Sunday, May 18, 2014

Business Rainbow

Once upon a time we lived in a world where there was a knight in shining armor for every damsel in distress.   Until we discovered that some damsels preferred damsels, and some knights preferred dresses, and the very idea of damsel and knight are really just points on a continuum.   And we’re learning that this is ok.

Our LBGT friends understood long before the rest of us that the world is not simple, not binary, not digital.  It’s wonderful shades of every imaginable color including hues we can not see but perhaps hear with our hearts.  And science keeps collecting the proof:
  • In a Brazilian cave there is an insect who’s female wears the penis in the family.  
  • It is the male seahorse who is man enough to do the work of incubating eggs in his brood pouch.
  • All clown fish are born male.  The largest turns female and rules the school.  When she dies the next biggest fish switches gender becoming head honcha.

Once upon a time business was limited to sole proprietorships.  Then came partnerships, limited partnerships, limited liability companies, corporations (S and C), nonprofits, ESOPs, co-ops, and now social enterprise companies.  Like our concept of family, we’re learning that the free market can mean many things to different people.  Each business type having it’s place, it’s role and it’s due respect.  Business too need not be black and white.   While once upon a time it was understood that the only business of business was to make a profit for owners.  Today’s entrepreneurs feel freer to design a business around what is meaningful and important to them.  And for a growing group of social entrepreneurs, profits are not enough;  profits are a means to a more important end - solving some social or environmental problem.  But just because they are not driven by money doesn’t make them any less serious and it doesn’t make their businesses any less viable, scalable, or legitimate.

I remember awhile ago being told that someone I knew was transgender.   “I knew something was off,”  was my flippant response.  In reflection I realize how dismissive and disrespectful my statement was.  It was said in the same way that I’ve heard traditional business folk talk about social enterprise - as if it’s “off” in some amusing or disturbing way.   But it’s not.  It’s a reasonable, natural business approach, a response to the world we find ourselves in.  

And it isn’t going away.   Social enterprise is here to stay.  It is a hybrid, it’s out of the closet.  So say it clear and say it loud -  We’re social enterprise and we’re proud!