When you start a business, coaches, advisers and consultants talk a big game about values, principles, mission statements and the like. But as an entrepreneur who regularly refers to my business as one in the “social enterprise” sector, I have to wonder: Is the focus on values and mission is really making any money? If CEOs spend our time focused on mission, will we ever really succeed when it comes to margins?
Three examples in multiple industries illustrate this “it’s all about the money” truth:
• Magazines and newspapers everywhere are rehashing the subject of models and their weight just in time for New York Fashion Week. Is the size 0 model really an appropriate role model for young girls, and being so thin endanger the health of a model? The truth is, it doesn’t matter. The fashion industry's pushback about thin models has nothing to do with health and wellness. It’s all about money. Why? Because a size 8 sample requires more fabric, and therefore more money, than a size 0. Simple as that.
• Sheryl Sandberg’s own Lean In organization came under fire this summer for not paying college interns. On one hand, it’s expected that employees should be adequately compensated for their work. Conversely, though, many startups (my own included) simply couldn’t afford to hire interns for the summer if payment were required. Instead, we work to provide a valuable educational experience and one that pads the intern’s resume with fantastic bullet points. It’s not about the principles; it’s about the money (or lack thereof).
• Even nonprofit organizations face the challenge of “it’s all about the money.” Charitable evaluators like Charity Navigator, CharityWatch and many more catalog statistics like admin rate (the percentage of expenses not directly related to programming) and fundraising return on investment. What is a nonprofit Executive Director to do when hiring additional administrative staff means creating more time for program managers to do their jobs, but adversely affects their ability to attract donors based on rankings?
The question must be raised, which comes first, mission or margins? And if margins ultimately rule, why do we spend so much time and money talking about values, missions and principles of our businesses? It’s a question every entrepreneur must consider. Do you want to make change? Or money?
Marcy Twete is the founder/CEO of Career Girl Network and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works," to be released in summer 2013.