals serve people in their health and provide necessary resources to their community. Their benefits are very, very clear. We call these Direct Benefit businesses and they include social ventures, b-corps and the like.
Other examples of Direct Benefit companies might include one that produces technology for clean energy production, a law firm that focuses on helping people who are in need, or a yoga studio that wants to help people live healthier lives. With businesses like these, you can see how there is clearly a product or service that is for the benefit of the clients. This might take different shapes for different businesses, but in each case, the focus is on providing benefits directly to customers. These companies are often traditional businesses and don’t see themselves as a for-benefit company, yet they are by the goods and services they provide.
Market Benefit Businesses are companies that benefit a whole market or sector in general and create a benefit that is not a direct benefit. A good example of a Market Benefit Company is Google. Now, Google, as you know, is a search engine. But if we stop and think about it, what is a search engine? Search engines are tools for accessing information. If you look at the global democratization of information, without Google, access to information would be much more difficult to get. Google has created easy access to seemingly endless information, and the reason we think that that’s a massive benefit is that everybody has access to it. It is putting the benefit of information directly into the hands (or onto the screens, you might say) of customers.
We interviewed Peter Diamandis for RiseUP The Movie , and the thing he said about Google was that the average kid on the street in India has more access to information now than the president of the United States did twenty years ago. If you think about that, it’s mind-blowing. Anybody with a mobile phone has access to scientific information, legal information, entertainment—any kind of information that they would want.
If someone has a desire to improve himself or herself, change the direction of his or her life, or change the world, they have access to the information that would allow them to do so—all thanks to Google. Google has created a way to navigate around the vastness of the Internet and find the information we want. We couldn’t have the democratization of information without this. That is a huge benefit that the company provides the market in general, thus it is a Market Benefit Company..
Companies today are expected to do more than just make money. I think most of our consumers look at companies and say, “well what is your purpose? What value are you creating beyond a specific widget or a specific piece of entertainment?” Because of this, as you’re looking at your products and services, the best thing you can do is try to find the areas where you’re truly providing benefit.
Sometimes the for-benefit part of the company isn’t as obvious as the ones I’ve mentioned, such as Google. You might say, “hey, we’re a company that makes bowling balls—maybe our for-benefit element is that somebody enjoys themselves because of our product.” That’s not what we would call classically for-benefit, however. It isn’t directly providing a product or service that benefits the lives of the customer. While the central work of a company like this might not be providing benefit directly to customers, it’s also not likely the only aspect of the business. If you’re a company that has a range of products and services, you may be able to isolate one of those components and emphasize benefit in that specific realm of your operations. After all, creating benefit is germane to the core of most companies.
What we are suggesting is that you look closely at your company—look at the goods and services you offer, and see if something actually creates a benefit. If it does, that is a story you should be telling.
For Benefit Company Tips:
It’s important for people and other companies to know that your business isn’t just doing well, but also that you’re actively doing good. Once you’re able to identify the good that you’re doing with your products and services—and can communicate that effectively—it raises the bar for all the companies in your industry, pushing them to also want to do good. And the more good we all do, well, that’s going to make a big difference for people everywhere.