When you raise a child, it is fair to say that a majority of a parent’s focus is on the short-term strategy. Making sure your child is fed, bathed, and their daily needs are met so that your little person can be happy and healthy in their day-to-day-life. We know these things are important.

To shape humans who will one day go out into the world to become independent, successful, and functioning members of society, we have to think beyond the short-term to longer-term investments. Examples of these investments are: teaching good behavior, investments in education and in opportunities that give children a broader view of the world. What would happen to our children – to society – if we did not think about the bigger picture?

I think the same can be said about business. If a business’s civic duty is to ultimately serve society, shouldn’t CEO’s also have a long-term focus with business? What happens to our world if businesses are not concerned about the resources they are consuming, if they do not put the wellbeing of their employees first, or are concerned with the impact they are making in their community and the world? Unfortunately, what we see too much in big business is short-term thinking. For many publicly held businesses, the leadership has become only focused on serving shareholders and making quarterly profits. Under this model, CEOs don’t often stay at the top very long. While CEOs may gain short-term, what is lost is big picture thinking and they leave behind only hope a company will benefit over time. My thought process here has been inspired by observance, working with small business owners, and an article I read recently in The Atlantic “How To Stop Short-Term Thinking At America’s Companies” and I couldn’t agree more.

My passion is to focus on helping grow small businesses and people who are not afraid to think independently and bring new ideas to the table. I want to support a new business model where businesses can thrive when they apply long-term thinking and where they think about how they can benefit communities to help create jobs, rather than make the prime focus their personal investments. Companies who think longer term are more responsible in studying the impact of development and are careful about preservation. I call it business with a conscience – business practices that work to better society, that focus on people, and not destroying the environment.

Aquidneck Land Trust at Newport Winery

Aquidneck Land Trust and Newport Winery

I am part of a community here in Newport, RI that has started the conversation about what type of businesses and industry they want to attract as this island develops. The taxpayers are coming together to think collectively about the impact of types of businesses will have on population growth, job growth, traffic flow, and repurposing old buildings sitting vacant. It is an interesting conversation as there is just as much concern from the community about the environmental and social impact as much as economic impact. Locals want to protect what is valuable here – the natural environment and historic architecture – so that we can leave Newport a shining example of a modern city for the next generation.

There is a desire within our communities to support and build businesses with consciences. So how do we do that?

How To Build A Business With A Conscience

  1. Focus on people. While money is a key driver of prosperity and growth, one cannot build a company alone. Without the right team of people and the right clients, a business fails. It is a proven fact that companies that put people and clients first, not only are more resistant to change, but they also are more viable than companies driven by short-term profits or making money for shareholders.
  2. Panera Bread removes artificial preservatives, colors, sweetners from their food.

    A company with a vision to serve healthier food.

    Write a company mission that has a purpose beyond making money. How will your business work to impact the community and world around you? This will force you to think beyond profits and give you focus beyond the downturns all businesses face at one point or time when they suffer the loss of a client or a slow month in sales.

     

  3. Assemble your team around this mission. If everyone does not share the same mission, then it is easy for conflict to arise amongst team members.
  4. Make marketing plans and partnerships that have social impact. There are some really great examples of companies who incorporate community into their business projects and plans. MailChimp not only donates some of its profits to help nonprofits in its hometown of Atlanta, but their marketing team also teamed with nonprofit to develop a product to sell for an e-commerce project that helped their marketing team learn more about e-commerce. My Emma started planting one new tree for every new client back in 2007. Then in 2009, they planted five trees to every new client. Since then they have brought  53,000 trees into the world and their outreach has definitely grown. There are tons of other examples including companies that invest in community wellness.  Really amazing, isn’t it?
  5. Think before you buy.  Look at ways you can make your business more environmentally friendly. Hire service providers and buy supplies, decor, and furniture for your business from other companies who share a collective vision to make the world better. Try buying repurposed or recycled. Look at service providers like Google who plan to run 100% on renewable energy in 2017.
  6. Companies that have family friendly policies are front runners. They not only retain happy employees, but those employees are more willing to work harder and smarter if they are not burned out or feel supported.

The wind report didn’t look promising. I read there would be a whopping 5 knots of breeze and maybe even a bit of overcast skies on this September day. For all of you non-sailors, that would equate to a great day for other land lubber endeavors such as mowing the grass, fishing, or more painfully…golfing! For months, I had been anticipating this opportunity to shoot the 37th Classic Yacht Regatta in Newport with the great Onne van der Wal and learn from one of the most respected artists in the trade. We left the dock a bit skeptically and decided to make the most of the day. As the postponement flag was raised, I pulled out my Canon camera and proceeded to snap away at anything that would move patiently waiting for the cool sensation of breeze on my neck to fill these tall sails. As the wind came and the starting guns went off, I soon felt a bit inadequate in lens size as some of my compatriots in this class pulled out their whoppers! I giggled… I was not going to let size rule over subject matter. I knew what I was shooting; I let the sailor in me take charge of the artistic composition and kept my finger on the trigger.

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With all the technology in the world on foiling cats these beautiful hulls and rigs reflecting in the water in a simple photo prove that there is no substitute for true craftsmanship and the eye of an artist.

 

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During the shoot, Onne graciously came over and lent me his larger lens and faster camera so I could test run some new equipment. What I find most amusing, however is that my money shot (above) was made using my run of the mill 55-250mm lens when no one else was looking!

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Rounding the #12 red bell in front of Rose Island Light House.

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A sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind.
– Webb Chiles

With all of the divisiveness in the economy, media and politics we read about in the headlines, I believe that small businesses can be an answer in healing and creating a sense of unity in our society (or community).

There is one thing that connects people of all backgrounds and of all cultures: that is our collective desire to thrive, grow, create, live in peace, and prosper. When an environment allows a business to prosper, the ecosystem it is a part of also prospers. The ecosystem I refer to is all of the people who interact with that business such as contractors, distributors, suppliers, and clients. By community, I refer to the social unit that surrounds the small business. When a community supports a business, that community often feels a sense of ownership and pride in the business’s success.  The community identity can even become intertwined with the brand or business’ identity.

So what kind of impact can small businesses have on a local community? I think the most evident is that business is able to help solve problems within their community. As a business grows and thrives, they create jobs and opportunities. Many businesses and business owners make philanthropic investments in their communities as a way to give back. These investments can also be part of a growth and branding strategy. Think about listener supported radio stations such as NPR or public television. Look around your town or city where businesses exist – it’s not difficult to find examples of business sponsorship at local sports leagues, concerts, festivals, and parks. Then as a business grows, there is another less intentional impact, one that is less noticeable on the local level but still very important. That business’s ecosystem begins to grow and it is not only impacting their local community, but the effects of that growth begin to extend beyond the businesses’ local community. Gradually, that business has a broad reach, even beyond state lines and national borders. This broad reach is especially evident in internet based businesses.

So what happens when a small business based in one location has a broad customer base in multiple locations? They not only serve a local community, but their technology based business reaches many communities. In many towns and cities, marketing campaigns to “buy local” and “support local” brick and mortar business are pushed by a local community. This is a very effective movement to produce personalized goods that represent a region or an area of the country. I think this is very helpful for the educated consumer when it comes to sourcing products that have fresh food ingredients and when an area is known as a source for a rare commodity. However, when the term is used only as a reference to where a business is located and it does not actually refer to a true locally sourced commodity, it sounds a bit convoluted. Like many marketing terms, “local” is a context and it does not necessarily mean they sell products with the best quality. It also does not mean a business produces a 100% locally made product nor does a business with a local label necessarily use ingredients or materials all from local sources. It may only mean that a piece of the production or a storefront is local. The term in this context is then used as a competitive means to prevent people from purchasing from internet-based businesses and I don’t think this hurts true “local” businesses. It’s interesting that as a service provider who does all my business online, I often do not identify as a local based business yet I still give back to communities wherever I am based. The work I output has a direct impact on my clients’ success and my clients are businesses located around the country. My community is a network of businesses with similar missions who support a greater movement to help better society and my community extends beyond a single location. I aim to support businesses based within the U.S. and U.S. territories and I outsource some tasks to contractors within my military spouse and design community. It is more important to my business to hire talent regardless of where they are located because doing so ensures quality, that I can work within a client’s budget, meet a production deadline, and this is what makes my business thrive. As Corinne and I have learned over the past year, there are benefits as well as challenges to overcome when you work with one another across time zones, but it is something that has defined us. This has made my business model much more flexible and we use tools that have made us incredibly efficient. A term I’ve embraced for this is digital productivity: technology has made it possible for us to work together from remote locations almost as smoothly as if we were under the same roof.

The reality is this: whether you run a small locally based brick and mortar business or small online business, we live in a digitally connected world and global exposure is one post away for your company and brand. Do we fight the challenges the internet creates or accept the opportunities it provides? Can we take pride as a business or consumer in knowing that we are purchasing a product that in its production has required parts or services from small businesses who are helping many different communities? How do we as businesses help bridge the gap between various communities and cultures in different places for people who still feel heavily reliant and connected with one community or culture?

We hope our videos featuring the stories and advice from entrepreneurs that Corinne has met in her travels around the world will inspire you and show that we all live very similar lives beyond our borders. Our main difference is that some of us have the privilege to live in a stable country while others live in countries that are bordered with finicky political and economic climates. What can we learn from our friends who live and work in places challenged with instability?

We will also highlight some of our small business clients who are locally based and have an internet-based presence. We hope that you will share their stories and help others realize the common connection we all have no matter where we are located around the world.

I work with small businesses every day to provide guidance and wave my magical pen to create their web and print assets look professional and help increase sales. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that images you use in your design can do two things: 1) enhance the user experience and educate 2) disrupt it. A photo is a key element in visual communication and all the design and marketing talent you hire to create your brand message will do no good on your customer’s purchase decision if you use the wrong photography.

Businessman in wheat field with briefcase and balloons

This guy is definitely happy, but the context of this stock photo is also a wee bit strange. (Source: Hubspot)

How many business sites have you visited that use the same humdrum photo of “business professionals” looking “happy” sitting in a “business meeting” or that generic shot of two suits “shaking hands”? Stock photography sites have come a long way, but let me warn you – these sites are still full of bad and generic concepts.

The changes being made by every major social media network – Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and the shift to responsive design all emphasize the power effective photography and imagery have on the performance of posts and clicks and how people read a web page. Think about the power a great photo can have on the senses, feeling, and emotion of a viewer.

  • Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images.
  • 46% of marketers say photography is critical to their current marketing and storytelling strategies.
    (Source: Hubspot)

So what to do when you are a small business with a limited budget?

  • One idea is to invest in a library of photography that you can easily repurpose for various uses. Start small and build your library as your budget grows. Having a library that designers can work with will save on their production time and your wallet.
  • Use natural light photography. It can be much easier and less expensive to produce as you need less equipment. Also, the look of the natural light might work better for your brand. It also gives a photo a very personal and creative touch.
  • Work with a local photographer. Usually, local photographers are willing to help out small businesses and you do not have to pay travel expenses.
  • If you are under time constraints or a start-up with tight purse strings, the video below contains some GREAT tips for DIY Product Photography. This is when you need a basic product still shot. You can also purchase a basic lighting kit online or at your local photography store.