Philanthropy

LESSONS LEARNED: 'GIVE BACK'ANDY MEDLEY AND SCOTT HILL co-owners, CIK Enterprises LLC

April 30, 2007

Small-business owners have plenty on their plates-like finding customers and keeping them happy. But CIK Enterprises partners Scott Hill and Andy Medley have found room for a heaping helping of generosity, too.

The west-side direct marketing firm has a program in place that directs 1 percent of monthly profit to local charities, a seemingly small number that nevertheless is growing along with the 7-year-old company.

That's the idea.

"Capitalism has a negative connotation as something that's profitdriven and cut-throat," Medley said. "But we saw an opportunity to make a difference. For us, it's all about impact."

Hill agreed.

"From the very beginning, we wanted to feel good about doing something with the money we're generating through this business," he said.

Since starting the program in 2003, CIK has made $152,700 in charitable contributions and expects to give away another $100,000 this year.

"It's pretty cool to see that grow," Medley said.

Same goes for CIK, which has seen business more than triple since 2004. Last year, profits reached $885,000 on revenue of $32.2 million.

The firm may be dwarfed by corporate behemoths like Eli Lilly and Co., but its leaders-and employees-have taken a bigbusiness approach to giving back, making philanthropy a priority.

Rather than respond to charitable solicitations on the fly, CIK treats donations as an expense. The company deposits 1 percent of profit into a special fund each month, and a committee of employees figures out how to give it away.

Gifts run the gamut from Christmas presents for needy families to five-figure grants to youth-serving organizations like Junior Achievement and College Mentors for Kids.

The money makes a difference to recipients, said Medley, a member of College Mentors' board. But the charitable effort has an equally profound impact on CIK.

With donations tied to the company's bottom line, the 76 employees literally can see the affect their work has on others.

"We sell direct mail to auto dealers; it's not exactly saving the manatees," Hill said. "But we want our people to go home and feel good about the company they work for. ... It's very rewarding."

And there are other benefits, as well. Getting rank-and-file workers involved in the philanthropic process-from making donation decisions to managing the holiday gift-buying spree-helps them develop leadership skills, the partners said.

"There's no one more difficult to lead than a group of volunteers," Medley said with a smile.

CIK's commitment to the community has become part of the culture of the organization, the partners said, and that's something they've worked hard to make appealing to current and prospective employees.

Success is difficult to measure, but Hill and Medley are confident they're doing the right thing, even if they can't point to a specific business result of their philanthropy.

"For us, the internal goodwill, the leadership development, the idea that the faster we grow the bigger difference we make ... is enough," Medley said. "If [the benefit] is never quantifiable, I'm OK with that. This is one of those things you can just feel is right."
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