Worship thy business? Some entrepreneurs find success by embracing their spiritual side

As my colleague Joe McKendrick wrote yesterday , people are making professional decisions these days for very different reasons than they did in the past. Ethics, social responsibility and other intangible values are being weighed against the power of the paycheck like never before. I know it sounds really hokey, but whenever I feel depressed about what I do for a living, it's because I wonder if I'm actually doing any real "good" for my clients. I feel much more passionately and self-assured about my writing. I know that if one sentence can spark a connection or an idea, I've done something worthwhile.

Consider that during the decade between 1996 and 2006, there was a 36.2 percent increase in the number of non-profit organizations in the United States. The total number of non-profits at the end of that decade was 1,478,194; at the end of 2008, that number had grown to 1,515,679. One can only imagine how the massive layoffs of the last six to nine months will continue to reshape that number. Frankly, we're fed up. (Cue Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It.")

Of course, you don't have to run a non-profit to run an ethical business. All over the United States, smart people are starting businesses not only because they need to feed and clothe their family but because they want to a make a positive impact on their community or economy. This makes for an extremely receptive audience for Christine Kloser's business tome, "The Freedom Formula: How to Put Soul in Your Business and Money in Your Bank."

Kloser uses her own experiences of near-bankruptcy to illustrate some of the ideas in the book. It was actually was published last year, but if a recent layoff has you thinking entrepreneurial thoughts OR you're an entrepreneurial manager seeking to recast your business in a mode that is more steeped in corporate social responsibility, you'll probably find the 150-or-so pages a useful read.

I won't divulge the exact ingredients of Kloser's formula, but I did want to mull over her list of the 4 Components of Conscious Business, which is obviously explored in much greater depth in the book. These are the tenets:

  1. A conscious business makes money. Contrary to common logic, it is possible to make money while serving others. In fact, it is mandatory. "A business that doesn't make money isn't a business at all ... it's a hobby," she writes. So, if there's an activity that you're supporting that may FEEL good, but that is costing your organization a lot of money, it's time to rethink the structure.
  2. A conscious business makes a difference. I love this one, because I used to live the exact opposite of this concept at my preference job. This is really about understanding your organization's unique value to the customer prospect and knowing when they would be better served by looking elsewhere for the solution to your problem. Does your organization constantly find itself adjusting its strategy in order to compete? Then you really don't understand the difference your business can and should make to stand out.
  3. A conscious business calls you to be fully who you are. Have you ever worked somewhere where you had to hide aspects of your being or belief system? This is what Kloser is talking about with this one. There should be a seamless belief system between your personal and professional self.
  4. A conscious entrepreneur trusts in their divine plan. This is the toughest one for me personally to get my arms around, but basically this is the divining rod that keeps you on course when you fact a big business challenge. Rather than allowing negative emotions to push you off the path, Kloser suggests that you use challenges or road blocks to reconnect with your original plan.

If you're feeling receptive to a series of exercises that will help you assess the ethics and spiritual nature of your professional choices, this is a really quick read. You could also spend some time on Kloser's Web site if you want to explore just one aspect of these ideas.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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