The Bottom Line, or the Bigger Picture?
CVS Health recently stated that the company will be taking steps within its business to help fight the country’s opioid epidemic by limiting prescriptions. The announcement serves as another inspiring example of a business acting to affect positive social and humanitarian change. The news comes on the heels of CVS curtailing in-store sales of tobacco in recent years, a decision motivated by similar intentions. I will admit that I don’t know the specific economics behind this decision, but I imagine both of these business choices will have at least some direct impact on their short-term bottom line, and it’s probably safe to say are unpopular with a significant segment of their customers and investors. Nevertheless, the company’s steadfast belief in doing what’s right – meaning supporting the health and well-being of their customers – is far more important to their leadership, employees, and company than is the short-term bottom line. I know it sounds crazy, but on a much smaller scale, I can totally relate. Let me explain.
I must start by saying that CVS has been a client of YourCause for more than seven years and was one of the handful of large companies that believed in my nascent vision for YourCause. They took the risk to allow a small startup to run and operate their employee giving and volunteering program. They believed in YourCause, way earlier than many others did, and because of that faith, I have an enormous affinity, loyalty, and pride in partnering with them to further the good they are doing through their employees. I always wondered what it really was that convinced them to do business with a small, unproven, and overly aspirational new business with (at the time) only five employees. I often put myself in their shoes, and I honestly can’t say I would have done the same.
This new announcement confirms many of my speculations about the “why” behind their original decision to do business with tiny YourCause. You see, I too made unpopular business decisions from the outset with YourCause that didn’t necessarily sit well with potential investors. I chose to form my business model around licensing and services fees, versus deploying the ‘toll road’ model whereby you take a small cut of the action on every dollar that passes through the platform. I made that decision to ensure that every cent of every donation — whether from the company’s treasury or the employee’s pocket — went to support the intended charity or nonprofit.
For this summer’s disaster barrage of Harvey/Irma/Jose/Maria, that single decision translated into a “loss” of $600,000 in potential revenues for YourCause (assuming the typical 5% fee), or around 4% of our total annual revenues. That just accounts for the past couple of weeks. Using that same rough math extrapolated across all of 2017, it suggests that we would be able to double our revenues simply by “choosing to be like everybody else” and embracing the toll road approach.
I see it all so differently. So many more people can be helped with those $600,000 in “toll” fees for Harvey and Irma, or the $16 million in tolls over the course of an entire year. And when I see the houses that have flooded, the lives that have been shattered, and all the other ailments, crises, and disasters that are taking place every day, I know our choice to embrace the business model that we did simply translates into more incremental and necessary social and humanitarian change. What we gave up on our bottom line, we gained in real positive impact being delivered across the world.
I’m not so naïve as to think that the scale of our business is even close to being comparable to that of CVS. But I have to imagine that at the essence of the decisions we made regarding our respective business models was similar in nature and pointed in the same direction. Knowing this reaffirms how proud I am to be working with clients in our Global Good Network that see the value in our abilities to direct legitimate business efforts to drive positive change in our world.
I think I know now why CVS made that decision to go with us. They saw their own business philosophy reflected in YourCause, long before we even saw it in ourselves.