Kossoff on ... doing good when times are bad

When an economic cycle goes down low and long, an interesting social phenomenon occurs - the growth of philanthropic support and activity. It is the same whenever natural disasters occur. When things are bad, people do good. Even when they are not in as good a position as they would like, they still do more.

The extent to which businesses can do the same creates a competitive differentiator and market opportunity that otherwise would not stand out or be pursued at all. In effect, it is the intersection of doing good and doing well because by doing good works you lift your business's image above the competition. In so doing, you create new revenue opportunities and new customers.

The Government has added a structured opportunity to this mix with its focus on social enterprises. By law, these businesses reinvest their "profits" directly back into the organisation. But that does not mean, by any stretch, that they are not profitable. In fact, they are very profitable. When they are strategised and designed well, they will succeed just as any other organisation does.

The question for those of you who are not social enterprises is how to present your organisation as having the same sort of ethos. What can you do to show that you have a greater commitment - locally, environmentally, societally - than others among your set?

Growers might promote what they are doing with produce that never makes it onto supermarket shelves or to prepared food manufacturers and instead goes to local food banks for the poor. Retailers might create free programmes for children or seniors using out-of-date stock that, instead, is used to create interest, joy and a moment of beauty for the participants. Any alliance you build with a local or national charity or volunteer group will be a boon for you both - in reputation and outcome.

This strategy gives you name recognition in ways that always put you among the good guys because you are doing good. As a result, your business does even better.

Leslie Kossoff is an executive adviser specialising in strategy and corporate turnaround.


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