What is a Positive Business?

There are so many good things to discuss about positive business that, sometimes it’s hard for me to know where to start, and also sometimes, when to stop.

Defining a positive business begins by looking at where it fits in the spectrum of organizations that exist today.

Characteristics of a positive business can be seen in all of these organizations.

An intentionally positive business, however, resides somewhere in the middle of a social enterprise (or social-purpose business) and a socially-responsible business.

A positive business works on expanding its definition of success beyond financial returns alone.

  • It takes specific and genuine steps toward creating real value for all of its stakeholders.
  • It views both opportunities and challenges with a positive lens.
  • It’s guided by a Quadruple Bottom Line of Purpose, People, Planet, and Prosperity.
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Where and how a company chooses to begin this expansion and the extent to which it progresses, are decisions made by the business owner and other company leaders. While expanding on a positive culture might be the path for one company, another might want to improve employee benefits or become more active in the local community, while still another might want to start advocating for more earth-friendly practices within its industry.

There are many ways to advance a company’s purpose, but approaches that also help advance the performance of the company and motivate employees are especially beneficial. “To be clear, the ambition to be more purposeful in business does not come at the expense of profitability” says Jen Reiner, president of Align – a human-centered strategy company in Lancaster PA.  Just recently the head of the world’s largest investment company, BlackRock, wrote a letter to CEOs supporting this reality.  BlackRock Chairman Larry Fink stated “to prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.”  Reiner claims that Positive Businesses have a ‘purpose advantage,’ in that they do well, by doing good because customers, partners and employees share enthusiasm for the purpose and literally ‘buy-in’ to the company’s success. Reiner helps CEOs develop a strategy that both fuels their purpose and provides a blueprint for growing their performance.  This may come from uncovering new opportunities (such as new customers, new revenue streams or new operations activities), scaling up capacity, or adapting their business to meet changing customer needs.

Deciding what to do is based in part on understanding the company’s current positivity position, its culture, and stakeholder expectations. It requires a plan for managing the changes that will take place. It involves establishing baselines and capturing data so results can be measured to gauge the effectiveness of the practices that are implemented.

A flexible, build-it-as-we-go approach is vital.  Much of what is accomplished in becoming a more positive business is a departure from 20th century business norms. Looking for ways to build on what’s working requires a pioneering spirit and creative energy that inspires action in the 21st century.

Becoming a more positive business truly is the new next level for successful leaders who yearn to do more.

About Me, Kelly Stewart:  As a Positive Business Consultant and Speaker, I study the research, science, and news and curate the best practices and resources that help business leaders put their not-just-for-profit mindset into practice. Whether that's improving business relationships, becoming a more socially-conscious business or reducing the company's impact on the environment, it's about knowing where and how to expand the company's positive core while earning profitable returns. Mom to two by birth and two by marriage, I live in Bucks County, PA with my fun and wonderful husband and our four dogs of all sizes and strange habits.