Digested read

After much reflection and hard work, we’re relaunching Novoda as a for-profit, mission-driven business. A ‘business for good’. Here we’re sharing (rather self-indulgently!) some of our story so far, straight from the messy middle of a positive change in progress.

Step 1:
Establishing the facts

When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?

Paul Samuelson
Economist

It’s April 2021, and the facts have changed.

We’re a pretty good bunch here at Novoda. We work hard, we’re really good at what we do, and we care about the outcomes of our work. We’ve profited from putting those ingredients together for our clients for 14 years and counting.

And yet we’ve started to feel uneasy. The World we opened our doors to years ago has changed to a point where our priorities no longer match the moment:

  1. It’s time for action: We’ve entered a Decade of Action. The last call for us humans to come together and fix the most significant challenges of our time. We feel the gravity of these challenges and experience some of the impacts. Yet, we’re far from being part of the solution.
  2. It’s time for change: The world’s on fire, as Rebecca Henderson puts it. Old ways of doing business make less sense than ever to us. We know we need to take on and serve a far greater set of stakeholders than we’re used to. Put profit to good use. Capitalism needs reimagining, and many good-minded folks are actively contributing to change. But not us. Not yet.
  3. It’s time to give more: The exceptional people we want to work with (and continue working with!) are demanding more from us. They want way more than a paycheck and the promise of challenging work. They crave real purpose, and we have given them little so far.

We’re changing as people too. Getting older, growing deeper roots, even growing up a little! We’re living through experiences that have us reflecting on what we want from the time and energy we give to our work. We crave change too.

So we’ve started to feel urgent about responding to the facts at hand. We’re seeing organisations around us (and like us) face up to the challenges of the moment. They’re doing it in big and small ways while we haven’t really been doing…anything.

The facts have indeed changed. And we’re starting to change our minds.

Step 2:
Manifesting the moment

Right now, it’s Autumn 2022, and you’re reading the first blog post we’re putting out into the World from within our relaunched business. A work-in-progress of a company we’re rethinking profoundly from the bottom up. At the foundation of that rethink sits our desire to fashion our business around putting more good out into the World. Giving back more than we take.

We’re just a few steps into that rethink. But from now on, every decision we make connects to our search for answers to a profoundly purposeful question.

Illustration of a pair of hands holding a brain and a heart

Step 3:
Posing a purposeful question

‘How can we best invest our time, energy and expertise to create as much good as possible in the World?’

That’s a great big, naively optimistic question, isn’t it?! And deliberately so.

When we say, ‘How might we best?’
That’s an invitation to think generatively and ambitiously about all the ways we might put our business to good use.

When we say ‘Time, energy and expertise’
These are the atomic units of what we can offer up to our cause. And we plan on giving them generously.

When we say ‘The World’.
We mean our people and our planet first and foremost. There’s plenty more that begs attention, but our focus starts here.

There are a million ways we could answer this question as we take action. That’s the point. We’ve posed it, and now we’re building our business around the search for a good answer.

Step 4:
Doubling down on what we do best

A group of people talking and laughing in a circle

Making good things happen is resource intensive. ‘Resources’ often means financial inputs (you know, cash!). So now more than ever, we need to be particularly excellent at what we do for our clients. And that’s what we’re working hard on right now.

We’re doubling down on what we’re best known for – helping leaders and their teams nail complex challenges on mobile. We’re still very much a mobile product engineering company. Though that work is evolving too.

We feel our (mobile) skills, knowledge, and expertise are the ingredients that give us the best shot at making good things happen in the World. Whether we’re using those skills to build up financial resources to invest in positive change or to directly impact a Sustainable Development Goal ourselves.

What we’re able to do, has the potential to make a real difference. We’re looking forward to delivering on our potential.What we can do, has the potential to make a real difference. We’re looking forward to delivering on that promise.

Step 5:
Getting to goodness with goals 

After doubling down on what we do best, we’ve settled on (and quietly started working towards) some goals to guide us in the early stages of our mission.

The B110 Project 

Being a good business starts with finding ways to help our fellow Novodans prosper. We’re using the B Corp standard as our baseline for that exploration, and after a year of hard work, we’ll be submitting for our accreditation in early 2023.

There’s way more a contemporary digital business can do for its people, though, than mandated by the B Corp standard. The B110 Project is a (slightly cheeky) way of expressing our commitment to going as far as we can down the path of putting our people ahead of profit. We’ve got such a long way to go, but at least now we’re on a structured path to progress.

The Good Profit Pledge

We want to generate a sizable amount of our future revenue from helping organisations make a positive impact, where mobile is a critical ingredient in making that impact happen. Sometimes with a little margin, sometimes with none, and sometimes at a loss.

Those projects don’t always get what they deserve. One of the best ways we can help is to make our expertise available where it’d otherwise often be lacking. So we’re actively searching for projects that meet our Good Profit Pledge criteria starting now.

The Good Future Factory

How might we use our skills and experience to explore our own more direct route to making a positive impact? We’ve established ‘The Good Future Factory’ to help us find out.

We’ve launched a little learning laboratory, putting our mobile-centric problem-solving skills to work on experiments that directly impact the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Climate Action (SDG 13) and Life on Planet (SDG 15) are our early (and passionate) focus. We look forward to telling you all about our first active experiment very soon.

Together these goals have started to create fundamental changes in how we think and act, though we’re barely off the start line in terms of impact. This is long-term thinking, and there’s a long road ahead.

Step 6:
Showing our warts to the world

Taking a ‘regular’, profit-driven business and reinventing it around a positive purpose – we’ve found that to be a tough and messy business. Putting purpose into action can be frustrating, perplexing and downright hard too. At least that’s our experience!

When we’ve gone looking for reassurance in our low moments, we haven’t found so many honest stories on the grind of ‘getting to good’ though. Lots about the finish line, not enough about the highs and lows of trying.

So we’ve committed to telling our own honest stories here on our blog – sharing some of our successes and failures on the path to purpose – in the hope of helping others. Take these paragraphs as the opening salvo, with the promise of more to come.

We hope we can inspire others in some small way as they overcome their own moments of complication and doubt.

So what’s next?

A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order. 

Jean-Luc Godard
Auteur

So there’s a little on the first six small steps we’ve taken. We’re the same business and a completely different one at the same time. We’re at the end of our relaunch journey and the starting line of some seriously hard graft. We’re looking forward to telling you some ‘tales of trying’ as our intentions turn into impact. So watch this space.

Finally, though, to mark the ending of this beginning as it were, we’d like to say thank you to some of those who’ve helped us get this far:

  1. Our founder Carl. He won’t enjoy the namecheck, but we’ve turned his business (and what he can expect from it) upside down in the last year. You only get to begin a journey like this with the courage and complete commitment of your main shareholder. That’s what we have, and we understand the gift that is.
  2. Our fellow Novodans. Your patience, commitment, care and support. None of it is taken for granted, but a lot of it has sure been taken this year! Thank you for waiting-and-seeing and straight up pushing us down a path to positive change. It’s been inspiring.
  3. Our partners. From B-Leaders to brand-builders. From engineering partners to our like-minded agency friends. Novoda gets to do big things whilst staying small, thanks to our work together.

And lastly, thanks to you for taking the time to absorb this self-indulgent, prideful outpouring.

Thank you for sharing in the moment.

The Novoda Team
A crowd of Good People