Young social entrepreneurs committed to making a difference

Successful businesses are on a crusade to imptove their customers' lives, Colmar Brunton chief executive Dick Brunton says. Supplied photo
Successful businesses are on a crusade to imptove their customers' lives, Colmar Brunton chief executive Dick Brunton says. Supplied photo

Dick Brunton says all businesses should be social enterprises - especially if they want to be successful.

If by social enterprise we mean business that fundamentally seeks to make people's lives better; and, if by successful we mean motivated staff, loyal customers and happy shareholders, then yes, says Mr Brunton - it is the only way to go.

The executive chairman of New Zealand market research company Colmar Brunton says international study has borne out what he has long advocated - putting customers ahead of shareholders is best for everyone.

The Aucklander cites a study which shows the world's fastest growing companies have, at their core, ideals of improving people's lives which are worked out throughout the business.

"This is the age of standing up for something, for pursuing a big ideal, for creating profit by creating purpose."

It did not matter how large or small the business, it should be good for society as a whole, he said.

"Business is just people helping people.

"A plumber who does his best for the customer is no less worthy than Mother Teresa.

"That's what it's all about, or should be all about - serving each other. You don't have to be a doctor or nurse to do social good."

Nearly every entrepreneur begins with a big ideal, but over time it can get overlooked or dropped, Mr Brunton believes.

He has been on a mission for more than a decade to help businesses discover, or regain, a customer- and meaning-focused reason for existing.

"Human beings need to live with a constant sense of meaning and purpose.

"If we attach meaning to what we do, we feel significant and connected to the organisation and our co-workers . . . In short, customer-focused purpose with meaning unleashes energy, which delivers excellence."

To turn a business into a meaning-filled "crusade", Mr Brunton suggests business owners or boards ask themselves some fundamental questions.

What do I see in my industry that grieves me?

What do I stand for or stand against?

What could I change or put right? Where can my organisation make a difference?

"The question that has to be answered is, `How can my organisation make a difference in the lives of my customers in a way my competitors don't or won't?'."