When we look at the enormous social issues these days—the pandemic, the “she-cession,” racial inequality—we tend to think that only enormous action can lead to results. This type of thinking can lead to inaction, as we become overwhelmed by all that has to be done. But as the research being done into personal growth shows that small incremental actions can have extraordinary outcomes. Just lacing up your sneakers and walking five minutes every day for a week can lead to healthy new habits that have enormous impact. The same holds true for companies that truly want to show up as a force for good. These companies can become the engine that drives positive change by taking small actions every day, by considering the ethos of “doing good” with each decision they make, in each interaction they have.
2020 bore witness to a lot of companies “talking the talk” and saying the right things. What we need in 2021 is for companies to step up and take action. Doing that takes more than just a few well phrased tweets and a check sent to a big-name charity. It takes incorporating purpose and passion into the DNA of your company. Companies can start to make a difference by being a little better every day, making small incremental shifts in how they think about and do “business.” As James Clear says in Atomic Habits, “You choose the future with your actions each day.”
There is nothing better to learn from than the examples of others, and at Phin, we have seen some great examples of companies that truly integrate “doing good” into the soul of their organizations. Lessing’s Hospitality Group and Magnetic Advisers have taken deliberate steps to have a focus on doing good in the communities around them. They have been intentional and set goals. By making small shifts over an extended period of time, they have not only had an impact on the community but have also drawn the notice of employees and customers that recognize these attributes and want to be part of this ethos.
Lessing’s Hospitality Group, a family owned company that has been in business for over 130 years, has an ethos ingrained into the company to do good, and it is reflected in their everyday actions. Even in the years before it was an officially recognized commitment, the company sponsored initiatives like dedicating every April to donations for Autism and raising tens of thousands of dollars through a road race every October for the MPS Society. However, once they made it company policy to have a positive social and environmental impact, they realized that not only were they having a greater impact, they were also attracting employees that want to work for a company that cared and getting recognition for their initiatives from customers as well as local media and business groups.
So how did they get more intentional about being a business with purpose? Rather than writing a big check each year and checking it off their list, they decided to bring this focus of doing good into the daily decisions they were making. Three years ago, they created the #dogood logo and campaign to show their commitment to their employees and to their customers. When making purchasing decisions, the #dogood lens was applied, resulting in more sustainable purchasing when it came to straws and take-out containers, and more focus on local, sustainable food purchasing for fine dining. Community partnerships brought in local breweries and wineries, creating custom brews and wines that also contributed money for breast cancer research, autism and food banks. Each year a plan is created with initiatives to focus on every season.
Some of these initiatives were as simple as recycling oysters and crayons, offering a nonprofit space for their board meetings, participating in beach cleanups and community garden planting. But these simple efforts add up to making a true difference in the lives of those in the communities where they operate. This intentionality has created closer partnerships with nonprofits in their community, bringing them better insight into the local issues and contributing to the creativity and ideas they have about how to #dogood.
During the pandemic, particularly in the beginning when all events were canceled and restaurants were closed or at limited capacity, Lessing’s Hospitality Group had a struggle ahead of them. It would have been easy to decide to pull back on philanthropic projects. Instead, when they pivoted to take-out at their South Shore restaurants, they started a new initiative, Take Out and Give Back through Phin, as a way of saying thank you to their customers for supporting them. Customers who purchase take-out from one of these restaurants get a sponsored donation of $5 with a selection of local causes to choose from. This campaign has helped Lessing’s sustain the #dogood initiative during a difficult time and drive home to customers that they were a company that really cared—a company where doing good was a core value, even when times weren’t easy.
Another stellar example of a company that weaves the #dogood practice into everyday thought is Magnetic Advisers. Magnetic is a private equity fund investing in small businesses to create positive impact in the community. Continual investment in companies over time is how they make a substantial difference. They are intentional in looking for those projects that directly benefit the community, like the creation of a local restaurant or developing housing in economically challenged areas. And, critically, these investments are not “one and done.” Magnetic supports these companies on an ongoing basis, while through its philanthropy, it also helps community-building causes. This continual process helps to ensure the success of the businesses and the beneficial influence on the community.
They follow a similar philosophy in their philanthropy. It’s doing a little every day with Phin throughout the year, not writing one big check at the end. It’s supporting musicians, food banks and shelters during the weeks of the Phin Food & Shelter program. It’s inspiring the next generation of inventors and entrepreneurs through Hack the Lib. It’s promoting clean water initiatives and women entrepreneurship through Saha Global. And by directly involving the community in all of these efforts, they are able to multiply the power of these initiatives by raising awareness and empathy for these impactful causes.
So how do you replicate these efforts and make a pivot towards purpose? Be intentional, make a plan and start thinking about all the little things you can change to start doing good on a regular basis. Follow the example of the Great Britain cycling team that went from a single gold Olympic medal in 100 years to eight gold medals at one Olympics in less than five years, simply by making one percent improvements. Be like Lessing’s Hospitality Group and Magnetic Advisers and keep evolving, looking for ways to do good and making small simple changes. Just improving a little bit each day can lead to an Olympic gold medal, or even better a significant contribution to a community that thrives.