B Corpiness!

March is B Corp awareness month, and I have been thinking especially cozy thoughts the past few weeks about being able to work at one, and about the B Corp model in general. For those that don’t know, the B Corp model pledges to use business as a force for good by consciously broadening the measure of success beyond profit alone and seeking to build stronger, more vibrant, and more equitable communities. A company must undergo a certification process to achieve B Corp status, and Ingage Partners just recertified for the fourth time…making it the oldest ongoing B Corp in Ohio!

I have written in the past about how much I love the B Corp model, and during a conversation with a coworker the other day I began thinking about my B Corp companions — the hundred or so folks (give or take) that make up the company where I so happily serve.

To my mind, we are a fairly diverse bunch. And now that I’ve been here for a few years, I’ve come to see just how wide ranging our interests, beliefs, and professional opinions actually are. Musicians, game-geeks, business-savvy entrepreneurs, ex-military, art lovers, code junkies, deeply religious, unabashed atheists, old coots, young hipsters…we pretty much have it all. Add into the mix a generally shared propensity for unbridled passion, and you can acknowledge that we have the makings for a healthy level of discord and contention.

And, boy howdy, aren’t we all inundated with depictions of discord and contention! If popular media is the gauge, we are constantly on the brink of culture war. And just when I think the voices can’t become any more shrill, we find a way to ratchet it all up another notch.

So, imagine my wonder and surprise when I recognized that those potentially volatile ingredients here at Ingage Partners have never erupted into anything more than a deep conversation over lunch or a philosophical debate broached over a drink at happy hour. Move along, folks, no reality show fodder here! Just curiosity, respect, and a willingness to toss around a topic or problem and see what shakes out. All voices are welcome.

“But…why? How?!” my inner five-year-old splutters. I’ve worked at many companies over my career, both large (really large) and small (tiny even), and I am no stranger to falling into the awkward silence that follows a tragic attempt to mix personal values and office conversation. Just give a weird chuckle, sip your drink, and walk away…it’ll be fine. Why do I feel safe to wade into those same, somewhat murky waters here at Ingage Partners, while I had grown used to walking on the thinnest of eggshells at other work environments?

My working hypothesis is that our B Corpiness is the magic glue holding us all together. The shared recognition of what we are all hoping to achieve on a larger scale — along with the democratic way those values are manifested within our work environment — means that we start from a position of togetherness rather than eyeing each other distrustfully across an imaginary field of battle.

I think we get an added boost simply from the fact that we are mostly IT nerds, too; the heart of what we do is problem solving through the creation and nurturing of teams with a somewhat wonky mix of technical and interpersonal skills. An Agile mindset has some shared touchpoints with our B Corp heritage. Just sayin’.

We like to talk about the triple bottom line of the B Corp model: people, planet, and profit, and I love how succinctly that captures, in the broadest of strokes, the core of what we Ingagers focus on as we hold on tight to the cosmic bucking bronco that is the 21st century.

Profit is still represented — it’s the engine that drives the whole enterprise, essentially — but it is joined by two other equal parts as criteria for how we judge our success in the marketplace, in the wider world. We genuinely care about our coworkers and clients as people and want to provide the best possible working environment we can. We strive to be conscious of our environmental impact, both in our professional and personal lives. Stated simply, we want to make things better…and that overarching desire amongst us all tends to outweigh the other, more mundane demons we all may face on a personal level.

The B Corp pledge to give back to our community has a mind-expanding effect, as well. It’s easy to develop your capacity for empathy when you see first hand — through volunteer efforts, shared activities, etc. — the pain, resilience, determination, and courage of those in circumstances more dire than your own.

Call me naive (or more accurately, old…ha!) but I grew up in an era where the Golden Rule was not a concept to be met with eye-rolling derision or snark, but simply a commonly held belief…a shared starting point. Working for a B Corp is like coming home to that concept, and like all the best homecomings, it is warm, and loving, and filled with acceptance and joy. I think this country could do with more B Corpiness.

For answers to all your B Corp questions, including how to find and support B Corp businesses near you, go to bcorporation.net.