Should Giving Back Be a Key Marker of a Company’s Success?
Grab any Startup Manual in the Business section of your local book shop and very likely you will see the same key ingredients for success repeated: value proposition, customer segments, channels, customer relationships, cost structure, key activities, resources, partners and of course, revenue streams. Throw in a great team, a good culture with an absolute purpose and you’re golden.
But what about core values? Corporate and social responsibility for startups? Is it too early to think about weaving these worthy and valuable threads into the fabric of a brand new company?
Very often, corporate social responsibility and philanthropy programs become add-ons to the core business of the company. But are these initiatives too little too late? Very often the motivation to launch a commendable corporate responsibility program is a response to prior disreputable behaviour. Perhaps an environmental or financial scandal that has tarnished the company’s reputation.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Strike a Balance
At SOSV, we have worked with hundreds of young startups. We have funded and mentored them on their path to success. That’s what we do. That’s our core business. But we feel equally passionate about giving back. Making a difference and changing the world for the better. These core values come from and are lived by the entire team. It helps us strike a balance in our fast paced, and what traditionally would be viewed as, the ruthless world of venture capital.
But who can give back when your company is just starting up? What startup has that kind of extra cash to give?
Probably not that many. But it doesn’t have to be only about the almighty dollar!
Like in many startups or businesses, SOSV has a wide spectrum of talent on staff. Experts in diverse areas of business: Engineers, Founders, Developers, Technology Pioneers and more. So in addition to funding worthy humanitarian organisations and STEM education for science, technology, engineering and math, we have found a simple and easy way to give back with our time.
“Office hours” is a simple concept whereby experienced and successful business people share their time on a voluntary basis, providing one-on-one advice to any citizen or future entrepreneurs on the various aspects of starting or running a business. We dedicate 15–30 minute slots for a total of 1–2 hours a week to provide peer-mentoring to future entrepreneurs or any citizen, for that matter. Anyone can book time and and benefit from the experience and advice of folks who have “been there and done that.”
It is not that much of a sacrifice out of a 40 hour work week? Right?
We are working on developing a platform that will expand the Office Hours concept across all of Ireland, thus strengthening the country’s entire startup ecosystem — officehours.ie
That’s just one way of doing it. It works for our company and has been very effective and rewarding for us and those who have taken up the opportunity.
An Ethos of Citizenship
All in all, “Giving Back” is really about creating an ethos of citizenship and volunteering that fits your company or organisation. Start by evaluating the traditional values and strengths of your team members, community volunteers, and government leaders, and encourage them to contribute in their unique way. As Vince Lombardi says:
“ Individual commitment to a group effort: that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilisation work”
So, don’t wait until your company is all “grown up” and Facebook comes “a knocking”. Start now. Think of small ways of making a big impact. Make your start up corporately responsive and able.
Make “Giving Back” an integral marker of your company’s success.
Originally published at sosv.com on February 26, 2014.