Many people get into business with a clear vision of what they want to accomplish. This often is based on using specific personal values and principles as a foundation--how you want your business and workplace to conduct itself in terms of employees, customers, the community, and even the world.
It's a novel and admirable quest, but there can be times when you lose track of your values--your principles get diluted as you and your business grow or because of lack of funds. This doesn't mean you have in essence lost your "business soul." Rather, it may be a wake-up call for you to refocus, so what you do as a business can be purpose driven.
When that has happened to me, I've often turned to the wisdom of those who show how it's possible (and even necessary) to do good work for the benefit of people and the planet while also turning a profit. They have inspired me to make sure there is always a component of giving back in what my business does.
For example, my yoga studio does not have a lot of free cash flow for charitable giving. However, I had a staff meeting to determine what we want to give, or what we call in yoga, "karma service." We have a strong belief that if children are exposed to yoga at a young age, it will help them tap into stress relief healing tools as they grow older, so they don't turn to alternative ways that could be harmful.
We therefore created a weekly donation-based class at the studio for which the teachers donate all proceeds to a charity that helps children in need. It has not only created a good sense of giving back among our yoga teachers, but the clients of the studio as well.
Where can you find that kind of inspiration?
Here are five books that have worked for me. They remind me how to keep my values and principles front and center for the good of my business, myself, and my team.
1. The Ethical Entrepreneur: Succeeding in Business Without Selling Your Soul by Paul Silberberg
In this book, Silberberg, a president of an elite financial services firm, explains how the best investment you can make in your business is to implement an ethical business plan with which you invest in the bonding of relationships--your co-workers, employees, customers, and the community. He shares his personal experience as well as the stories and wisdom of how the founders and leaders of companies like Comcast, the Four Seasons, Vanguard, and the Home Depot have followed this concept with great success.
2. The Soul of a Business: Managing for Profit and the Common Good by Tom Chappell
In The Soul of a Business, Chappell, the co-founder of Tom's of Maine, a leader of environmentally friendly personal care products, tells the story of developing a new management style, one that focuses on what he calls the "common good"--the good of the company, the employees, and the community the company serves. Chappell explains in detail and with clear examples how you can achieve excellence without needing to compromise personal values.
3. Putting Soul Into Business by Mary Anne Harmer and Tom Hering
The Benefit Corporation movement is a type of corporate entity that is required by law to create a material, positive impact on its employees and customers, society, and the environment while still making a profit. The book explores the concept and explains why you should embrace this entity for your own business as well as strategies on how to do it using real world examples.
4. Build a Culture of Good: Unleash Results by Letting Your Employees Bring Their Soul to Work by Scott Moorehead, Ryan McCarty, and Marshall Goldsmith
Employees can implement their values into the workplace and that changes the dynamic of your business. That's the premise of this book, whose concept originated from three people from different business backgrounds, who teamed up to create a successful movement inside their company called the "Culture of Good."
5. Discovering the Soul of Service by Leonard L. Berry
If you are in the service business, this book reminds you that the single most important factor is not savvy business practices but humane values. Berry profiles 14 highly successful, labor-intensive companies, such as Bergstrom Hotels, the Charles Schwab Corporation, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, and Midwest Express Airlines, and shows how their values-driven leadership drives everything in the business, from strategic planning to employee retention to brand awareness.
Most companies can usually explain what they stand for and what values they hold in terms of how they want to conduct business. But since a successful business involves many more people than just yourself, there are times when your values get put on the back burner. Often following the lead of others who aspire for the same high standards can make sure your moral compass is always pointed in the right direction, and it provides a more holistic feeling of success beyond profits.