After Co-founding & Selling “And 1”, He’s Trying To Change the World!

After Co-founding & Selling “And 1”, He’s Trying To Change the World!
October 09 06:00 2016 Print This Article

If you run your own business you know how important it is to take care of your employees and engage in your community.  As the saying goes: “Don’t take care of your customers, take care of your employees and they will take care of your customers”. The quicker a company realizes that, the quicker they’ll succeed, and Bart Houlahan one of the founders of the well known sports apparel brand “And 1” made that a top priority. However when he noticed that his employees job security was in jeopardy after selling his company, he decided to take action, and that’s when he c0-founded B Lab. Take a look at some of the incredible things he’s done which is literally changing the way the world does business:

 Jay: You were one of the founders of the sports apparel brand “And 1” and now you’re one of  the founders of a nonprofit called B Lab. What’s B Lab all about and what inspired you to create such an incredible organization?

Bart: Looking back Jay it’s really incredible how different my role is now with B Lab than it was at And 1. But the truth it it’s only because of what I had seen during my time with And 1 that inspired me to co-found the B Lab platform. I was with And 1 for 11 amazing years and during that time we achieved incredible accomplishments. Treating our customers best was always a top priority for us, but what was equally or maybe even more important was making sure we treated our employees and staff like family, that we were engaged in our local community and that we were aware of our impact on the environmental. When we ultimately sold the company in 2005 we were disheartened by the fact that our commitment to our employees, the  community and the environment was stripped out by the new owner. Corporate law dictates that at the time of liquidity, a company has to maximize the return  to its shareholders and can’t consider any other factors. Our philosophy has always been to take care of all of our stakeholders as well as our shareholders;  after the sale we were faced with the reality that the security of a company’s employees fall into jeopardy at the point of liquidity we were determined to change that.
Jay: What are some of the key points that you and your team at B Lab have been able to do to try and change that around?

Bart: The first and most important point is to recognize and spread awareness that growing a profitable  business to the highest level and creating a force for good are not mutually exclusive. We created a certification process where companies can take our free online assessment that when passed will make them Certified B Corporations. In addition, they will also be given the tools they need to share the word and inspire others to do the same. One of the main requirements we have established is to have a clear mission that is actually embedded into your core business structure through a governance change, which ensures that a higher level of performance is now built to last. Our mission is that one day all companies compete not only to be the best in the world, but the Best for the World® and as a result society will enjoy a more shared and durable prosperity.

Jay: I would imagine companies who are looking to scale and grow would be hesitant to commit to such requirements. What has been the feedback and results so far?

Bart: Let me preface my response this way: The best way to bring the most profit to your shareholders over the long haul is without a doubt by putting your employees, your community and the environment first. When we ran And 1, we made sure our employees were taken care of and we had supplier retention rates of 98%!  Any “extra” cost we spent towards bettering the experience for everyone who crossed our paths paid for themselves many times over in the long run. Having said that, we’ve been able to shine the light on many business leaders who have become Certified B Corporations  who have in turn been able to share this message with so many other businesses. To date, we have Certified B Corporations in more than 54 countries, 150 different industries and they’ve inspired 50k companies to use the B Lab tools. There’s definitely more work to be done but we’re off to a great start.

Jay: That’s incredible! We’re talking about a tremendous amount of information, work and follow up. How do you keep track of all of those resources?

Bart: : Fortunately, we use Salesforce which allows us to find the right contacts who fit our agenda and at the same time keeps track of everything we’ve done. When you talk about scaling any sort of business or mission, having everything in one place is the only way to get results. We want to scale B Lab the same way we successfully scaled And 1 and it’s very important to have the right technology in place. What we’re doing at B Lab is essentially to create a road map for other businesses to follow and in order for us to do that we needed our own roadmap with an extremely powerful CRM that would enable us to reach our targets, evaluate their impact and keep everything in one place. The only software that was able to do that exactly how we wanted was Salesforce. I’m happy with our results and I’m confident that we’ll be able to move close to bringing businesses across the world together as a force for good.

headshot_barthoulahan2Bart Houlahan, along with his partners, Jay Coen Gilbert and Andrew Kassoy, co-founded B Lab in 2006.  B Lab is a non-profit organization serving a movement of people using business as a force for good.  B Lab is redefining success in business by shining a light on leaders through a corporate certification (1700+ Certified B Corporations in 50 countries), and then providing easy pathways for others to follow.  B Lab’s Measure What Matters campaign encourages all companies to measure and manage their social and environmental impact using the B Impact Assessment (40,000+ companies engaged). And its Mission Alignment work creates opportunities for companies to align their mission with their governance (Benefit Corporation legislation passed in 31 states and in process in 7 countries). Prior to B Lab, Bart was President of AND 1, a $250 MM basketball footwear and apparel company.  Bart is a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute McNulty Prize; and an advisory board member of the Duke University Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE), the Wharton Impact Investing Initiative, and the G8 Impact Measurement Working Group.; a recipient of both the 2014 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship and the 2015 John P.