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Downtown Association, recognizes Hurley has to ability to see “potential in buildings that others may write off as outdated infrastructure.”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!