Having lived and worked in Silicon Valley for many years, I’ve come across many strong business ideas, and have met many thirsty entrepreneurs all looking to push their ideas into success and truly make it in this fast moving and competitive world, and particularly in Silicon Valley! It’s a world where becoming an outlier in a sea of ideas is the success we strive for, and every boundary broken through on the way exists only to mold an iron-tough, built-for-survival kind of business. It’s an incredibly exciting and high energy place full of talent. And, as a serial entrepreneur and investor, the one thing that has always stood out to me beyond a brilliant idea with a perfect team behind it, is an entrepreneur’s definition of success.

In our capitalistic culture, it can be easy to begin chasing the wrong type of success, and end up lost in it. Without a proper foundation and strong definition of the businesses true service offered to its target audience right from the get go, it can be far too easy to become so focused on the wrong type of success that the lure of greed takes over and the true purpose of the business is forgotten. We’ve seen it happen to corporations and the people who work in them throughout history, and we’ve seen how detrimental it can become for both individuals and the collective society.

On the flip side, we’ve seen companies who remain loyal to their service to humanity also flourish. Companies like:

  • Toms - one of the first notable companies to find major success in a “buy-one-give-one” business model and in-turn push the momentum for many companies to follow suit.
  • Warby Parker - valued at $1.2 billion and follows the same model as Toms for their eyeglasses sales.
  • Zappos - makes a company commitment to “higher purpose” by running various community outreach events and “random acts of happiness” campaigns for the general public.
  • Starbucks (while all may not agree here) - supplying our culture with coffee every morning is enough of an incredible service to humanity in the eyes of many, but they also run the Starbucks Foundation, which supplies grants to non-profits, supports community service initiatives, and helps supply clean water to the world with Ethos Water.

All of these examples are for profit companies that prove that business capital and social capital can in fact be combined and in turn create a healthier wealth than many of their competitors. At One Planet Ops, we call this philosophy “Innovation + Intention”.

Today’s consumers, and specifically the millennials, have made it known that their support for a company comes along with the assurance that the company not only sells a great service or product, but also maintains a healthy definition of their success. Is success defined by a profitable outcome that puts financial gain over values? Or is success defined by the number of lives positively impacted by the work being done? The question consumers are beginning to ask before purchasing a product is this: How does a business define their rewards?

Since the dawn of time, businesses were created for the benefit of the people, to offer aserviceneeded to make lives better. Thought leaders throughout history have shared this philosophy in different ways but all saying the same thing:

“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give” - Winston Churchill

What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.” - Albert Pike

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: what are you doing for others?” - Martin Luther King Jr.

While this philosophy can be easy to preach, it can be much more difficult to follow through with. Being an entrepreneur is hard enough as it is when you’re a young business and you’re spending more than you’re making. How can a business worry about its role in the betterment of the world when it can hardly keep itself afloat?

We at One Planet Ops attempt to create and support a cyclical model in which our businesses’ efforts in helping our local communities flourish (while also benefiting causes that we care deeply about), in turn helps the business as a whole flourish. One Planet gives 5 business days a year for our employees to take as “service days” for a cause of their choice. Additionally, we ask each business that we invest in to commit to proactively use their resources (whether human capital, financial, or with their products/services) to do what they can regardless of how small the impact may be to attempt to play a role in the betterment of the world. We want all businesses to be social impact businesses.

We also believe that a business’s contribution to social impact and the betterment of the world can more effectively come from financially (or in other ways) supporting existing non-profits or missions that the team feels strongly about rather than attempting to start their own non-profit. This way, the team can focus their strengths on building a highly successful business that will be able to more effectively support their cause of choice while supporting a the team at a nonprofit so they can more effectively do what they are great at.

Ideally, businesses will adopt one nonprofit as their primary social impact arm. This way they can treat that one non-profit as their own, while also ensuring that their resources are not spread thin over too many projects where the impact may be diluted. Identifying the company with one major cause will make it much easier and more effective for an organization to rally the employees, vendors and partners around that cause. For us, that one nonprofit is Tahirih Justice Center, protecting women and girls subjected to gender based violence.  

One Planet Ops also believes that businesses do not have to wait until the day they have “achieved success” to begin baking social impact into their core fiber. While there may not always be cash readily available to contribute, there is always talent and expertise that can be helpful within their own local community and at the nonprofits that they care about. Getting involved from day one will also have the added benefit that it will help build a culture that can have tremendous impact on both employee and client retention, job satisfaction, and the overall process of building a business that generates impact well beyond the financial success of the company.

One Planet Ops is always looking for new opportunities, and to meet entrepreneurs who are building great companies with massive potentials and are committed to making the betterment of the world an inseparable part of their mission. If your definition of success matches ours, we’d love to hear from you. E-mail us athello@oneplanetops.com

With love,

payam