What does it mean to have a meaningful career? At some point, have you been encouraged to follow your bliss? Have you felt confused, demoralized or duped by this suggestion?

Anyone can be instrumental in making positive impact—it’s hugely a matter of attitude, view and approach. Tweet This Quote

These questions of 1) how to build businesses based on humane and compassionate values, with missions that enact positive impact, and 2) how to engage in meaningful, engaged and joyful work, are deeply intertwined.

I always wanted to do something that really helped people and made real change in the world. In order to do that, I thought I had to work for a company (or build my own organization) that “did good”—feeding the undernourished, educating the disadvantaged, delivering medicine and clean drinking water, solving environmental problems, saving endangered species, etc.

However, it turns out that being a do-gooder is no guarantee of having a meaningful life or building a business that actually makes a significant, positive impact. What I learned is it’s not what a business or a person does but how they do it.

It’s not what a business or a person does, but how they do it. Tweet This Quote

To be clear, I have not arrived. I’m pretty sure I have not found my dream job or the ideal career. I have not figured out what it means to run a business that is a perfect model of “business as a force for good.” Yet, I have learned that people with all sorts of backgrounds and experiences can be instrumental in making positive impact—it’s hugely a matter of attitude, view and approach.

Every day, I don’t necessarily feel that what I do is making a positive impact on the world around me. But, strangely enough, I love the little company I built and feel lucky to do what I do at dojo4. At first, I was just doing a job, which progressed into co-running my business, and then gradually yet all at once I realized I was truly helping people—doing exactly what I had always wanted to do.

This actualization didn’t happen because we were building some kind of groundbreaking software that was delivering earth-shattering solutions to the world’s most complex problems. We’re just a services company, after all.

It happened because we are building a business that allows and encourages people to feel good when they walk in our doors. When people do business with us, they are often surprised by our openness, friendliness and eagerness to find the best solution for them, even if it’s counter to our bottom line. Essentially, we’re building a business that values people’s humanness.

Being a do-gooder is no guarantee of building a business that makes a significant, positive impact. Tweet This Quote

In the process, we have been fortunate enough to find ways to sign clients like Off Grid Electric and Greenpeace. At the end of the day, though, we are writing the exact same code we may write if we had been hired by Monsanto or Chick-fil-A. The what is the same, but the how and why change.

At dojo4, our mission is to provide a wonderful environment for the people we work with and their families; a space built on the human qualities of humor, curiosity about how to do it better, friendliness, intellectual rigor and joy; and support for lifestyles that integrate our many interests, activities, responsibilities and families.

Overall, I’ve learned that building a meaningful, impactful business starts with the following building blocks:

  • The ideals that a business is built on.
  • The attitude we take about the work we do.
  • How we understand ourselves and each other.
  • How we treat ourselves and each other.

Are you treating your employees, customers, audience, competition and yourself with respect and compassion? Tweet This Quote

With these building blocks in place, the what of the business falls in place. In fact, the what is so deeply informed by the how and the why, it can actually feel secondary.

So what does this mean for you as an entrepreneur? It means start where you are. Think about what positively impacts you. Is it friendliness? Generosity? Honesty? Transparency? Clarity? Humor? Patience? Cultivate whatever it is in how you relate with yourself and the people you encounter through your business. Are you treating your employees, customers, audience, competition and yourself with respect and compassion?

Thinking about how and why you want to make real positive impact will help determine your decisions about what to do next with your business. Tweet This Quote

Thinking about how and why you want to make real positive impact will help determine and support your decisions about what to do next with your business.

Although I still don’t know what my bliss is or how to follow it, I’m starting to sense that it doesn’t serve to look too far afield to figure out how to “do good” with my business. My bliss may be making an impact close to home in my day-to-day, letting that inform the bigger decisions and actions.

Imagine if every person and every business started with treating themselves and the people in their immediate sphere of influence with respect, curiosity and friendliness—that would truly change the world.


A version of this post originally appeared on dojo4’s blog.

About the author

Corey Kohn

Corey Kohn

Corey is the COO of dojo4, a creative software design, development and media team in Boulder, Colorado.