Would you like to increase your impact? Think bigger and bolder about your work.
5 min read
The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur's contributors are their own.
What results are you getting?
If you're an entrepreneur, this is a question you're used to being asked. And if, like many entrepreneurs, your response focuses only on the direct results you get for your customers, you are missing out on claiming, celebrating, and using the full extent of your impact.
Understand the corporate ripple effect
At the heart of any entrepreneurial business is a dream, a set of values, and a mission. It is your big why for what you do, the main driver that propels you through the ups and downs of business life. And something powerful happens when you align all of your business actions, decisions, and offers with that passion.
It starts with making your customers' lives better, but it doesn't end there. For entrepreneurs who concentrate on their why, this is where the ripple effect comes into play and extends its impact far beyond individual customers.
Related: The corporate ripple effect
Identify your full impact
What drives me is to believe that I have shed the lights not only on the entrepreneurs I've worked with directly, but also on all the people who benefit from their work. Kristine Hanson, an affordable housing consultant, helps her clients get their low-income housing projects completed on time and on budget. While this in itself matters, we quickly discovered a much broader impact working with Hanson.
This is how their wave effect plays out:
Direct effect for customers: Organizations complete low-income housing projects.
Direct effect on those served by their customers: families can afford a safe place to call home.
Indirect effect for families: With affordable rent, fewer families may have to choose between buying groceries or accessing health care. This could lead to better general family health and greater school success for children.
Far-reaching community effect: Improved health and school performance can put less strain on community resources.
Overall Societal Impact: Ultimately, Hanson's work can help improve the playing field and make the dream and right to create a good life for our families more accessible to a greater number of people.
Illustration of your wave effect
Start with your customers: make a list of all the direct results you deliver and help your customers achieve them. (In the example above, Hanson's clients are low-income housing organizations.)
Move to the next impact level: How will achieving these results affect your life? How does it affect the lives of their families, co-workers, friends, and other people they interact with? Think about all the options, then talk to your customers and do customer research to identify the types and magnitudes of the impacts that you may not have imagined. (For Hanson, the next level of impact extends to families, who can benefit from quality, low-income housing in a variety of ways.) Go one step further for the wider community: Now consider the impact at the community level. Start with the local church, but don't stop there. Are there any effects on the social level? Are there any cultural or global implications? (Hanson's work can benefit the community by reducing the number of families in need, and it can have an impact on society as a whole by providing better access to opportunities for all to thrive.)
When speaker, coach, and empowerment expert Susan Eckstein used this framework to depict her ripple effect, she gained clarity as to the full extent of the difference she can make. Starting with their clients, Eckstein helps women live their lives on their own terms without excuse and overcome societal expectations about what it means to be a woman and a mother.
Eckstein's coaching can also create a ripple effect from her direct clients to their families and private lives, where less stress can make children feel happier and perform better in school. Eckstein's work could help change the way we define roles for women in our society.
Related: 15 Ways To Grow Your Business Fast
Use your effect
When you understand their full implications, you can build a profitable business and far-reaching legacy. All you have to do is connect to your purpose, dig deeper into the implications of your work, and let your messages be less about your products and services and more about the difference you want to make.
When you do, you begin to own the fact that you are more than a product or service provider. You are a thought leader driving potentially global change. The world needs the leadership for which you are uniquely positioned, and it begins to think bigger and bolder about the ripple effect of your work.