A Local Example Of Social Business: Ryan Hurley

I am a huge proponent of using business to go good in the community. This has been my passion since first reading Yunus’ work on Social Business. Yunus has stated that Social Business will be the salvation of capitalism and I think he is right!

A Social Business has emerged to help address the social problems of the world. In the most general sense all business is meeting some social need, but Yunus’ concept involves a for-profit model, financially self-sustainable, where the profits are either reinvested into itself, with the result of increasing social impact, investing in community needs, or improving products and services in ways that will better support its social mission.

Yunus believes that this model will replace the unsustainable model that we call non-profits. Social Business’ do not rely on donations; they are businesses that are run efficiently and effectively with any profit made going back into the cause, not into the owner’s pockets. As Yunus stated, “A charity’s dollar has only one life; a Social Business dollar can be invested over and over again.” I am sold on this model, and its sister, Social Entrepreneurship.

This brings me to our local example Ryan Hurley. In Sunday’s paper Ryan was profiled as a critical business leader in the development of downtown Vancouver. The title of the article was “Building community is key for developer.” The article described how Hurley’s company is “repurposing” downtown Vancouver. His goal is to “help the city grow and flourish.”

Hurley is a businessman who commits each project to prayer. He was quoted as saying “I’m committed to moral and ethical development. The larger endeavor of good projects is that they benefit the community.”

Hurley is an entrepreneur. Lee Rafferty, executive director of Vancouver’s Downtown Association, recognizes Hurley has to ability to see “potential in buildings that others may write off as outdated infrastructure.” The fact that he can “take something old and solid and give it new purpose,” is what it means to be an entrepreneur. He is a risk taker, determined, and pays attention to the business. These are all characteristics of an entrepreneur, all of which were implied in this wonderful article in the paper.

But, is Hurley a person who believes in Social Business? I have not talked to him in years, so I can only draw conclusions by what I have read in the paper. I see all of the signs of a businessperson who recognizes that business is much more than just profit. He uses terms like win-win, or relational examples like business partners are akin to a marriage, and his belief in the importance of ethical business practices. And to top it off Hurley is quoted in the paper as saying, “Money and profits really come second to people, the whole point of a thriving economic community is the benefit of people.”

As I read this article, I believe that Hurley embodies the essence of Social Business, but even more so I think he is an exemplar of a principled entrepreneur. He is a man of God, who wants to follow Christ as he does what he is called to do. I have had some recent interaction with folks at Boomerang which gives its profits to charities, and I think Hurley is operating within the theoretical framework of a Social Business, at least in its broadest definition.

I truly believe that this is the future of business. Greed, excessive profits and exploitation of people are processes from the past. I read a comment recently by a very rich man who stated, “every time I see that the stock market has edged higher, I can more clearly hear the blades of the guillotine.” Many people see business leaders as the greedy exploiters described by Marx, but businessmen like Hurley prove that that is not the case.

My hat is off to Ryan Hurley, and Praise God for his willingness to serve in this capacity and make a difference in our community.

And that is my thought for the day!

To Blog Or Not To Blog?

This week in on of my classes we were discussing motivation. The discussion revolved around a particular model that dealt with several factors associated with a particular job. Does the job require a lot of variety, can you tell if you have finished the job, and how significant is the job viewed by those around you and how important is the job to you. Two other factors that play a role are how much autonomy do you have in your job, and how quickly do you know if you are doing well or not.

I have to tell you that I love my job, but it can be a bit overwhelming at times. One of my biggest complaints is the lack of down time. And one thing that is very important to one’s level of motivation is the ability to have down time; to feel rested. For me that has been a bit of a problem lately resulting in my lack of blogging and now needing to see a chiropractor to deal with some neck and back issues. The stress has moved right into my neck.

I only tell you this to emphasize how much I like blogging. I really like taking a few moments to reflect on the issues of life. The process has changed me and helped me to have broader perspectives on things. I am happy about that, and due to the lack of time to write have missed the process immensely.

So the question to blog or not blog has been answered. I intend to make time to blog. I need that creative time to reflect and hammer out my opinions on different aspects around us. I am passionate about inequality and how to deal with it. I am passionate about the power of business to create positive social change. I am passionate about the power of the gospel to change lives which in turn will change the world we live in. I am passionate about my wife and family. There are many things that I care about and think about which I can write about. So I will blog.

Will I have readers? I hope so, because I think I have something to say. But the question is why read my blog rather than watching the conclusion of Two and A Half Men? I think my perspective is more practical than some. In fact I thought about that yesterday after a meeting. You see, I tend to walk a road that is in between the extremes. Many of the people I interact with have strong negative feelings about the right side of the spectrum, the spectrum being made up of politics, economics, and religion. And others that I interact with have strong feelings about the left side of the spectrum. I tend to walk in the area of what works.

Someone tells me that Capitalism does not work; then tell me what the replacement would be? If you are telling me that Communism is the way to go, then I have to point to history. The fact is we make many comments that are based on emotion and what our passion tells us instead of being practical and finding solutions to the myriad of problems we face.

Solutions come from dialogue, not shooting out thoughtless prejudices based on feeling rather than dialogue. You have a problem with the politics of Focus on the Family, then sit down with someone who is involved with that and find out why they feel the way they do. You have a problem with Sojourners, then sit down with them and find out why. Talk!

We tend to demonize the opposition so we can better justify our own positions. We are the right ones, we are the moral ones, we are the voice of God. And the other side is bad, evil. There were two articles I read this morning that got me thinking about this. The first had to do with faith in the classroom. Michael Roth wrote a great article about students being uncomfortable talking about religious experience. This discomfort is on both sides of the spectrum. No one wants to be thought of as stupid or wrong. So we clam up.

Another opinion pieced discussed how Justice Clarence Thomas is becoming the most influential thinker on race in America. I can just hear people I know screaming at the top of their lungs – no way. But having read some of his comments, I have to say I see how both sides could be right.

Thomas is arguing for strong individual rights. His argument is based in the “premise that the 14th Amendment – guaranteeing equal rights for all – cannot mean different things for different people.” Thomas is opposed to “perpetual racial tinkering” in an attempt to fix racial imbalance and inequality at schools and the workplace.

In a dissenting comment in Gutter v. Bollinger, “a case that preserved the affirmative action policies of the University of Michigan Law School” Thomas quoted an 1865 speech by Frederick Douglass, “What I ask for the Negro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice.” Justice Thomas is arguing that blacks should be treated as “independent, competent, self-sufficient citizens” and not as victims. These are interesting thoughts that intrigue me.

As I am pondering Thomas’ comments I think about an HBR article I use when discussing diversity in organizations. The article is a part of several that make up an HBR collection titled “What Every White Boss Needs To Know.” I cringe every time I read this, but I find all of the articles are relevant to current race issues within organizations. The key word is miasma. Miasma is a word that means “bad air.” The author of the article is using the word to describe a process that was illustrated on Blackish a while back. The main character played by Anthony Anderson is given a promotion but the question is whether he earned it or he got it because he was black.

I do think this is what Thomas is getting at. Everybody I know, (black, white, Asian) want to receive a promotion as a recognition of a job well done. Everyone wants to get a job because they meet the requirements. Miasma occurs when we hire someone because they are a certain color, but then give them insignificant assignments because we don’t really think they can do it anyway, thus the bad air. Others would call these micro-aggressions. Thomas is arguing that our systems should recognize all individuals as unique capable individuals regardless of color or ethnicity.

I think this is great for those who have access to the appropriate systems, but what do we do with those who do not? Those born in relative poverty? Are a product of gang saturated neighborhoods? Who grew up with horrible role models? Who don’t have the work skills, study skills, needed to get ahead? Do we just leave them to their own individuality to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps?

See, there are two sides to the story. We can agree with Justice Thomas’ premise, but there seem to be two tiers to the story. Tiers represented by Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. I think those tiers are relevant today. King tended to represent middle-class blacks, while Malcolm X represented the inner city rage of the time. I think this is a very important distinction.

So lets talk! Lets talk about religion, taxes, and race. Instead of calling each other pejorative terms, I don’t know how many times I have heard someone say Evangelical as a cuss word (I’ve lost count), lets talk. Let’s find common ground. Then maybe we can get something done.

And that is my thought for the day!