As the leader of a company, your job is to build that company -- increasing revenue, increasing profits, and increasing overall value. And your employees certainly understand that, but still: A single-minded focus on maximizing profits can often come at the expense of employee satisfaction and happiness.

That's why Andrew Limouris, the CEO of Medix, an award-winning healthcare talent acquisition firm, and the author of the new book Won With Purpose, takes a different approach. He believes that true purpose leads to satisfied employees and better teamwork -- and as a result, increased revenue and company results.

And that's why he created a "double bottom line" for his company:

  1. Ensure Medix is profitable, and
  2. Positively impact the lives of 20,000 children through the company's 20,000 Kids program.

To accomplish the second goal, Medix employees partner with organizations around the world to provide foundational support and mentorship to help children from grade school to college to find their own purpose.

Where did the "double bottom line" concept come from?

It wasn't part of the business plan. Over the course of time it just became who we are. But if you peel back the onion, it's who we were -- we just didn't know it.

I got laid off after Sept 11 and I started a company in an 8 x 10 office space. At the end of that year we had our first child. That gave me clarity going into the office every day. (Laughs.) That, and when my mom helped move me into the office space, she said, "Work hard. I believe in you."

The goal for the company was something like "offices in four cities and a billion dollars in revenue by X date." As we grew, that sounded great... but it didn't motivate our employees and it didn't motivate me. Revenue is vanity and profit is sanity. (Laughs.)

So when did things start to shift?

Amazing things started to happen in the business when we took the Simon Sinek approach and kept asking, "Why? Why are we in business?"

Finally we realized we weren't in it for the offices and the dollars. When you're in the business of putting people to work, finding innovative ways to move people from one vertical and help them get retooled for a different vertical... you're positively impacting lives.

But "positively impact lives" isn't a clear goal. We were a philanthropic organization and also high growth -- so we put the idea of the double bottom line in place. We decided to grow by X percent and impact 20,000 lives.

And it was perfect timing. In the first three years we grew 120 percent. 

I could play devil's advocate and say the two happened simultaneously, but aren't actually related.

And you would be wrong. (Laughs.) Just like in sports; the most success I've ever had as a youth sports coach was when the kids were playing for something bigger than winning.

Our people are playing for something bigger than just a revenue number.

When I talked to peers about it, some said, "Be careful. That double bottom line thing? It's dangerous. You have a good thing going. Just focus on what you know."

But that just didn't feel right. When your sole goal is opening a certain number of offices and hitting a certain revenue number... and then you see all those offices filled with hardworking, heartfelt people... are office and revenue targets really enough? 

We don't believe they are.

I assume not everyone in your organization embraced that approach, especially at first.

We recently lost an executive who believed in it, but felt like we were doing too much. And that's okay. 

A few others have felt the same way. As we continue down this path, it isn't right for some. But at the same time that makes some people really want to work here. Our values and purpose help us hire the right people for us

What's interesting is the first year we hit $100 million was also our first core purpose year. We did a bike build event where our team came in and had to build bikes as part of a team building exercise. We mixed up the parts and everyone scrambled to put bikes together. Soon they were all working together and helping each other.

And then the doors of the hall opened and in walked 25 kids who had never had a bike before.

We're in the business of putting people to work, but when you help someone find their perfect job, you're also in the business of changing lives. 

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs who want to introduce the double bottom line concept into their own businesses?

Don't try to force it. You can't force a purpose. Plus,when you're bootstrapping, you're just worrying about making payroll.

Then just pay attention. As you're growing your business, things will happen: a life situation, an inflection point, an employee that embraces a cause... those things will guide you down a path of discovering what you want your business to be.

That's incredibly important. If your business doesn't have a purpose, then jobs are just jobs. It's healthy for organizations to feel they're working for more than just a single bottom line. 

In fact it's not just healthy -- it's the perfect way to build a bigger business than you might have imagined.

Published on: Dec 12, 2017
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