To really understand how my background positively impacts my abilities, you need to understand what it means to run a sustainable company. The performance and value of a company has traditionally been measured in a strictly financial sense, through the profit or loss that it generates. While this gives perspective on the financial health, it does little to take into account the company’s overall impact. To more fully quantify the overall impact of an organization, the Triple Bottom Line (TBL) method has come to the forefront of discussion.
In the simplest of terms, a TBL is a measurement of the social, environmental and financial health of an organization; its sustainability. It’s the outward acknowledgment of the fact that, in addition to the profit it generates, an organization affects not only the community and people around it, but also the environment as a whole.
To become a Certified B-Corporation is to achieve the premier certification for all companies that are focused on the Triple Bottom Line. The certification is administered by the non-profit B-Lab, based in Pennsylvania. It’s a rigorous process that requires a thorough examination of all business, employment and outreach practices. The testing is combined with on-site audits, and regular re-certification requirements, to make sure that each organization is meeting the levels of performance to which they have committed. I am proud to say that my company has been certified for 5 years.
But how does owning and running a B-Corp, make me a better candidate? I’m glad you asked:
- The mission of a benefit corporation is to have a positive impact on the people and the planet. This is exactly what our government SHOULD be doing. We need leaders who are focused on helping all of the members of our community, not just working to move up the political ladder. This change in approach can’t be accomplished through partisan politics, bickering and ideology. I believe that in the right hands any organization can become a force for good in the world. This has been true with my company, where we positively affect the community and environment through employment, outreach, education and sustainable use of our resources. We can make it a reality in Washington too, by electing candidates that understand that our government should work for the people.
- While running a B-Corp, I have gained a wealth and breadth of leadership experience that isn’t readily available to others. As a citizen, I know that what I want from an elected official is for them to have the ability to effectively lead, work cooperatively, and listen to the people to know what they need. These are exactly the skills I have developed by running a B-Corp. Because our mission is to make a positive impact on the people around us, the planet as a whole, and the profit of the company, I have had to learn how to keep those three things in balance. To do that successfully, I must; bring people together to focus on a common goal, to build teams of diverse individuals with sometimes competing interests, and to listen to the people around me. It’s these skills that, over the last 14 years, have helped me to employ almost 2000 people in North Carolina, to work with area organizations to provide educational and career opportunity to the people of our community, and to minimize our footprint on the planet.
- It has given me direct knowledge of the struggles of the people of North Carolina. In my company, I’ve had the good fortune to work with people from a variety of backgrounds, skills, educations and cultures. I have learned from each person how they have faced adversity, and what great things they can accomplish when given a helping hand. These experiences led us to become a founding member of the Durham Living Wage Project, to focus on aiding veterans and their family transition out of the military, and to provide an internship designed to help people successfully return to work. It is also how I know there is more work to be done.
All representatives from North Carolina must always work in the best interest of the state and its people, ever mindful of how each vote effects the State’s triple bottom line. Running a B-Corp has made me a stronger leader, team builder, and listener. It’s given me the direct knowledge and insight into the challenges and needs of North Carolinians, a perspective that is missing from career politicians. These are the skills needed to bring change to Washington. These are the skills that make me the best candidate for North Carolina.
The United States is the greatest nation on the face of the planet because of the brave men and women who have stood up to defend it. Their actions and dedication are what allows us to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We honor and remember our service members on Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day, but that is not enough. We, as a nation, owe so much more; and it’s time we fulfill our promise. We do that by making sure that our armed services are the best trained, equipped and supported fighting force in history. But that’s only part of the story.
We have to care for our veterans once their service has come to an end and I think there are three core issues we must address.
- Establishing outplacement/transition programs. The armed services does a great job of recruiting personnel and creating a pathway for success in the service. I want to see strong effort put into helping our service men and women begin their lives and careers after their service. I believe that the armed services can develop solid working relationships with area communities and employers to provide a pathway for success for service members nearing their end of term. I would like to see a program in which individuals are teamed with companies where they can begin working in the private sector, while still functioning in the military world. In this model, employers would be able to train and develop new employees, without having to carry the salary and benefit costs of the trainee. If the employer hires the individual after their term of service is complete, and keeps them fully employed for a certain period of time, then we should reward the employer with a tax credit that will offset a portion of the expense. In this program, our Veterans are able to walk off the base and into a career that they are already comfortable performing, giving them a greater chance to successfully transition to the private sector.
- Providing excellent health care. In recent years it has come to light that the V.A. Health System has greatly deteriorated to the point that our veterans are no longer able to get quality, timely, comprehensive health care. With the recent leadership turnover in the Veteran’s Administration, we are beginning to see changes that are designed to reduce wait times, and allow for visits to medical professionals that are close by when there is no V.A. within a certain distance. While this is a good start, I believe we need to do more. I propose that we expand the capacity of our V.A. facilities so that we can eliminate long waiting periods for healthcare. We should allow greater freedom for our service members to receive help and treatment from medical facilities in their local community, whether or not they are V.A. facilities. In addition, we need to work with local providers and facilities to establish visiting professional credentials so that our V.A. doctors and specialists can travel to our people in need of service, making use of the facilities in the local community. These operational changes, along with a driven focus on the satisfaction of the patients in our facilities, will put us back on the right track.
- Addressing Mental Health Issues. All too often, the sacrifices we ask our veterans to make in their service become scars that they must bear on the home front. Yet, we know that with proper mental health care and counseling, we can guide our veterans through these difficult issues, helping them return to the life they fought so hard to protect. For that reason, we must make sure that comprehensive mental health services are available to every veteran at all times. We must also work to eliminate the stigma that can be associated with mental health issues, so that they can be openly discussed and proactively addressed. Not every veteran has mental health issues, but the ones that do, deserve our support. I want us to meet that responsibility.
I believe the strength of our educational system will determine our future prosperity. For too long, we have failed to properly support our teachers and our students. I believe much of our community, state and world problems can be addressed by returning the educational system to a place that develops the individual, prepares them for life, and engenders a sense of self-respect and self-esteem in all its students. We need to put more resources, time and effort into our education system. My goal is to provide people with the greatest educational opportunities possible at all instructional levels, for everyone, and in every community.
We should dramatically raise the salaries of all teachers, and provide them with the resources they need. Teachers should never have to buy basic supplies with money from their own pockets. I believe that a career in teaching should once again be a coveted position, among the most respected and sought after careers in the U.S. We must do more to make that a reality.
Both of my parents were educators. I saw first-hand how hard they worked; how much they did for their students and the community. Through their work in education and our family staffing business, my parents spent a lifetime teaching people how to be successful in the community, their careers and their lives. In my own company, we have continued the tradition of providing people the tools they need to succeed. Now it’s time to expand the effort to the classroom as we teach and create the next generation of builders, thinkers and creators who will determine our future.
I believe we have to continuously turn over our political leadership to allow for new ideas focused on solving the problems of the people. I believe that, just as we do for the President, we should also have term limits for Congress. We need representatives to pass legislation that will once again give the people the strongest voice in government, by guaranteeing them new options to choose from in the voting booth, both now and in the future.
I believe there is no greater effect you can have on a person’s life than to provide them with employment that offers a livable wage and sense of pride and accomplishment. For the last thirteen years, I have done just that through employing almost 2000 North Carolinians. I am proud to say that I have employed people from all walks of life, but I take special pride in the work my company has done to provide targeted employment to our Veterans, military spouses, people reentering the work force and many others.
As President and CEO of AVANT Group, LLC in Durham, NC, a full service staffing solutions company serving the Triangle and Triad, I have seen first-hand how businesses can be a force for good. To show our dedication to that mission, AVANT became a certified Benefit Corporation (B-Corp), identifying it as an organization focused on sustainability and making decisions based on what is good for our community, our environment and the company.
To make a difference in our community, you have to be engaged in the community. I have brought the tools, experiences and opportunities AVANT provides and paired them with non-profit organizations including the Durham Living Wage Project, Dress for Success, Hiring our Heroes and Step Up Ministries as an intentional effort to provide job skills training and employment opportunities to the community. By collaborating with these great organizations, I am able to not only put people in jobs, but to also educate them on how to be successful in their workplace, and how to have confidence in themselves. By empowering people to determine their own future and providing them with the tools they need to be successful, we will create a dynamic workforce and a stronger community. My goal is to make sure all North Carolinians have access to that brighter future.