In the Summer of 2015, I attended the AIGA Business Perspectives for Creative Leaders held at Yale’s School of Management. The faculty and coursework was amazing. My peers were equally incredible; a mix of designers embedded in big businesses like Under Armour, CBS Sports, Target, Morningstar and Hasbro and from creative agencies IDEO, VSA Partners, and Threespot. We were immersed in case studies, some law, lots of negotiation and some accounting and organizational behavior. I was hoping to learn how to manage my design business better, and to transform the way we work with clients and help make the business case for good design. It was like gulping from the firehose, I made a big list of things to do when I got back to the studio (contracts, some negotiations, employee manuals, pricing models - such a great list!) It was and definitely exhausting and I was happy to be headed home.
On my flight back to Madison I met a woman who led me to make an even bigger evolution to our business. She encouraged me to certify Cricket Design Works as a B Corporation. The conversation started out simply enough - I complimented her botanical tattoo, that led to talk about our mutual interest in Ayurveda, and that somehow led to work she does as a naturopath and me as a graphic designer, who we work with and how we work with them. She knew some people who had their businesses certified in San Francisco and thought that our studio sounded a lot like their shops. Membership in BCorp gave them a community to be part of and a way to support their special way of doing business.
I came home from that trip inspired to do work better, and knew that would entail becoming a B Corp and learning how to negotiate better. Becoming a B Corp turned out to be the much easier of the two. The steps to certify as a B Corp were outlined on their website. 1) We needed to meet performance requirements through filling out a very long and detailed questionnaire and submit supporting information, 2) we needed to meet the legal requirements, and 3) register with B Corp to make it official. And while it wasn’t quite as easy as 1-2-3, it wasn’t that hard either. We had pretty much already adopted many of the practices to qualify years ago - it was just a matter of pulling together the documentation.
The process took about 6 months; we’re a small shop after all and this wasn't our highest priority.
The performance requirements fell into four categories:
governance – leadership, values, transparency, equity, and accessibility
workers – compensation, benefits, and growth
community – social cause, philanthropy, development and
environment – sustainability, energy conservation, waste reduction, and promotion)
A big advantage for us is that we work for a lot of non-profit organizations and for-profit companies that support social agendas. Because of that, a solid benefits program for our employees and a commitment to the environment and community service, getting a good score wasn’t that hard. If we had needed to change our practices to get our score to 80 it would have taken much longer to qualify. As a small company without shareholders, we didn't have a lot of the structure to score highly in governance, but we made up for it in other areas.
We filled out the online form in parts as best we could, gathered data where we didn’t have answers and then submitted it for review. A friendly B-Corp representative called for a marathon review our answers and request more info where needed. Then she submitted our application for review. We were approved the first pass through with a score of 90, 10 points above the minimum amount to qualify as a B Corporation. Once approved we added new language to our articles of incorporation and then registered as a B Corp. Sort of no big thing.
We became a B Corp because we believe a company can be successful while also being mindful of the impact on the people who work for us, who we work for, our local community and the environment.
B Corp membership has even shifted the way our agency approaches graphic design, user experience design and branding as tools to improve understanding, connect people around a common goal, and to live better lives in a more beautiful world – a world where we see beauty as economy, equity, clarity, and sustainability. We align ourselves with organizations that share our values and we use many of the organizational tools and negotiation skills I developed at Yale alongside our values as a B Corporation and decisions somehow seem easier with a solid framework and a community to back me up. We’ve grown our client base, our income, and profitability this year and see continued sustainable growth in the years ahead.
Today there are more than 1900 businesses across 50 countries that are working to make the world a better place to work and to support their customers, their communities and their bottom lines. We’re proud to be one of them. To learn more visit https://www.bcorporation.net/become-a-b-corp/how-to-become-a-b-corp