The end of the year is a great time to reflect on the past twelve months and identify your business priorities for the year ahead.
Here in Canada, a trend we’re seeing is businesses increasingly looking to do more than simply make a profit. Business owners want to make a difference, whether to their local community, the environment or society overall.
The growth of the B Corp community—which is made up of  for-profit companies committed to rigorous standards of social and environmental performance—to over 2,300 companies is testament to this shift.
If you’re a business owner looking to make a difference, here are some tips that will make 2018 your best, and most impactful, year yet.
Understand your customers’ values
Before deciding what impact your business should make, it’s worth understanding your customers’ values and aspirations. This is an important first step: by aligning your business’ impact with your customers’ values, you’ll not only be giving back, but increasing their loyalty too. Impact and growth can coexist in a business, if executed correctly.
For example: outdoor clothing company Patagonia describes itself as being in the business of wilderness activism and environmental stewardship. This resonates well with its nature-loving customers.
The best way to get to the root of what your customers value is simple: ask them. If you have your customers’ email addresses, send a questionnaire; if not, ask them in person when they next visit you.
Get a plan underway
If you’re looking to make an impact, it is important to set ‘impact goals’ alongside financial goals.
When writing your business plan, ask yourself: at the end of 2018, what would you be proud to say you’d achieved? Is making a difference to your local community, society at large or the environment?
Once you’ve deemed what’s important to you – and your customers – set yourself goals that are SMART (meaning Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely). These goals can be your benchmark for success at the end of the year.
Turning ideas into actions
Once you’ve defined your impact goals, you’re ready to act on them. Keep new initiatives simple and measurable.
For example, if you own a coffee shop, considering introducing ‘suspended’ coffees, where customers can buy one for themselves, and another for someone in need. This type of initiative would likely be welcomed by close-knit communities, is simple to execute and impactful.
Also consider how to share your story with your most important audience – your customers. To build on the coffee shop example, count the number of coffees donated by customers from January 1st onwards, and communicate this at the till, on receipts, on the front door or via your social media channels.
As a small business owner, what impact are you looking to achieve in 2018? Share your ideas with us in the comment box below.
If you need help making an impact, our Good Cents Loan program specifically funds improvements to businesses that will positively impact the community or environment around them: