This world we live in is a great place. Filled with people who make good choices and bad choices, people who are intelligent enough to know what is real and what can be imagined. The human species can reflect on the past, learn from it and grow.

From an early age, many of us are taught the importance of being good neighbors.

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I see businesses the same way. Almost human, run by humans, complete with flaws, growing pains, lessons to be learned and opportunity.

Building Your Business – and Building a Legacy

We start out small, we benefit from lessons taught by other, more established companies, and we grow. Like children, teenagers and even adults with more to learn (there’s always more to learn), we make mistakes.

Like an elementary school student who makes friends they shouldn’t, we’ve learned the ins and outs of hiring employees who will be a positive influence on our company.

Like a college student, we’ve worked tremendous hours on thin budgets to educate ourselves and achieve great work.

And what do we all (at Overit, at least) strive for? We want to make a difference. Inside this company, you find humans here doing what we believe in, and dreaming bigger.

It’s the companies that make the effort to do good – to be a good neighbor – that get remembered. Sure, you can sell products and services and profit – all things we want and need – but what will you be remembered for?

Using Your Business to Better Your Community

Whether you’re a start-up funded by friends or venture capital, a small business on a budget or an international corporation (and don’t get me started on how corporations could be doing so much more to better the world), you can be a good neighbor. You can…

Be a good neighbor – right in your home.
Look around your office. Are you recycling? Bottles, cans and paper? What about ink cartridges and out-of-date electronic devices? Have you minimized the use of paper products? What light bulbs are you using? Have you made attempts at minimizing your energy consumption? Have you offered your employees a safe place they can park their bicycles should they choose that method of transportation to get to work?

Enable your staff to be volunteers.
Plenty of people want to volunteer but don’t have the time outside of work hours. As the business owner, this is something you can control. Arrange a system that allows employees paid-time to volunteer at approved community activities. Not only will these projects boost employee morale and teamwork, but your company will be thought of as one beneficial to the local community.

Use your services for the benefit of others.
Your employees may find plenty of satisfaction serving meals at the local soup kitchen, repairing local playgrounds and volunteering at community events, but what else can you do? What specialized skills can you offer? Some of our favorite projects are our pro bono clients who do tremendous work in the Capital Region. Taking these opportunities to let our employees create great things for nonprofits serving others is tremendously rewarding.

Spur local business growth by bringing new employees to your region.
Maybe your business resides in an office complex, or maybe it’s a business like ours in the middle of a neighborhood. Encourage your employees to interact with neighboring businesses to keep your area a prosperous, booming area. Neighbors working together to bring people to the area will result in everyone’s success.

It’s not always easy to do these things. Being charged to recycle doesn’t seem right, but that’s how it is right now in many areas. Pausing your billable hours to volunteer might seem scary, but it’s necessary. It’s hard being a business owner, and it’s made harder when you have a desire to “do good” and awareness of problems your company can help fix.

Creating Goals for Your Company

We’re proud of our home in our rehabbed church. Vacated in September 2009, we were thrilled to open the front doors, turn on our lights, and start our laptops on our desks made from refurbished pews in July 2012. It’s a great home.

We benefited from good neighbors who welcomed us with open arms, pleased to see the 1930s church in use rather than knocked down for residential use or for any generic apartment development. We were pleased our employees were welcomed to a neighborhood full of local eateries we visit regularly and local businesses with which we work.

We love it. The Historic Albany Foundation loved it and awarded it.

But we’re not done.
We still dream, and we’re still growing. We want solar panels, and we’ll get there. We want to volunteer more. We want to be even better neighbors, and we will be.

How do we get there? How do you achieve your goal of making your business a beneficial member of the community?

You use your power for good.

That’s what Obi-Wan Kenobi taught us to do, right? Use what you have – as little or as much as you have – for good. You might not have the resources to change the world, but what about the city or neighborhood? Every bit helps.

Turn down jobs you don’t believe in. Make a difference with the good tools you have– the people, the tangible materials, the intangible knowledge and the imagination that’s constantly at work.

Good things will happen.

What companies do you see being great neighbors and giving back to their community?