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Make a Difference, Not Just a Profit

By Audrey Seymour

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Have you been trying to juggle the two priorities of making a living and making a difference in the world? Traditionally, being a successful entrepreneur meant measuring your results with a profit-based bottom line.  But today's entrepreneurs are waking up to the fact that the old ways of doing business aren't working as well anymore. The consequences have been more evident every day in arenas such as the economy, the healthcare industry, and the environment.

Yet, I don't believe in pathologizing the old ways. We can't blame traditional corporations for only caring about profits because they have just been fulfilling the purpose they were designed for -- to earn money for their shareholders.  And you've probably noticed that blaming people tends to cause them to dig in their heels and get defensive, rather than causing the change in behavior you'd like to see.

What we can do is be part of the emerging model of social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurs heal the artificial split between the nonprofit and for-profit worlds by using a triple bottom line that measures their impact on people, planet, and profits.  

A natural consequence of this reorientation is that social entrepreneurs do not work in isolation. Rather than the old-style ideal of the lonely hero or heroine who saves the world, we now know that today's complex challenges require collaboration between many individuals in a variety of ways.

Although I enjoy the creative outlet of having my own coaching practice, another key part of my business model and fulfillment is setting up joint ventures with colleagues and being part of a collective that tackles much bigger missions than I could ever do on my own.

Think about how your life purpose informs your business. What difference are you called to make, and for what clientele? Would it serve your mission to join forces with others as part of what you do?

Finding your ideal collaborators works the same way as finding your ideal clients. Who else serves the same audience as you do, in either similar or different ways? What kind of organizations would they join, what kind of events would they attend, and what kind of forums would they visit?

Once you share more resources and ideas with other like-minded entrepreneurs, it makes it much easier to take your work to a bigger stage. That will, in turn, increase your profits and impact on people and the planet.

To learn more about this emerging field, see Resources for Social Entrepreneurs.

© 2010 Audrey Seymour. All rights reserved.