Is your business successful or significant?
According to Ralph Catto, the Chairman of Ethical Goods Limited the key to creating a prosperous business is to be ‘Successful and significant’ (with success always leading the way!)
Ralph began his commercial career with a UK stockbroker company. He spent 12 years focusing very much on corporate finance and working his way up to Director in the late 1990s. Having been successful in this industry he didn’t want to get trapped in the ’Rat Race’ of City life where people can earn large amounts of money but yet remain poor through buy-in to ‘marketing hype’ on how to spend big too. He took the decision at the turn of the millennium that he wanted to leave the City and see if he could be successful in industry.
An opportunity arose, through engaging with two large corporate supporters from the property industry. Through investment Housing Partners was born. The rationale behind this organisation was that the internet was a relatively new concept for the delivery of commercial day-to-day business solutions. After research, plus some trial and error, it was decided to focus on provided software and solutions to the UK’s social housing sector.
Within that sector the ideas and innovations formulated within the Housing Partners’ team to engage a lot of interest. So the business struck with an agreed Ethos “to make a difference in people’s lives by blending social and commercial strategies”. Success came, albeit not without trials and tribulations on the way, such that by the end of the decade the client list covered landlords who owned or managed two-thirds of the UK’s social housing stock.
By corporate measures Housing Partners is a success, but it’s also significant. So whilst it loves delivering solutions for social landlords to make them every more efficient and save them money, the team is also interested in helping hundreds of thousands of people in better housing every year because of what Housing Partners does. But even then Ralph says it’s not about big numbers, it’s about individuals.
“We’re grateful for feedback and one of my career highs was when I read this one – ‘after suffering domestic violence and abuse I never thought I’d move so quickly but thanks to you, my baby and I are safe and happy in a gorgeous new home’ – balance sheets and P&L accounts are important but you can’t beat the high you get from reading something like that and knowing you were part of the team that made it happen” (Ralph Catto, 2012)
The team also grew as with growth comes the need for new skills, and in interviews, Ralph was always interested in what a candidate made of the business’s Ethos statement to find out if they had, consciously or not, a desire for significance as well as success, and if they didn’t get it, they didn’t progress. In 2010 Ralph handed over the lead executive responsibility to the MD and continues to serve the business as non-executive chair.
The success of Housing Partners clearly identified that the business was providing a service to fulfill a need, therefore creating significant impact of providing housing to a large population.
The next venture Ralph moved on to create was Guiding Capital, an investment business with a strong belief that commercial solutions can often be the most effective way of addressing social problems. This belief was very in line with the Ethical Goods business model, and naturally Ralph became involved to support the business and also joined the Board. So what was so attractive about the Ethical Goods business model?
Ralph comments “EG’s strapline is ‘Sell More, Give More, Gain More’. Sell More speaks to the need for success in business; Give More speaks to the human desire to be significant even if Managing Directors have; and Gain More is about inspiring others and releasing discretionary effort – from staff to customers – which can loop us back to Sell More, and every time we loop past that the MDs’ smiles grow wider and wider”.
Ethical Goods doesn’t just window dress your company with corporate social responsibility and brand assurance. They design, market and consequently sell branded products using consumer researched branding to add value to existing consumer products while simultaneously donating money to selected charities and causes. Ethical Goods, the brand, offers consumers a truly ethical and honest alternative to everyday products beyond a logo and stamped accreditation.
The company ensures a credible, transparent benefit between the product and the associated cause. It is a pioneering, market leader in product/cause relationships Ethical Goods was birthed by a group of friends following the successful partnership between Harrogate Spa and Pump Aid, creating the brand Thirsty Planet in 2007.
Thirsty Planet is a brand that achieved the perfect example of a win-win situation. Every bottle of Thirsty Planet sold guarantees a fixed donation to the charity Pump Aid. It’s the equivalent to each bottle guaranteeing to provide 5,000 litres of clean water to designated projects in Africa. This ‘Donation Guarantee’ is fully transparent as it is not dependent on profitability or how much the retailer decides to sell. Through this it was recognised there was a clear business growth, “Sales grew 400% by associating my product with a good cause.” Paul Martin (Former MD of Harrogate Spa).
Today Ethical Goods is led by Managing Director Duncan Parker who has grown an impressive portfolio of products and partnerships and additional services that better world through a profitable, commercial, sustainable and ethical model of doing business with the world’s consumers. Products include the brands ‘Ethical Stationery’; ‘I wish I was a’…childcare range, and a range of other consultancy clients.