08.06.2015 Culture, Community, and Business

Being the Change - Becoming a B Corp

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When Sean and I founded ThinkShout in January of 2011, one of the first things we did was sit down and write the following Mission Statement:

ThinkShout helps progressive organizations achieve their goals through web strategy and open source software. We treat our business and nonprofit clients as partners. Our motivation comes from knowing that they make the world a better place.

This Mission Statement worked well for the two of us. Our focus was 100% on our clients. We had a tiny environmental footprint, as we were just two guys with laptops and rented desks. We had no staff, so we didn’t yet need to think about organizational culture. Our considerations of the workplace environment didn’t go much further than choosing Spotify channels in our tiny office. The bottom line is that we loved using open source technology to help nonprofits have a positive impact and in our early days, our mission, as well as many other things, just worked.

In the ensuing years, we’ve been very fortunate and, well, haven’t made too much of a mess of things. We’ve connected with wonderful, forward-thinking clients who are, indeed, making the world a better place. We have a team of 21 talented, dedicated, and passionate individuals. And we’re still growing. We have a clearly defined culture representing our values, and a gorgeous workplace to match. We laid a solid foundation for growth on top of a strong management team and cohesive organizational structure. Of course, apart from surrounding ourselves with great people, Sean and I are personally responsible for very little of all this.

Staying Focused Through Growth

As I often like to say, I have a completely new job every 6 months or so - which is a good thing. If Sean and I weren’t continually surprised, frustrated, and elated with the experience of building a company, we’d run the risk of losing our edge. New challenges are, after all, a prerequisite for new opportunities.

Growth brings many challenges:

To put it more succinctly, there’s just a lot more going on! Consequently, we realized that we needed to put together a better system to make sure that our growing leadership team and our overall business stays on track with our original values and goals.

So, we’ve made two strong investments this year. First, we embarked on a robust, 3-month strategic planning process culminating in a new missions, vision, and set of values. Second, we took the formal steps to become a “Beneficial Corporation” (or B Corp).

Our New Vision, Mission, and Values Statements

Our Vision is to use technology and strategy to elevate organizations creating positive change in the world.

Our Mission is to craft compelling open source engagement solutions in partnership with forward-thinking clients.

And our Corporate Values are the following:

Innovation: We embrace flexibility and creativity in the approaches we take to serve our clients and staff. We recognize that our success is supported through refinement of our processes.

Expertness: We bring proficiency and good judgement to problem solving, both internally and in serving clients. We are dedicated to being among the best at what we do, fostering a culture of continuous education and improvement.

Respect: We respect our clients as experts in their field and honor their missions and resources. We respect the individuality and diversity of our peers. We treat each other with respect and kindness, honoring the different but equally important contributions that we all make in service to our mission.

Helpfulness: We support the nonprofit and broader technology community through our open source contributions. We are committed to supporting our peers in their daily work and professional growth. We help organizations make the world a better place.

Sustainability: We are committed to building a stable business that our team and clients can depend upon over time. Through our business practices, values, and client engagements, we seek to improve local communities and to have a more positive impact on the environment.

Circling back to our original Mission Statement at our founding, you’ll notice that at ThinkShout’s core, we hold the same values. However, our new Vision, Mission, and Values Statements provide us with a more complete framework. Specifically, they provide us with a roadmap for how we want to engage daily with our own team, our clients, and the larger world around us.

Becoming a Certified B Corp

In addition to fleshing out our vision for the company, we worked hard this year to achieve B Corp certification. B Corp represents both a framework and certification from the nonprofit B Lab, as well as a legal status in select states, with the goal of holding corporations accountable to society as well as shareholders.

First, we made adjustments to the company’s articles of incorporation to ensure that “benefits to society” can be prioritized over increasing shareholder wealth in making financial decisions for ThinkShout. Technically speaking, without this change, as executives of a corporation, we are legally required to prioritize shareholder value over commitment to community and the environment.

Second, and more importantly, B Corp certification provides us with guidelines, metrics, and a community of practice for all of the business decisions that we make in support of our team, our clients, our local community, and the environment. In other words, we now have a roadmap for continuing to make intentional choices that put people and the planet above profit.

Taken together, our refined mission, vision, and values, and B Corp certification give us a framework to ensure that ThinkShout stays true to its roots, and that it continues to grow. Onward and upward!

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