Social responsibility starts at the corporate home

By David K. Williams

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 28 2012 2:32 p.m. MST

How can company leaders improve the world as well as improving their business? Through corporate responsibility. If we want to create a company that endures through the tests of time and through all the ebbs and flows of business, we must first foster the core principles of character such as integrity, commitment, loyalty, belief and especially the principle of giving “when you may have nothing to give other than yourself.”

Corporate responsibility should start when you write your business plan and long before you have a profitable company. You should make “giving and service” a part of your company’s fabric from the very first stitch. Social responsibility is not always outward, but also inward toward each other, and should also include into family members of colleagues as well.

There’s an added bonus: providing service to the community makes for a stronger and more profitable business as well. Be careful to not have service or giving enacted with a hope for personal gain. The true law of service and giving expects nothing in return and should remain anonymous as often as possible.

Our company has made the principles of service (inward and outward) a fundamental trait of the company culture. As a result, Fishbowl has developed a culture that employees thrive within and will even fight to protect. We work hard, and we play and serve harder. We are a company with little to no concern about retaining employees — generally speaking, our employees don’t want to leave.

Following the loss of my son, Cameron Williams (a Fishbowl employee), to cancer in 2008, I and others in the company have joined to continue his legacy through the creation of CAM (Courage Above Mountains) in 2011. The CAM Center is the home of the CAM Foundation, which is the social responsibility arm of Fishbowl. CAM provides business incubator services to entrepreneurs and young organizations, and teaches computer skills to single mothers and women looking to advance their opportunities in the workforce, as well as the people of the great Navajo nation. CAM helps others who are less fortunate and who need a place of refuge to gain knowledge that benefits them not only in the workplace, but in all areas of their lives.

Even prior to the formation of CAM, but now more then ever, the atmosphere at Fishbowl has become a culture of giving. Several times each year, the employees hold service-related projects. Some projects have supported the United Way, and others have helped a local elementary school prepare classrooms, library and resource centers for a new school year.

Another project gave a substance abuse center for single mothers a complete landscape facelift, including renovation of the children’s playground. Employees typically donate vacation time to provide these charitable services in the name of Fishbowl as a way to give back to the community.

At the conclusion of CAM’s first year in December, the program gifted more than 55 refurbished computers, four video cameras and a significant amount of warm clothing to the Navajo nation for use in computer training programs through their communities.

The employees’ Christmas gift to the president and the CEO? Of their own volition, they made arrangements with a corporate partner for a gift of 150 jump drives. The drives allow students in the Navajo nation and elsewhere to take coursework back and forth between school and their homes. Nothing could have made President Mary Scott and I happier — it was a sweet moment.

Service has strengthened our employees' bonds with each other. It has strengthened their commitment, their belief, loyalty and trust in the company and each other. These are the four “non-negotiables” we require our employees to withhold. We are a more profitable business as the result of the time spent in service to others — and this is not a principle that applies to Fishbowl alone.

I would venture to guess that every company genuinely invested in social responsibility and community service will tell you without hesitation the investment has been returned many fold.

David K. Williams is the CEO of Fishbowl and a member of the Utah Technology Council.

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