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For a business to be successful, it will need the hard-work and dedication from five distinct cornerstone groups of people- the customers, the employees, the owners, the business partners and the community. A company simply can’t flourish and produce output without the input from each and every group. Because of this relationshi

p, it’s important to keep the goodwill alive and nurture the successes for all parties. While the needs can be conflicting at times, there has to be a balance and an understanding that the community is the bedrock of any business and it needs to be cherished.

How does your business show appreciation for their people that make success possible?

While it’s always important for companies to keep the sales cycle going, we as customers ought to recognize and reward those with our business who act for the good of everyone involved. In doing so, we can strive to become better ourselves.

Let’s look at two contrasting examples and try to understand the mindset behind each and the tradeoffs that management made.

Hannaford supermarket makes it easy for customers to donate to local food pantries. With their “Help Fight Hunger” campaign, they encourage customers to spend $10 on a box of food that that the company will donate on their behalf. From a purely financial perspective, it’s downright stupid to encourage customers to buy products at a discount that you paid to put on the shelves and you’ll pay to bring somewhere else. That’s $10 that could have been spent on boosting profits. But from a community perspective, WOW! What a great program-the company selflessly helps to bring food right to those who need it.

While it’s true people are always free to donate on their own, we often forget the needs of others and get caught up in our day-to-day rigmarole. But when Hannford’s puts it right there in front of people, it’s easier to care and take action. Essentially, the company is passing that $10 opportunity onto the greater good. Sure the boxes may be Hannaford’s products and it’s a good marketing strategy, but the message of giving is what comes through and it’s a powerful one. Who could have guessed that such selfless acts have positive implications for branding and customer loyalty?

On the flipside, profit-centric business decisions can have unintended consequences that are hard to reverse. Black Friday bleeding into Thanksgiving is the perfect analogy.

Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays where our similarities are more cherished than our differences. Most nonessential industries give their employees the time off to spend with friends and family because we as a society value togetherness and tradition. Because of this time off, retailers especially covet this week because of the high sales and the start of the holiday shopping season. Black Friday seems to have evolved into a cultural phenomenon. The day itself is good for businesses and the ritual and competition has become good for consumers.

But there’s a downside. The once-healthy competition between companies like Walmart and Target has become fierce to the point where Black Friday promotions are now starting on Thanksgiving. The same Thanksgiving that is meant to be for families and community and now commercialized by some and used to force the hand of employees who can’t afford to speak up. It’s sad that they don’t have the option of being with their families because of the ecosystem.

While it’s true no one is ever forced to work, essentially we’re all rubberstamping this ecosystem by adding to it. We as customers and shareholders ultimately decide whether we support these policies or not with our spending.

“There is only one boss- The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” –Sam Walton (Founder of Walmart)

That being said, the goal is not to bash or praise any one company because the companies themselves are trying to make profit for their shareholders, which often include many members of the community. The purpose is to expose the complex interrelatedness with everything in business with the hope that we become better.

Give Back

Instead of boycotts or demonstrations, what I’m suggesting is that each we act deliberately, fully knowing who’s affected by our choices. How do our decisions affect those around us and those who are far away? This holiday season let’s try to be a bit more mindful of the ripples that our actions create around us. If we do this individually, the collective will shape around it.

We do so much with a focus on ourselves- let’s shift that focus outward and act on it. Donating time and resources is a great start. While most of us will never have enough money or time to easily part with it, there are so many others who need help and could use it better. Focus on the needs of others- not ourselves or those who abuse the goodwill. Focus on the everyday people who are struggling to feed their families and don’t copout because there’s a convenient excuse. Shape yourself and your business around these ideas and reap the benefits of generosity.

Share below what you plans are this season to help give back to your community.

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