The Other Bottom Line

In social enterprise planning, we talk about and plan for a second bottom line.  One bottom line refers to financial success, and the second is the measurable social result, the greater good that comes of planning for improvement in the lives we touch with our economic platform.  The economic platform is there to ensure the social purpose is carried out, not to BE the purpose.  The second bottom line is quantifiable—social good is a real thing, and betterment of health, well-being, and learning are among the many reasons a social enterprise is brought to life.

Which brings up an important point, for me.  Doesn’t every enterprise have a second bottom line?  What about the enterprise that is your job?  Or think of your family as an enterprise, as well, with a revenue stream, along with a happiness stream, and a strategic plan.  In my last blog I wrote about not leaving a job just for money.  Truth be told, I don’t really think you should stay in one just for the money either, at least not indefinitely.

It isn’t just that money doesn’t buy happiness.  It is that time and the opportunity cost of using it all up may be a greater—more expensive—consideration than the money and anything else you are getting from your gig.  So that gig you aren’t happy in isn’t necessarily profitable or productive, if you consider what you are relinquishing to sustain it.

That is not to say it’s a good idea to chuck it all without a good plan, or even several good alternative plans.  The strategy question is often asked in business:  “So what do we do with all of these assets, in order to keep pace with a changing world, do what we love with what we have, thrive into the future, and do the world some good at the same time?”  In a social enterprise (which a family unit, or even a single individual with multiple aims, might be), the last question would be a very specific reference to the social mission of the organization, and might have to be answered before the one about the assets.  Enterprise executives know that change is inevitable and sometimes swift but not always; woe be to the stubborn enterprise that denies it (talking to you, Kodak).

So think of the greater good as your own greater good, and the second bottom line as your fulfillment, your growth, and your well-being.  Of course there is a list in here somewhere and it’s probably a list of steps for planning to upgrade your happiness quotient, but first a word about the timing of life and enterprise planning.  Do it while you have assets and resources, including youth, health, a financial cushion (even a little one), an intact family (if that applies), and the will to consider the largest number of alternatives.  Don’t wait until inertia, depression, or fear have taken over, or worse, you have spent your assets on fleeting things to make you feel better about your situation.

On to planning:

1.  Make a comprehensive list of your assets, attributes, and resources, using spreadsheet software and skills to remind you that this isn’t a list of just any old stuff.  These are the very real things you have and can use to help you transition or change, establish a new platform, and to help you see that you are already an enterprise.  We don’t often think of our good health, for example, as an asset, but if you ever lose it you find out how valuable it is.  Similarly, frequent flier miles look so innocuous—but they can be enormously helpful when you need or want to go to trade show to check out the lay of the land, or meet in person with a prospective employer, or trade them in for a computer.

2.  Gather your inner circle, and seek their participation in developing your mission, vision, and values statements to guide your next chapter(s).   Whatever your plan alternatives or your transformation steps, it is good to seek the inclusion of the team—the team can help.  Please include the naysayers along with the cheerleaders; you may find that the very one who fixes you with a quizzical stare has just saved you vast amounts of pain and suffering, and maybe money.  Engage your circle; ask for help.  Thank your circle, but do what you have to do.

3.  Start writing your intentions, affirmations, plans, mental notes, business ideas, budgets, wild notions, dreams, whatever.  I will say it for the millionth time:  It isn’t real if it isn’t written down.  A narrative that lives in your head with all that misery and confusion is not going to thrive for very long, sorry to say.  Once you see it on the page, with notes, adjectives, and some stark clarity it starts to look like it’s earned a place at the table of your inner circle, a slot on your life’s to-do list, and space in your conversations about investment.  Your narrative is important; it becomes how you see yourself and you have to make sure your personal self-talking points are always positive.  You have to mentor yourself.

4.  Sort.  Organize.  SWOT.  Research.  Seek.  Budget.  Learn.  Negotiate.  I don’t put things like this in order, mainly because I’m not very good at order.  (Now there’s negative self-talk for you.) But really, once you start writing all different kinds of things down, you are starting to set up commitments, and pretty much anything can emerge.  Get a copy of The Artist’s Way, the best book in the world, by Julia Cameron and Mark Bryan.  Even if you aren’t an artist, the one piece of advice that the author gives, early in the book, is to write for 15 minutes every day, before you start the day, and before you eat, drink you coffee, shower, or fully awaken.  What you write doesn’t matter, but you should do it with pen and paper, not a screen and keyboard.

My friend Janet Conner teaches this in Writing Down Your Soul, her book and workshop series.  From personal experience, I can tell you that it works.  There is something about writing this way that brings you answers.  Just try it.

5.  Develop a set of written values, standards, goals or guiding principles; if there is a special person or a set of special people in your life who are all in this together, do it as a group.  There is no right or wrong here; this is what you live by, you are just making it transparent so that you can’t cut the corner just this once.  This is accountability in action.

A very long time ago, I saw a play in our local theater called The Swan (by Elizabeth Egloff)In this story, a large swan comes crashing through a woman’s front window and takes up residence on her couch after turning into a man.  It’s an absurdist play, so the sky is the limit on what is meant by all the symbolism, some of which was really completely lost on me.  But what I took from it was that that swan-man looked a lot like Awareness; once he’s on your couch and living with you every day, you can’t really deny or simplify the fact of him.  The nurse protagonist was seeking a romantic salvation, a whole, comprehensive solution, but that isn’t how it works.  To change Awareness, you have to slowly change yourself, the way you look at problems, and how you consider all the possibilities in your life.

It was a really good play.


One response to “The Other Bottom Line

  1. Hi Cathy, I have continued to follow you and your writing with such interest. How are you? How is your business going? I know you dropped a line awhile back and realize it took me awhile to get back…hope you received my reply eventually. Love to reconnect when we can. Sending warm regards. Hope you are enjoying your Summer! Mary
    Inspiration of the Month: Our goal while on this earth is to transcend our illusions and discover the innate power of our spirit. We are responsible for what we create, and we must therefore learn to act and think with love and wisdom and live in service to others and all life. — Caroline Myss, Anatomy of the Spirit

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