Like any other small business, providers of professional services — such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, and architects — need to generate profits in order to stay in business and continue serving their clients. But while earning a profit is the most obvious goal of running a business, many small business owners who provide professional services are also embracing the goals of taking care of people and the planet.
The 3P Business Plan – Focusing on the Triple Bottom Line
People, planet, profit, also known as the “3P” or “triple bottom line” business model, gives equal attention to all three goals. From a social aspect, it’s about treating employees well and being active in the local community. Taking care of our planet means actively pursuing “green” policies that protect the environment and reduce pollution. Profits will come by providing quality service at a fair price.
It’s widely understood throughout the business world that people are a company’s most important asset. Until the day comes when all jobs are done by machines, people will remain the key to any business’s success. Ann M. Mulcahy, former CEO of Xerox Corporation, had this to say on the subject:
Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.
Whether it’s a doctor asking her receptionist to schedule an appointment for a patient, or an attorney asking for his legal assistant to find a client file, every employee should be treated with dignity and respect. Employees should be paid fairly and be encouraged to express any concerns or problems they have.
Treating people well goes beyond office walls. Professionals (like Nicole Snow of Darn Good Yarn) who believe in the triple bottom line approach to operating a business should also become active participants in their local and regional communities. This can mean anything from helping out after a hurricane, sponsoring a community event, or supporting a charitable cause.
Catalyst Law, LLC, a Portland law firm, is a good example of a professional services provider that strongly believes in the triple bottom line approach. Founded only a few years ago, the firm consists of three experienced female attorneys — Kate Kilberg, Yoon Shin, and Kimberly Pray — who use their collective expertise in business, social enterprise, estate planning, and non-profits to promote social change and serve their communities. Kate Kilberg serves on the Board of Taking Care Cancer, a non-profit that provides therapy to cancer patients and their families. Yoon Shin volunteered to help pass a new Oregon law that provides access to community capital for local businesses. Kimberly Pray has helped form triple bottom line businesses and has served as Director of Development for a non-profit conservation enterprise in Portland.
Many companies, both small and large, are realizing that triple bottom line business structures are the future, and protecting the planet is embedded in their corporate culture.
Boulder, Colorado is the headquarters of Barrett Studio Architects, an architectural firm with an environmental conscience. The firm was founded with the philosophy that the best way to succeed and flourish is through symbiotic relationships between the company, the community, and the living earth. Employees are provided with generous paid time off, flexible schedules, and comprehensive benefits, and they strive to make a positive impact in the community. Barnett Studio Architects help design and build houses for Habitat for Humanity and provide monetary assistance and pro-bono work for other non-profits in the Boulder area.
Barnett Studio Architects helps the planet by practicing sound environmental policies:
- Using recycled paper
- Employing a local cleaning company that uses no harsh chemicals
- Using wind instead of fossil fuels to generate power
It’s admirable for an attorney, architect, or other professional service provider to do everything they can to help people and protect the planet. It can also be expensive to pursue those goals. A shortage of working capital can inhibit the best-laid plans of a small business owner.
Instead of having to tell employees there will be no paid vacation time this year because business has been a little slow, the principal of a professional services company could apply for a small business loan through a reputable online lender. Small business loans come in many shapes and sizes. Loans have different terms for repayment. Interest rates can vary depending on the length of time a borrower has to repay the loan.
The great thing about online lenders is that they will approve you when banks have turned you down. It’s true that you still have to fill out an application and be approved, but the process is more streamlined and you can usually have the money in a very short period of time from the day you’re approved.
A well-managed triple-bottom-line professional services business can prosper when it stands behind its pledge to be generous to workers, help the community, and be a friend to the planet. Whatever costs that may be incurred can be more than offset by the goodwill and reputation a 3P company will gain. Customers reward companies that have a social and environmental conscience.