More than any other time, businesses today are expected to stand for something. And yet, many remain behind the curve believing that the core purpose of business is to make money. But dig deeper and even the most commoditized product can be leveraged to make an impact if the leadership of that company is inclined to ask the question: “So what?”
We are here to make money, so…what can happen? Who can benefit? What story can be told in a new way? Who can be included? How can it be different in the future?
We started Heart + Matter knowing we wanted to work with companies who are truly busting the status quo—in their industries, for other people, and for the world. We used “brands that believe in better” as a starting off point, and the more we shared and tested our message with those around us the richer the concept became.
We’ve found there are two ways of identifying businesses and leaders who operate on “believing in better” principles: an external expression and an internal expression.
#1: Working to see a better world (external take)
“There had to be a better way” is a common rally cry of the entrepreneurs we serve—even the accidental ones. At some point, they noticed a gap, an imbalance, or an injustice and felt compelled to step into to try to solve the problem.
An example we’re loving in the services industry is Ellevest, an investment firm for female consumers. Founder Sallie Krawcheck climbed the ladder at Merrill Lynch and saw that women were being systematically left behind by planning models that were based on the earning potential and life spans of men. She left and founded Ellevest to provide better financial planning tools and products for women.
Not only is her business a tool in the fight to remove bias in the financial industry, but it has also become a platform for opening eyes to the general “mansplaining” and shaming that occurs around women and money in our culture.
Whether people buy her products or simply read her articles, her business is driving significant change in our culture while still making a profit.
#2: Challenging ourselves to greatness (internal take)
Years ago a friend and very smart marketer introduced me to the idea that “best practices” are really quite limiting. “Best” implies that the work is done. We have reached the peak; there’s nowhere else to go! Best is finite.
In contrast, better is limitless!
While it is very easy to get lost in the day to day activities of running an organization, businesses that believe in better don’t settle into their own status quo. They pursue constant improvement, look for blindspots, seek constructive or creative input, and value perspective. A strong challenge isn’t a threat, it’s an opportunity for improvement.
“Better” is an operational driver as much as it is an outcome of the work itself.
Another company we admire that seems to make decisions motivated by “better” is Wistia, a video hosting platform built for businesses. They win awards, serve tens of thousands of customers every day, and have consistently demonstrate their internal commitment to building a better product, culture, and experience. Even to the point of turning down an offer to sell their company and instead take on $17 million dollars of debt in order to keep building the kind of creative business their team wants to work for—something “no one does” in the tech industry.
These critical decisions would be much harder to make if not guided by the intrinsic value of belief in better.
For our part, Heart + Matter is committed to finding a business model that reshapes what a agency life looks like. We want more and varied perspectives at the table. We believe in hiring talented creatives and compensating them fairly. We are figuring out how to put the infrastructure in place to allow smart, capable employees the flexibility they need to raise their families and support clients. We look at every client engagement and ask ourselves, “How could that have been better for them and for us?” We ask our clients to share their thoughts on that, too, because we WANT to get better.
The internal and external expressions go hand-in-hand. Leaders who are driven by better you will always look for ways to bring that truth to life. It’s when those leaders realize the full potential of their business as a platform for change that we as brand practitioners get the most excited to help them share their bold message and make a positive impact that ripples through their team, customers, and community.