Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Building a Company around a Social Mission

Clarifying Social Mission, collage

Collage: Clarifying Our Social Mission
Credit: MS Office ClipArt MP900407401

Building a company around a social mission – does it make sense? Our new way forward.

Over the last four years we have written extensively about the need for mentoring and helping women succeed in the Construction Industry and our commitment to play a significant part, but we never really talked about the impact that adopting this particular social mission as our core had on our business.

When we started the company we believed unfailingly that companies need to have a social mission at their cores to make a difference in their communities. However, most companies that follow that model are not-for-profit entities, and so eligible for third party funding. In contrast, we are a for-profit company, mainly to keep self determination, so we are ineligible for almost all grants available to not-for-profits.

Some for-profit organizations have aligned their social mission with their primary product or service. A solar panel company that wants to provide green energy to everyone for example has aligned the green mission with their product. In contrast, our social mission to help women succeed in the building industry is only tangentially connected to our bread and butter activity: designing and building home renovations, additions and custom houses. Hence publishing our social message often distracted from our building message making a coherent marketing effort difficult.

Our business model is to finance our social mission through building revenue, meaning if we dilute our message for getting work we are less successful in obtaining new projects, therefore our women’s site mentoring will suffer. Also, since we are a start-up company, staff time is scarce and we could not do as many workshops, introduction to students, training initiatives etc as we had wanted. We are very proud of our anime WoBinna who is helping to increase awareness about the mission.

On the benefit side we had a lot of interests, publicity in our social mission and it certainly was a talking point. It also showed our sincerity and community spirit. And over the last 4 years we have encouraged a few women to make the trades their career. It was a great feeling seeing that our efforts were successful.

So, why are we continuing to be committed to the cause of helping women in construction? Why haven’t we abandoned it to concentrate on our bread and butter message? After all, a for-profit organization’s goal and only goal is to make money for its shareholders. Otherwise we are talking about a hobby.

Well, we have made a decision. We are 100% committed to helping women succeed in the building trades, but we cannot do this under the Wo-Built Inc, the contractor, umbrella any more. We have other community and green initiatives which are more in line with our building message and which will continue the social missions within the company and making a stronger brand for the design and build construction.

Our core social mission has gained a lot of recognition, and hence we are going to bring more prominence to it and establish a Wo-Built owned not-for-profit foundation specifically established to help women in construction. This will bring more attention and resource optimization to the table and help push the mission to its next level.

Martina Ernst
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build

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