When people first set up a small business, they focus on certain tasks. Their priority is to get the underlying structure of the business created and all that comes with this – producing the product, ensuring there is a sales funnel, working on a marketing approach, etc. Whilst these are all important, they will not dictate the success of the business. It is actually items like your listening skills, the way you go about negotiating and your ability to lead that will set you apart from your competitor and ensure you thrive. And these are all conscious business practices.
The term ‘conscious business’ is relatively new, developing from the concept of corporate social responsibility. Whereas 20 years ago businesses were either commercial or communal, now the most successful businesses combine the two. The business strategy is not just about increasing the bottom line but about improving the lives of the people both inside and outside the company, as well as helping the planet.
Within a conscious business, the basics of a business are still important, yet it is the beliefs and values that drive the company forward. Every member of the company from the executives to administrative staff have bought in to the company vision and ensure each task they complete is aligned to it. This means that everyone is responsible for creating the heartbeat of the company.
Business owners understand that, as the team is so important to their business, their thought forms will ultimately impact the company financially. For instance, if someone in the sales team is having a bad day their attitude could lead to them not making a sale which they’d usually close effortlessly. Therefore, there is a focus on team wellbeing, ensuring they feel supported and are encouraged to rise to their full potential.
There is a simple way to help improve the mood of the team and that is to provide transparency on the workings of the business. When the team are invested in the success of the company and see the direct correlation between the tasks they are completing and the benefits arising from the finished product, they will be happier at work and so more motivated. This in turn benefits the company. It will lead to better communication, greater efficiency of tasks and heightened creativity within the solutions provided.
As a business owner, soft skills are therefore on some level more important than hard skills, as they really enable you to make a difference. They allow you to communicate clearly with the team, so they have all the necessary information to produce outstanding products. They help you to create a positive, safe environment with a no judgement policy so the team can brainstorm innovative solutions. In this type of space, everyone is free to make mistakes… and then learn from them.
Soft skills are also essential for great conflict resolution. All business will experience conflict at some point, no matter how conscious; what is important is how you handle this conflict. Being able to put yourself into another person’s shoes will allow you to understand why there is a difference of opinion. What motivates the other person? Do they understand the overall goal? Is their personal vision in alignment with the company’s vision? When you think in this manner, you will be able to remove any obstacles.
As you can see, soft skills can have a massive impact on your business when implementing them internally and this continues to be the case when employed externally. You will find that when you apply your communication skills to your customers and truly listen to their needs, you can deliver a product that fulfils all of their requirements… and even add benefits on top of this! This improves the relationship you have with them which will in turn lead to more repeat business and free marketing as the customer tells others about the type of service you deliver.
In line with this, the concept of creating ‘win-win’ outcomes that benefit all parties is also becoming increasingly common. The strategy has been around since it was introduced by Stephen Covey in his book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ and is especially important in companies that operate in a value driven and ethical manner. These businesses want to do everything they can to make their customers happy. Their customers’ profits become just as important as their own profits, encouraging them to produce truly customer-centric products.
Care for the local community is just an extension of the care afforded to customers for a conscious business, as they continuously find ways to benefit or give back to the local community. The more people they positively impact, the better. This could range from providing discounted products to those in the local area, to raising money for a local good cause. Some companies partner with a nearby school so team members can help children to read on a weekly basis. Others join forces with the council so the team can volunteer to help with gardening or by contributing to a building renovation. These initiatives not only help the local community but also the team itself as their mood is positively impacted by the act of helping others.
On top of this focus on the local community, conscious businesses also consider environmental impact. Today this is common within any business at some level, yet conscious businesses make this a fundamental part of their strategy. They look to source materials locally to reduce their carbon footprint, they consider the amount and type of packaging they utilise and they embrace technology to reduce the need to travel. Many conscious businesses even look to use renewable energy sources and so have a ‘zero-impact’ workplace.
Imagine how different your business would be if you started to incorporate these practices. When implemented in the spirit they are intended, they will have a positive impact on your team, your customers and the environment. Create your own conscious business strategy and each week introduce another practice. Then notice how your business upgrades. No matter how small your business, conscious business practices are sure to help you evolve to the next level.
About the Author
Lucy Spencer has been working in the corporate world for over 15 years developing from a role as a Business Analyst to a Programme Manager. She has most recently been involved in a start-up business based in London and Mumbai, using her years of experience to successfully create a solid foundation for a truly conscious business.