Jennifer Smithberger

Why do we need a new way of doing business?

People want to feel their work matters and understand how it connects to a bigger picture. For nearly two decades, Gallup findings have shown that more than 50 percent of U.S. employees are not engaged in their work, costing companies up to $550 billion in lost productivity annually. Those companies that are infusing purpose into their DNA better motivate employees, satisfy customers and make more money, outperforming their counterparts in stock price by a factor of 12.

I spent the last decade helping leaders at global companies engage stakeholders with their business missions and strategies. I strived to make purpose tangible and relevant by showcasing how employees across all levels, functions and geographies were making a meaningful difference, contributing to the company and greater society. Sharing these types of stories was rewarding work, but it was not until 2014 that I personally experienced the level of intensity that being driven by purpose can create. I volunteered on a medical mission trip to a war-torn part of the world. There were hundreds of people waiting for us when we arrived at the clinic. Seeing them, hearing their stories and feeling their urgency for care united our team around giving every person a compassionate physician consultation. The days were long and tiring, but our shared purpose fueled us. I had always been a tenacious worker, but this was different. My spirit felt impervious to weakness or distraction. My determination, strength, focus and creativity were all magnified. I was amazed how our team, who had been complete strangers on the flight over, was able to operate with complete transparency, fluidity and trust.

Purpose is a powerful lever in business. It can inspire people and convert them into passionate and loyal employees, customers and partners. I can personally attest to it.

How have you helped make the world a better place?

I have always tried to volunteer in my personal life. I have done things like data entry for the American Red Cross, sorting clothes for Dress for Success and helping clean a house with Habitat for Humanity. As I got older, my volunteering became more focused on sharing my specialized skills in communications and event planning. Although these efforts felt good in the moment, I always wondered if they contributed to any meaningful difference because I was disconnected from their impact.

I recently took the leap into entrepreneurship to do something different that I believe does have the potential to make the world a better place. I have spent the past year building a social impact digital platform for local businesses to market and differentiate their brand based on what they give back to the community. The idea is to maximize the good they are doing to also benefit their business.  As their business grows, what they give back can also grow, creating a more sustainable, year-round effort of good.

So have I made a lasting imprint to make the world a better place? My answer for now is, “it’s a work in progress.”

What does conscious capitalism mean to you? As a business, it means understanding the full effect actions have on all stakeholders—employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders and communities—and having a sense of equal accountability for elevating all their lives and the planet we share. It is also recognizing the immense potential a business might have to harness their intellect, finances, technology and human resources and taking advantage of it to make a positive difference in the world.