What’s your Plan B?
No, not your back-up plan in case your original plan doesn’t work out. Sir Richard Branson has a different spin on what it means to have a Plan B that involves a trio of P-words. According to Fox News, Branson holds that your Plan A is what businesses traditionally aim to do: make a profit. Plan B is what your business does for two other P-words: the planet and people.
Branson has also given new meaning to the idea of having a B team, which usually implies second stringers who fill only when needed. Branson’s B team has one job: come up with Plan B ways that businesses can tackle global quality of life issues. His team includes first-string thought and business leaders such as Paul Polman of Unilever, Dr. Mo Ibrahim of Celtel, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria and Ariana Huffington of the Huffington Post.
Of course, Branson has built a hugely successful international corporate empire. He has the revenue, the resources and the connections to pursue this work. It’s easy for him to talk about being charitable. What about small business owners who are already working day in and day out to get their product or service to market, pay their employees reasonable wages and make a profit?
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What Plan B Can Do for Your Business
To look at in purely practical terms, doing good is good for business. As The Globe and Mail points out, a Plan B:
- Saves you money. More sustainable practices not only reduce your carbon footprint, they improve your bottom line by reducing energy use, packaging costs and maintenance expenses.
- Attracts customers. Today’s consumers are not only more willing to buy from companies with a social conscience, they are also more willing to pay premium prices for their products and services.
- Encourages employee loyalty. People take pride in where they work, and like to think they are doing something more than just bringing home a paycheck. A company involved with the community gives employees a sense of belonging that is directly related to their improved productivity and long-term retention.
- Helps you network. Working with charitable programs that involve other vendors, suppliers, investors and potential customers is a prime networking opportunity. There’s no better way to build partnerships and relationships than with those who share a common cause.
How to Plan Your Plan B
Your company’s Plan B should reflect your business. It stands to reason that a company in the energy business promotes energy conservation, or that a food services company might get involved in feeding the homeless.
Here are four suggestions to jumpstart your Plan B:
- Create a nonprofit company foundation. This puts your brand out there in connection with a good cause. Moreover, there might be favorable tax implications to creating a nonprofit area of your company.
- Advise a fund or get on a charity board. Worried about the costs and time commitments of running a nonprofit of your own? Take on the role of an advisor to a fund or get on a charity board. This will also provide valuable experience for when you are able to start your own nonprofit.
- Partner with other charities. Offer your office space for a charitable event, such as a blood donation drive, and encourage employee participation. Donate old and unused office equipment (and get a tax deduction). Become a sponsor for charity events, such as road races or dinner galas.
- Hold staff volunteer days. There are plenty of opportunities for employees as a company team or as individuals to do work for the community while being paid by your company. Whether it’s cleaning a park or roadside, tutoring students or working in a community food kitchen, staff volunteer days build employee teamwork and improve job satisfaction.
These are just some of the ways you can develop a Plan B and make a difference. Who knows, maybe someday Sir Richard may ask you to join his B team!