What Does It Mean to Be Positive in Business?

Being positive in business begins with focusing on a broader definition of success. Intentionally positive businesses seek achievement along a Quadruple Bottom Line of Purpose, People, Planet, and Prosperity. 

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Leaders of positive businesses design, implement, and measure practices that help them achieve success in one or more or all of these areas. They strive to be a force for good in their communities. They seek to reduce their impact on the planet. 

They create real value for their clients, and they do something else that is wildly and wonderfully different from the status quo. They form high-quality relationships with their employees, suppliers, partners, and others because they recognize that everyone’s contributions are essential to the company’s success.

Steve Van Valin, Founder and CEO of Culturology, shares that “To bring out the best in others involves connecting people with the purpose at the heart of the business. Leaders who answer the WHY question amplify meaning in ways that engage people. The work that we do at Culturology in leading culture change holds true for bringing out the best in other stakeholders because all people act according to their beliefs.”

While it’s likely that many companies attempt to connect with their stakeholders, give back to their communities and make earth-friendly decisions from time to time, positive businesses make a consistent effort even in challenging or uncertain times.

This is the core of what it means to be positive in business.

More than expecting that every day will be filled with daffodils and lollipops.

Being positive in business is not about wishful thinking. It’s about how a business functions in good times and bad. Healthy, for-profit companies that have a positive core have broken through old business habits that are limiting and sometimes even destructive.

Instead, positive businesses build on what works (rather than trying to fix what doesn’t), stretch for results that exceed expected performance, seek to expand their capabilities, and encourage excellence and goodness for its own sake.*

It’s through this positive lens that business leaders see potential and opportunity in the Quadruple Bottom Line. In thinking more broadly about success, they can find new ways for their companies to remain relevant and viable while at the same time earning their stakeholders’ trust.

An idea whose times has come.

Consider the recent letter from BlackRock cautioning that companies without a sense of purpose will “lose their license to operate from key stakeholders.” In related news, the announcement from Danone that they are “tying their cost of capital to third-party, verifiable environmental, social, and governance or ESG performance.”

The message for business owners and other company leaders is clear – the way business is being done today is changing, and it’s not only about how “the big guys" do it.

Your purpose and your environmental and societal performance matters, regardless of the size or type of your business or how long you’ve been in business or where you do business.

Choosing to look through a positive lens to meet these expectations becomes a radically practical imperative for every business that wants to improve revenue, attract and retain employees, enhance operations, and in the process, create a legacy of prosperity.  

Welcome to the 21st century way of doing business.

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.

*Source: The Oxford Handbook of Positive Organizational Scholarship. Edited by Kim S. Cameron, Gretchen M. Spreitzer. Oxford University Press 2012. Visit the Center for Positive Organizations to learn more.