Signing Off for Vacances (& a petite announcement)

 

While in London and Paris, I learned that one of the best stereotypes about Europeans is true: they take vacation. It varies from country to country, but in England one would take a two week holiday sometime in August - maybe two weeks away, or a week away and a week staycation. And in France, bye bye, August... see you in September!  

 

I just love this. Firstly, because I love vacation. (Fun fact: I have never carried over vacation days in my career. No "I don't have time for vacation" humble brags over here). And secondly, can you think of a better way to start the school year in September, than having taken time away from the computer and la vie quotidienne to refresh yourself?

 

With many personal and professional changes right now, my vacances will be a Nashville staycation, clearing the path for even more changes arriving in the next six months (please wish me luck)!

 

Speaking of "clearing the path," I've been thinking a LOT about social media the past month. How much of it is self-serving v. adding value to others v. fun v. an addiction. (For me, much of it is falling into the addiction category right now). This reflection has led me to a decision:

Effective September 7th, I'm going to shut down the Jules du Travail Facebook page.

 

Here's the reason: it's another social media channel. I promote the blog by Instagram, two Facebook FB pages, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and email. If you're thinking, "Um, that's kind of a lot of, well... you," I agree. It is mis-aligned with some of my core personal and business philosophies.

 

Ugh, but everyone's doing it! And just this morning, Facebook was trying to tempt me out of my decision. I received my weekly page stats and was floored by the number of people who are exposed to these posts. But when I park the emotion and get more data-driven, I'm able to clearly see the kicker.

 

There's a big difference between exposure and engagement. When I look at the site's analytics, I see that less than 4% of readers come to the site through its Facebook page. Places where I expose the site in more targeted, intentional ways make more sense for me and you. (Please don't be mad, Sheryl. I still love you with all my heart).

 

It comes down to this: I want to ensure that my marketing tactics all have clear intention beyond self-promotion. I hope that this action is one of several that will help me stay more focused and better at benefiting others. And frankly, I hope that others with digital businesses take a more mindful look at their social media strategies too.

 

If FB is the main way that you stay updated on new blog posts, please consider signing up below to receive email updates (a maximum of 2x a week, always containing thought leadership) so that you can see when new posts are live.

 

As always, I thank you for your support - in this small change - and the larger changes on the horizon.

Have a sunny and refreshing August, and I will see you back here on September 7th!

 

Image from apt. 34

Posted on July 31, 2017 and filed under Personal.

What's the Difference between a Public Benefit Corp & a Non-Profit?

Girls Who Code

Girls Who Code

Monday's post on PBCs got a little nerdy. I'm completely aware of this, so thank you for hanging in there. 

Today, I want to go sliiiiiightly into the mechanics. But it'll be less verbose, I promise.

 

Recently, I was chatting with someone from Nashville Creative Souls. She's been kicking around an idea for her own organization for years now. She's at the tipping point of turning her art hobby into her art business, and she's unsure where to go next. This is one internal conflict in her way: 

"I want to pass along the good fortune I've had and the life I've created to young women who are disadvantaged - young women who are the 18 year old former me. But how? Can I make money for myself too? Do I have to create a non-profit? What does a non-profit actually mean?"

This was the first of several conversations I'd had on this topic in Nashville, and I was delighted that there were others out there like me, asking these questions. This conversation prompted me to put together a simplified summary of the key differences between PBCs and Non-Profits. In case it helps you too, I wanted to share...

 

The summary is:

Non-profits do not make a profit, and there is no ownership. They do not taxes, but the mission must be crystal clear and all activities aligned with it. For PBCs, basically the opposite is true.

PBC v Non-Profit.jpg

If you're in Tennessee and interested in starting a PBC - or converting an existing company to a PBC - you're in luck! As of January 1, 2016 you can (each state has its own laws and requirements). As I mentioned earlier in the week with Kickstarter, the public benefit charter is THE binding document, and here's TN's charter form that must be completed for the initial filing.

 

Cards on the table: you probably have guessed that I'm doing a lot of research on this for my own work. If you'd like more detailed behind-the-scenes information, please send me an email at julie.lynne.sellers@gmail.com, and I'm happy to share lots of step-by-step details with you.

 

And on a related note, I am searching for charitable organizations to work with, so I'd love to crowdsource you for your passions and organizations with whom you work, which could use a little benefit-boost. I'm looking for organizations, which work on behalf of one or multiple of the following:

Please leave your suggestions in the comments below - and be sure to leave a note if you have any formal affiliation so that I can be in touch with you to learn more. Thank you!

 

Photo from the Power of Purpose

A New Type of Company: the Public Benefit Corporation

For most of my life, I've been involved in non-profits in some way. I remember at a very young age, having an awareness that luck was baked into my life. Being a white person raised in suburban America has privilege built into it; it's a fact that's hard to dispute. Although my civic action is far from perfect, I try to ensure that my daily, small actions put as much good into the world as I take out.

However, I like to make and spend money (my husband will confirm). I feel no shame about this. I want to make money AND be a great, contributing global citizen. Are these two things opposed?

 

Last year, I was writing the business plan for a technology start-up. The best part was that I had the opportunity to integrate my personal business philosophies and mission into the project. It was an opportunity to apply creativity to business, which was a luxury I hadn't been afforded in a more traditional corporate setting. And boy, did I take advantage of this...

As part of my research, I was eager to learn more about companies I admired from afar: companies that <gasp> made money, but were run by good people and doing good things. But I mean, really doing good things. Not the corporate fluff: "We match employee non-profit donations up to a [very low] cap" or "We have an annual volunteer day."

Get with the times, Mr. Corporation. While I agree that something is better than nothing, these "public benefits" are outdated.

 

For those of us born between 1982 and 2004 (think: you, your employees, your future employees, and your clients), I'll let you in on a real, actionable secret: public benefit is important to us.

Eight-seven percent of us (and by "us" I mean the dreaded generation: Millennials) contribute to non-profits. We are scared about what's happening in our society and environment, so we look for ways to link our investments, purchases, and employment to philanthropy. We use the money in our wallets to support companies' double bottom lines.

 

So while I was researching companies who are led by good people and doing impactful, quantifiable things, I came across an article about Kickstarter that warmed my heart and made my brain do a happy dance.

Two years ago Kickstarter converted to a public benefit corporation (PBC), which is a for-profit company that is legally bound to its values. If a PBC prioritizes maximizing shareholder value over the public benefits laid out in its charter, shareholders sue. You see now what I mean by "corporate fluff" volunteer days. Being a PBC is a serious commitment.

In case you're unfamiliar, Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform that helps create companies like this...

GoldieBlox: one of my favorite companies in the world

 

Let's take a closer look Kickstarter as a PBC though. Here are some of the public benefits to which it holds itself accountable:

•Mission: "Help bring creative projects to life.  We measure our success as a company by how well we achieve that mission, not by the size of our profits."

 

Will not... sell user data to 3rd parties; impose confusing terms of services on consumers; lobby - unless the issues align with the company's values; avoid taxes with complicated domiciling; nor take advantage of the environment's limited resources.

 

5% of profits go to music and arts education.

 

After one full year of operating as a PBC, here's what the company's reported: 

 

“We think being a PBC and operating sustainably make us more resilient.

We hope that it will let us thrive in good times and give us a thick skin during hard times.

Being a PBC is not a hippie granola thing.”

Kickstarter CEO, Yancey Strickler

Kickstarter CEO, Yancey Strickler

-CEO and co-founder Yancey Strickler

 

More tangibly, here are five key achievements from the Kickstarter 2016 report card:

1. More talented people want to work for them. Simply re-incorporating as a PBC had this effect. Because they're publicly and legally committed to working in specific ways - and because rising talent wants to work for an employer with these values - they now have a stronger candidate pool from which to choose.

 

 

2. Created 300,000 jobs, 8,800 companies, & $5.3b direct economic impact. These impressive figures don't need much elaboration...

 

3. Stuck to a CEO compensation ceiling. While the average CEO earns 204x the median compensation of an employee, Yancey Strickler earned only 5.5x the median comp. 

 

4. Tax transparency. Kickstarter took advantage of two tax credits in 2016 and paid a combined effective tax rate of 25%. If you've ever worked for a large multi-national corporation with offshore domiciles, you understand what a big deal this is.

 

5. Five percent of after-tax profits were invested in six non-profits, who are building a more creative and equitable world.

 

Kickstarter is just one example; you may be familiar with Method Soap and Arthur's Flour, which are also PBCs. Companies like these make me hopeful about our workforces, enlightened about new ways to make money, and optimistic about society. PBCs are a vehicle to create tangible and quantifiable benefit for the world.

In civic-minded Nashville, I've had several conversations about this in the past week alone. Entrepreneurs and artists around me are wondering how to make money and a legacy, by weaving themselves into our surrounding society. This is just one tangible and impactful way.

If this business structure excites you as much as it does me, stay tuned: very soon, I'll be breaking down the mechanics of PBCs so that we (myself included!) understand how to apply them to our own business models.