Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Quadruple Bottom Line - people, planet, profits, and PASSION.

Lately, I've been very focused on what my fellow "green" business owners (and, more recently, mainstream business owners) call the triple bottom line - creating a business where profits don't come at the expense of people and planet. It's a wonderful idea, and one that I've seen work very well in a variety of businesses - from (mostly) solo efforts like my own that are primarily service-based to the various local retailers and manufacturers in my network to larger companies like Whole Foods and Aveda. All good companies, doing great things, all while making sure that we are treating our people (including, in some cases, ourselves) and our planet as gracefully as possible.

But lately, the question that's REALLY been bugging me is, why just the three? How about adding a fourth element to this - to me, the most important element of all - passion? For as long as I can remember, I've had a secret mantra, which has always kicked me in the pants whenever I've ignored it - "If you don't love it, why the heck are you doing it?" It pops up in certain moments - relationships, jobs, activities, friendships - whenever I find myself too deep in a rut, those words come running back into my mind, and I know it's time to change course - no matter how painful that will be. And this is why I ultimately started my own business - because I couldn't for the life of me find a "day job" that I really loved. I had to carve my own path.

Here's the thing - when you finally do decide to start your own business, if that's your path, why are you doing it? Is it because this is what you live and breathe and you'll just DIE unless you get to do it every day, or is it because this is what you know? Or worse, it's what your father or your mother knew and want you to carry the torch of, and you can't stand it? Is your passion what you've been doing professionally all your life, or is it something completely different - something you've always secretly dreamed of, but never thought it was possible? And what about your day-to-day operations? Are you working in a way that's true to YOU and your values, or are you doing things the way that everyone tells you they should be done - the way they've "always" been done?

I invite you to take a step inside yourself sometime and ask yourself questions like these. You might find that you've got things all wrong - yes, you've been consulting on software all your life, but your real passion is making homemade jam. Or, on a happier note, you could find that you've been doing everything just fine, and maybe a couple of minor tweaks will bring you ultimate happiness. Either way, you'll be better off for the asking.

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