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The Triple Bottom-Line

It's tough to be young and in the business world.  Rather than relying solely on my observations on the impact of young professionals in Iowa's business world, I've been seeking the perspective of others, both young and older.

This month, I talked with my good friend Christian Fong, founder of Fong Strategic Consulting , a management consulting firm, and a former candidate for the governor of Iowa. Still in his 30s, Christian has never been afraid to make bold decisions, which should be expected from someone who graduated from high school early and attended business school at Dartmouth College. I asked him to give me some insight on what Next Generation Iowans should be focused during these uncertain times.

Here is his response:


Vogue US v. Vogue NipponImage by superfem via Flickr

Iowa has never been a place where we embraced a “greed is good” business philosophy.  We never bought into the economic philosophies built on the presupposition that self-centeredness was a virtue, and the key to free markets. Instead, we know that while free markets are vital to a healthy economy, narcissism is not.

That Iowa way of doing business is now in vogue. Corporations have decided that they can do well by doing good. They talk about the triple bottom-line, where they have financial profits, and at the same time do good for their community and the world around them.

Individual Iowans, especially the professionals that are emerging as today’s leaders, should think about a similar approach of a balanced life with a triple bottom-line.

Bottom-Line One: This is the traditional bottom-line, measuring financial profit. You need to be good enough at what you do, and make a product or service that people are willing to pay for, so that you can make money.

Bottom-Line Two: Beyond the profit motive is a second bottom-line: being a productive part of your community. After all, professionals, like businesses, do not live in a vacuum.

Here in Cedar Rapids, I led an effort after the Flood of 2008 to have businesses release their employees to help clean up houses, churches and even competing businesses. I did not have to twist arms of corporate executives to make it happen. They understood that what was good for their community and good for their employees. Andhappy employees are, of course, necessary for a healthy bottom-line profit. Each individual made the decision to give up potential business deals or progress on career strategies and get into their community to help make it better.

You do not have to wait for a flood. Choose to go vote, buy local, volunteer at your church or join a nonprofit organization’s board. Good citizens, whether corporate or individuals, are great for a community and the benefits work both ways.

Bottom-Line Three: Simply put, mission matters. A good income and a good community can create a good life. But people want more than a good life. They want a meaningful life, and they want to work for a company that is making a difference. Some will define a mission as ecological – perhaps it is a focus on sustainability, in all its forms. Perhaps it is meeting the real needs of people around the world. Perhaps it is a spiritual focus on healing the hearts of broken people around you. But without a mission, it is hard to keep pointed in the right direction as individuals and companies.

Are you making a difference? Are you meeting needs of the people in your community in ways that put them first? Are you making a good living, being excellent at what you do? If so, you are showing a profit across your triple bottom-line. - Christian Fong

Fong Strategic Consulting specializes in helping small and medium-sized companies define a strategy, and obtain the financial resources, to grow.

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