At first glance, entrepreneurship might appear to be a solid career move from a mental health standpoint. Being your own boss allows for unparalleled flexibility, and building a company from the ground up can be incredibly rewarding.
Unfortunately, there’s a less rosy side to entrepreneurial life: Many founders report battling depression on a daily basis — around 30 percent. And the consequences can be tragic, as the recent suicide of designer and businesswoman Kate Spade demonstrates all too well.
There’s no doubt that mental health is a topic on the minds of many this year. Depression and anxiety are harmful to your overall health, and it’s not difficult to imagine how they could also negatively impact your business. Depression, for instance, could cause leaders to suddenly lose interest in a business they’ve been passionate about for years, and anxiety can lead to crippling doubts that make even small decisions seem monumental.
Fortunately, if you incorporate a sense of purpose into your business plan, it can improve both your mental health and your odds of business success. Creating a business plan with a purpose helps entrepreneurs stay motivated, and a study published in Psychological Science found that having a purpose can add years to your life.
On the business side, consumers are increasingly demanding that companies embrace a social mission, such as a focus on diversity. A majority of the Americans who responded to a Pew Research Center poll said diversity makes the country a better place to live, meaning your customers could feel the same way. Or you could focus on saving the environment, another issue of increasing importance to many.
According to a Cone Communications survey, 87 percent of consumers report making a purchase because the company advocated a cause that was close to the customer’s heart. In addition, Deloitte’s “2018 Global Human Capital Trends” report discovered an uptick in social enterprises, with organizations being judged by the impact they make on society. To incorporate a sense of purpose into your business plan, consider the following to ensure you reap the most benefit from doing so:
1. Choose an appropriate cause to champion.
Think about causes you care about that are relevant to your business. If you run a bookstore, you could assist with local literacy programs, or if you create subscription boxes for pet owners, you could volunteer at local pet shelters. Focusing on a cause that relates to your business will ensure it resonates with your customers.
For instance, Patagonia, which sells outdoor clothing, contributes resources to conservation and land protection efforts. Furthermore, the company’s founder describes Patagonia as being in the saving-the-planet business rather than the clothing business — the fact that it makes clothing is simply the means to the end. But creating a culture around making a positive difference, as Patagonia has done, requires a plan.
2. Act to achieve your aim
After knowing what cause you want to champion through your business, map out action steps that maximize your impact. The best way to plan a social mission is by incorporating it into your business from the ground up — meaning it’s part of every decision you make, from choosing your vendors based on their own missions to letting your employees volunteer while on the clock.
Giving back isn’t merely a way to offset the harm your business does through difficult-to-avoid practices such as burning fossil fuels. Instead, your product itself should improve the lives of your customers and the people in their communities or communities around the world. TOMS shoes, for example, donates a pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair it sells.
3. Evaluate your efforts.
After putting purpose-driven processes into place, it’s wise to track the outcomes. Emily Lohse-Busch, executive director at Arch Grants in St. Louis, a nonprofit that seeks to attract early-stage businesses to the city, points out that people “are looking not only for opportunities to meet personal needs, but for a sense of greater purpose. Looking forward, businesses should plan for, track, and measure social impact in the same way that they look at their business growth.”
By monitoring the results of your efforts, you can find opportunities to refine your plan and hold yourself accountable. Measurement might take the form of dollars given to a cause or volunteer hours spent, but no matter what metrics you adopt, they should include quarterly increases and decreases, percentage improvements, and other benchmarks that will help refine your mission and maximize impact.
Numerous companies have built a reputation on giving back to causes that resonate with their consumers. For entrepreneurs, it’s been proven that a social mission can benefit business, with the added bonus of improving mental health and giving entrepreneurs a meaningful purpose.
Written by Serenity Gibbons