Want to have an impact? Three things small businesses may consider

Life in Vermont is pretty good. On average, we are a collective that appreciates a thoughtful approach to getting things done. From a business perspective, this may not seem profound, but there’s an extra layer to our businesses the P&L Statement doesn’t calculate – our intentions.

As business owners, communicating our good intentions is a key part of our messaging. What our businesses value and stand for is becoming a primary driver of attracting and retaining potential customers and employees. In 2021, it’s safe to say the values-driven economy isn’t a trend, it’s the norm.

Multiple businesses in Vermont have created meaningful impact through impressive commitments to their facilities, staff experiences, and communities. Those we hold up as the gold standard, in this regard, have had tremendous influence, starting with inspiring others to strive for the same kind of thoughtful business success.

Not every business wishing to pursue greater impact will build net-zero buildings, influence supply chains, or have the capacity to run through the requirements of sustainability-related certifications. In other cases, how to create tangible engagement after earning those certifications may still be a challenge.

For solopreneurs and small businesses, it can be inspiring and equally intimidating to see what others are doing to create impact, which sometimes leads to a hesitation to act. The impact standard in Vermont is falsely high because there are businesses doing an incredibly amazing work. This leaves many businesses trying to decipher how they can have meaningful impact without looking like they are late to the party, greenwashing, or fearing how much it will cost. These fears are real – at Green Square Consulting, we hear stuff like this routinely.

So, what options do solopreneurs and small businesses have in Vermont to authentically express their good intentions and realize the business advantages of the values-driven economy? Regardless if you’re a brick and mortar or virtual operation, you have multiple options to create impact that is the right fit for you. Here are three things to keep in mind when getting started:

  1. Start where you are today. Don’t give another thought to where you think you should be or where someone else is. “Should-ing” yourself by looking too far ahead or comparing your business to disproportionate and misleading metrics won’t feed real impact.

Looking around to see what others are doing takes your attention away from your original, innovative impact that is a perfect match for you, your staff, closest business relationships, and customers. Seeing how others have generated success through impact is wonderful for motivation, but not for setting impact goals that reflect your own awesomeness.

  1. Resist the temptation to jump into a certification process that will stretch you too thin. intensive certifications, when your business is ready, is a great option as part of your impact journey. Engaging a certification when you’re not ready will likely lead to more stress and a strain on your capacity.

Doing “enough” for your impact boils down to aligning your impact endeavor with your professional and personal life obligations. Keeping your goals sustainable is fueled by defining a feasible, fun, and inspirational impact plan that fits you and your business. In other words, for many businesses, impact is customized. Legitimacy is derived from the impact outcomes you have on your community – however you define it.

A thoughtful look into the absolute truth of your business can be a great place to start. For example, we work with the owner of a home organizing company. Her impact plan is helping women in recovery, that are transitioning back into independent living. Her goal is to assist them in building stronger homes and keep their families together. This business’s absolute truth is strong families lead to better communities – and everyone counts.

Her impact plan has incorporated clear opportunities for her staff and customers to play an active role in making her impact plan come to fruition. Her impact plan invites individuals to participate in her business’s absolute truth, which provides an opportunity for individuals to live out a shared value – in this case, strong families lead to better communities. Their participation becomes tangible engagement people will talk about, which brings more attention to her business. She also set up her own impact schedule to keep it all feasible and fun. Her impact equation is balanced: low pressure + engagement = meaningful local impact.

  1. Know that you’re not alone. It’s likely you’ll hear, “I’ve been wondering the same thing lately” when you begin sharing what you’re working on. Once you choose to make impact, you’re never alone, even as a solopreneur.

To whatever extent a small business owner wishes, they may partner with other businesses to make their impact a reality. For example, the home organizer mentioned above receives donations of lightly used furniture. She needed a place to store the furniture that is donated. A furniture company has offered to share some space, and in doing so, became her impact partner. Her story will soon become a part of the furniture company’s story, creating a new business partnership and amplifying marketing for them both. Additionally, who do you suppose the furniture store will recommend when their customers ask if they know any good home organizers?

Everyone with whom a small business owner speaks is a potential impact partner. This type of work provides you with unique traction in professional settings ranging from small talk to formal presentations. Choosing impact facilitates you always having an invitation to meaning to extend. It’s likely this will be well-received as others are also seeking opportunities to create more meaning for their own employees – you can bring automatic added value to every conversation.

Thank you for talking the time to read this post. I hope it ignited new insight into what impact is possible for you and your business. Remember, don’t overthink it and start where you are. Values-driven activity is more impactful when it can be sustained, at any level. You’re not alone – nearly everyone is a potential impact partner. Every new relationship is an opportunity to grow your business and impact. Lastly, look for a process that fits you. Your impact work should amplify the values your business stands for and become an invitation for others to join you.

Today is the day to begin.

Tom Stuessy, Impact Strategist

Green Square Consulting