Couldn’t resist the eye-grabbing headline. At risk of disappointing the reader, I have to confess that we’re really not talking that much money. While we’re profitable (even despite the economy) I’m afraid our bottom line would look like a rounding error to many big companies. (At least its a black rounding error, though)
Its surprising to us, though, to find so many people – booksellers, vendors, customers, would be employees – who think we’re some soul-less mega corporation. In fact, we’re simply a small, grassroots company here in WNC with 10 employees. Despite Biblio.com’s seemingly global reach, quite a few of our independent book store partners have more employees than we do!
Given this, we thought it might be worth a moment to introduce/re-introduce the reader to Biblio.com – who we are, what we’re about and what’s important to us.
Biblio.com is a triple bottom line company. This means we strive to be equally successful as a business in the “Triple P’s”: People, Profit, and Planet (being good stewards of the earth we live on). So, if profits are soaring, but we’re being wasteful or not being conscientious, our management gets pretty grumpy. If we’re treating each other or others in the community unfairly or disrespectfully, that profit number ain’t gonna save any necks.
We take it a step further, too. Just like any sensible company wants to operate solidly in the black, we don’t want to be just break even with our People and Planet bottom lines. We try to go above and beyond whenever possible. And if we can pull from Profit to get there, well, that’s what we do.
What does all this mean? Well, let’s start with Planet.
Of course, we try to do all the responsible things that any good business should do – recycle, reduce waste, conserve energy, and compost our coffee grounds (you know it makes an insanely good source of nitrogen for your garden, don’t you?). But, for what we can’t reduce or re-use, we offset our carbon footprint. We do this through a partnership with Native Energy. Every month, we calculate all of our travel, the electricity used in our offices and servers, employee commutes, and every single book sold on Biblio.com (yes, every single one!) to determine the total carbon footprint for our business. Then we round it up, and contribute that amount as an investment in clean, renewable energy and conservation projects through Native Energy.
Now we come to People.
While we love being committed to environmental concerns, this (People) is the fun part of our company. We are committed to providing a fun, rewarding atmosphere with fair wage jobs and full benefits for all our staff. We let them bring kids and dogs into the office. We stock the fridge with food (and beer – for Friday afternoons, of course). We provide flexibility in people’s positions that doesn’t demand that their life conforms to their job. Instead, we try to meet somewhere in between, with a healthy work-life balance.
Those who know us may already be familiar with our philanthropic work in bringing tools for literacy and education to underprivileged communities. Which is a big, mouthy way of saying we like to build libraries in poor communities and hand out books to people. We do this through the non-profit 501c3 called Biblio Charitable Works (BiblioWorks, for short), which we founded in 2005.
One of the places we continue to do our work in building libraries is in Bolivia. Mountain Xpress, Asheville’s alt.weekly did a nice little piece on BiblioWorks and its literacy work in Bolivia just last week.
We also work on distributing books, particularly to children in need, here in WNC. Just a few weeks ago, Allen and I had the pleasure of accepting a generous grant on BiblioWorks’ behalf from the Rotary Club. The funds will supplement our efforts to put books and information resources into local detention centers.
While many companies are making huge cuts, and certainly slashing their non-profit investments, we’re fortunate to be able to keep supporting BiblioWorks and other worthy programs. A big reason for this is that we began investing in community philanthropy in the earliest stages of our company – when we were still struggling to stay afloat, and losing money. To us, giving is a discipline, and we believe if we continue give even when it hurts a bit, we’ll be able to stay committed to our decision of being a socially responsible company for a very long time to come.
Which brings us to the third P. Profit.
Don’t get me wrong. We’re not a non-profit. Generating a profit for our stakeholders is important to the long term health, sustainability and growth of our company. But its not our central focus.
But, generating a profit while retaining zero debt does help us remain viable and sustainable for years to come. It gives all of our staff a stake in our future (we share 10% of all profit before taxes or depreciation among each full time employee), and, just as importantly, helps us keep up the promises we’ve made to the other two P’s.