Magazine

Getting Personal


VALUES-DRIVEN BUSINESS

How to Change the World,

Make Money, and Have Fun

By Ben Cohen and Mal Warwick

Berrett-Koehler; $12

INVESTORS IN YOUR BACKYARD

How to Raise Business Capital

From the People You Know

By Asheesh Advani

NOLO; $24.99

Is it possible to run a business that promotes your values? Ben Cohen and Mal Warwick, co-authors of Values-driven Business: How to Change the World, Make Money, and Have Fun, certainly think so. Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry's Homemade, and Warwick, an entrepreneur and chair of the Social Venture Network advisory board, both have built successful companies that they think did some good. This book is designed to help you do the same.

A business that's "values-driven" is one that isn't exclusively about the accumulation of money. It inculcates fun, passion, fairness, respect, community, and stewardship of the environment. (The book assumes that you share those values.) "We believe that values-driven business requires attention not to profits alone but to the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profits," the authors write.

In this anecdotal guide, Cohen mines his own story only sporadically, noting, for example, that taking sides in controversial debates in a public way, such as launching Peace Pops and participating in an antiwar ad in The New York Times, helped his ice cream business. Instead, the authors offer illustrative examples from an array of companies.

To make your own values a force for change at your company, the authors suggest you first hunker down with your team and develop well-thought-out vision, mission, and values statements. These can be disarmingly simple. Eileen Fisher, the Irvington (N.Y.)-based women's clothing company, defines its mission as inspiring "simplicity, creativity, and delight through connection and great design." BetterWorld Telecom of Reston, Va., which provides voice and data services to companies that have social justice and sustainable missions, donates 3% of revenues to similar organizations, and eschews corporate advertising.

How you treat employees looms large in any discussion of business values, and the next step is developing values-based policies. Cohen and Warwick show how compensating employees well and empowering them in other ways will pay off for your business in the long run. At Vatex America, a promotional products company in Richmond, Va., employees become part-owners after six years, during which they take in-house classes on "intrapreneurship" and business basics. For lower-paid workers, the authors recommend forgetting the minimum wage and paying a so-called living wage. That's commonly calculated as the hourly rate a full-time worker needs to earn to support a family of four at the poverty line, or up to 30% more than that. The authors then give examples of how your values should inform your dealings with customers, contractors, and suppliers.

If you're considering a values-driven business, you'll find Cohen and Warwick's account persuasive and instructive. If that's not your thing, this book, hortatory as it is, probably won't convert you.

FAMILY BANKS

Plenty of books explain how to snag venture capital funding, though most entrepreneurs will never do so. But about half of small business owners do raise startup funds from family members. Asheesh Advani's Investors in Your Backyard: How to Raise Business Capital from the People You Know is the book for that half. It's a step-by-step, example-laden, form-filled tome on how to secure scratch from your acquaintances, without annoying or bamboozling them.

Advani, a Wharton School and Oxford University graduate who has worked for the World Bank, knows his subject. He is founder and CEO of CircleLending, a loan administration company in Cambridge, Mass., that manages financial transactions among relatives, friends, and other private parties. And he translates complex financial information into readily understood language.

Entrepreneurs will find everything from a clear explanation of financing options and their relationship to a business' legal structure to details on closing a deal and maintaining ongoing relationships with investors. Resources include a robust appendix of sample documents spelling out investment terms and a CD-ROM of templates.

Advani gives you the nuts and bolts: evaluating prospects, narrowing the names to a "best bets" list, and negotiating loan terms. When you borrow from family, he recommends that you establish a "family bank." That means putting everything in writing, establishing minimum interest rates, and protecting each party's privacy. The cardinal rule: Steer clear of control freaks. You know who they are.

This guide should be as indispensable to the first-time entrepreneur as cockeyed optimism and a calculator.

By Marilyn Harris


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