by Tony Fannin, president, BE Branded
This entry is a little different than my normal thoughts about branding, marketing, and advertising. I felt the need to address the idea of big business and philanthropy. The idea came about through a conversation with a few business colleagues. One owned a business and the conversation came up to why should he try to grow a large business when all he wanted was to make a decent living and spend time with his family and doing charity work (which he loved to do and believed in)? One was as recent graduate who had ambitions to make a big difference in the world. The others worked at large corporations who had charitable programs that supported many organizations who were doing good. Most of the group saw philanthropy and growing a business as separate issues. I see it differently.
I see growing a business to it’s maximum potential, or growing your division as profitable as possible, as a means to an end. To those who are passionate about philanthropy and making a “dent” in the world (as Steven Jobs would say), it takes capital and financial resources. As today’s economy has blatantly shown, without corporate profits, there is no major philanthropy. Both from a corporate side or the investor side. I know many see big business as evil. That’s very narrow sighted and wrong. Big business is not inherently evil or good. It’s just a fact. What you do with the resources is what can be termed evil or good. Being a pastor’s son, I have been raised with a certain set of core values. I want to make a dent in the world for the better, but I see my way of doing so is by making my integrated marketing agency as big and profitable as possible. This will give me the resources to pour into the causes and organizations that will do the world the most good. I also see our role in helping our clients become as large as possible in order for them to fund the charitable programs they support. I see our role as much more than our own selves.
Why do I believe this? I hold this concept as true because I’ve seen what the power of financial backing can do when placed behind a great cause. My father’s church is on the front lines. Instead of building a $1mil wing to the church or adding amenities and luxuries for the congregation, they pour their financial resources into buying groceries for families in need and paying utility bills for those who would otherwise go without. The more money they had available, the more families they could help, the bigger the difference they can make in their community.
I believe that growing a business or division to it’s fullest potential is a key driver in making a difference in the world. I know that human capital – the many volunteers – are very important. They are on the front lines doing the hard work. But as in any battle, soldiers without weapons and resources will not be able to do their jobs and are totally ineffective. That’s the key role big business plays. I know that I’m not alone. Jack Welch has often said that building winning businesses is extremely beneficial for society. Winning businesses contribute to the overall attitude of their employees. It contributes financial support to worthy charitable organizations. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are prime examples of taking big business and making a huge dent in the world. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet represent the two groups I mentioned earlier (corporations and investors). The recent grad in our group asked the question of why should she spend her time with trying to become expert in her field instead of going straight to a not-for-profit group? Knowing her well, I knew she wanted to make a big difference and wouldn’t be satisfied just donating her Saturdays helping out at public functions. My reply was who is going to effect more people quicker: the big business that has a philanthropy program that contributes $2mil a year or an individual who donates their Saturdays? In this she saw the point, which is beyond giving of your time, building a great business IS a means to an end. In addition to financial support, great businesses can give of their expertise and knowledge. I know that our agency markets for causes we believe in. We leverage our expertise in integrated marketing to get their message out and be as effective as our “real” clients. As we know, awareness is half the battle. The other half is to reach them emotionally of why they should even care.
So to those who only want to grow their business to just a corner store or two, or to those who just want to be comfortable, think about how much good you can do by building great businesses that reach their full potential. Our role is to help our clients build those great businesses so they, in turn, will have the resources to change the world for the better. As I’ve heard before, humans are the only things in nature that CHOOSES to not reach their full potential.