What’s an impact business?

There are many terms to describe the companies focused on values-based/progressive/ethical/sustainable/purpose-driven/do-good work — a.k.a., our people! The term that resonates most with us lately is impact business. We learned a lot about impact businesses through a B-Corp Certification workshop we did recently.  

An impact business goes beyond just good intentions, to measure real action and results. As the folks at B Lab say, we manage what we measure. 

Backyard Creative is an impact business. Over the last 12 years, we’ve focused on activating our clients’ missions through communications design. Our intentions and actions have been aligned, and we’ve helped an impressive roster of impact-driven clients. But, the one key piece we’ve been missing is measuring our own impact as a service provider to changemaker businesses.

What should an impact business be measuring? 

So how are we measuring impact? We recently established a baseline of key performance indicators (KPIs) for our business. For instance, we’re now measuring the percentage of revenues from orgs with a purpose-driven mission — in 2020 we reported 89%. Setting an impact baseline creates a starting point for us to build on. And we can work towards deepening our impact year after year. 

An impact business can establish its KPIs by defining the positive impacts that can be measured across the various areas of its business, like governance, supply chain, or company culture. These impacts must align with its core values. For example, the Backyard Creative team values community, so we’re now measuring the number of hours we each volunteer in our local communities. Sharing these impacts will soon become part of our business’s story.  

New values-driven businesses in BC can set a baseline for impact right from the beginning. BC-based companies can incorporate as Benefit Companies, which is a unique designation. 

Benefit companies exist to not only make profit, but to also promote public benefits for communities, organizations or the environment. Reporting publicly on their stated benefits is a requirement, so measuring their impact is built into their business structure. How awesome is that? 

Having meaning behind impact 

The impact a company makes and measures has to matter to everyone working in, and on, an impact business. This article from Forbes about the importance of having meaning as a key driver of impact brings this point home. 

I recently attended an eye-opening virtual workshop that also emphasized this for me. The workshop focused on how to attract our ideal client. The speaker, the amazing Amanda Wagner, asked participants to write a statement about who we are and what we do. It seemed simple enough. But, at every stage of refining our statement, Amanda challenged us by asking, “So what?” over and over. The exercise got me digging past high-level, “we help people do good in the world,” statements. I uncovered exactly who we want to help through our business, and the meaning behind the impact we want to make in their lives. 

Establishing and building an impact business is an ongoing process that can take time–and a lot of conversations and decisions. The best thing we’ve learned on our journey is, it’s never too late to start. 

Want to talk about how we can help your business make an impact? Contact us today!