Archive for December, 2013

Why Taking Action Isn’t Always The Best Move

December 30, 2013 Leave a comment

From Nassim Taleb’s Facebook page:

A standard mistake is to do something to avoid criticism (as opposed to doing something because it is *right*), and, what’s worse, show it. This seems trivial but smart people make the mistake all the time, not realizing the hormetic effect: critics will now have the stimulating challenge to find something else.

If you are ever told “your critics will attack you for this”, you should 1) answer: fuck them, 2) do more of it.


Book Review: How To Give Half Of Your Work Away For Free

December 16, 2013 Leave a comment

“We are all given a short time, and I think the biggest mistake a lot of entrepreneurs make is that they design and optimize their vision to provide the largest financial return possible. Now, making money is not a bad thing, but what should be known and understood, is that in the end, our salaries, the cars we drive, the square footage of our homes… none of that matters. What matters is the legacy that our business and our vision can leave behind – a legacy that has the ability to shape, disrupt, or destroy, a familiar system. When you disrupt a familiar system, you change perspective – you change the way a community can define themselves to inspire future innovation. Just because things are the way they are does not mean they should remain that way. I want to invite you all to leave your mark on something, and don’t be afraid of ignoring what you are brought up thinking is natural. – Matthew Manos @ TEDx, 2012

From Henry Ford’s assembly line to TOMS Shoes‘ highly publicized “one for one concept,” organizations are continuing to experiment with new ways of doing business. Los Angeles-based verynice, a global design, business and innovation consultancy that dedicates over 50% of its efforts to pro-bono services, is another example of a company who has been successful by applying an untraditional business model.

First, some key stats and figures provided by verynice founder Matthew Manos:

  • There are 27.5 million small businesses which make up 99.9% of all businesses in the United States
  • There are approximately 1 million non-profit corporations in the U.S.
  • Non-profits spend $8 billion annually on marketing and design expenditures, generated primarily by a handful of large non-profits (which means most non-profits are operating on razor-thin budgets)

“How To Give Half Of Your Work Away For Free” was written as a toolkit to open-source verynice’s business model. The core component is a “double-half” methodology where you double your workload and give half away for free through a pool of remote workers.

By bringing on teams on a per project basis as opposed to building a dedicated, permanent staff, monthly fixed costs are brought to a minimum which makes giving work away for free an affordable, if not overhead-less endeavor. While paid projects employ paid contractors, unpaid/pro-bono projects pull from the same pool of contractors, but invite them to participate in the project on a volunteer basis.”

This post isn’t meant to cover the nuts and bolts of verynice’s business model, but here are some of the key elements that highlight their unique POV.

Why The verynice Business Model Exists To Help Non-Profits

While expenditures for services like marketing and design grow each year, funding declines…When a non-profit is able to save valuable financial resources thanks to the generous pro-bono commitments of service-providers, they are able to immediately reinvest those dollars into their cause.”

Why 50%?

I define an extracurricular activity as something we spend less than half of our efforts doing. If we want to get serious about making an impact, it is my sincere belief that we need to start making giving back an integral component of business, something that gets a lot of focus, not something we do on the side.”

Leveraging Skills-Based Volunteering

This model thrives off of the philosophy that remote working relationships are the future of business, and that we only go to an office because there is one.” (For more on the remote work movement, read Remote: Office Not Required by 37Signals).

Why Social Entrepreneurship Is A Viable Alternative To The Current Non-profit Model

Seeking donations, grant writing, etc., as business strategies, limits an organization’s ability to give by drawing their focus away from the actual cause at hand. Social entrepreneurship, on the other hand, is a new medium for approaching the same causes that any non-profit organization might approach.

The difference between the two models: Social entrepreneurship allows an entity to be self-sufficient and independent through the development of various for-profit components that are integrated with the organization’s outreach. This kind of model not only allows the company to do well by doing good, but it also allows for an efficient focus on the end goal, which is to solve a problem, as opposed to constantly seek help.”

I found “How To Give Half…” truly inspiring. This is the best kind of book – the kind that makes you think differently and know that change is possible. It’s a fresh perspective on business that shows how a company can be profitable AND make a significant social impact without compromising profits or ideals.

I highly recommend this book, especially if you’re a service-oriented business (doctor, lawyer, hairstylist, designer, etc.) looking for a blueprint on how you can be profitable while making a tangible difference in the social sector.

Full Disclosure: I was given an advanced copy of How To Give Half of Your Work Away For Free, but it did not influence my review. 


Visit to learn more about verynice and get a free copy of their ebook

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