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The benefits & impact of simplicity: a case study

As business leaders, we know that business is rarely simple. Organizations have to respond to growth, competition, pricing, the economy, vendor and partner changes—every day seems to require some level of course correction. Whatever it takes, we all need to insure that our businesses thrive.

Despite the fact that being in business can be complicated, I submit that your strategy doesn’t need to be. Achieving simplicity throughout your organization and in its focus can provide both differentiation in a crowded market and help take it to the next level.

Case Study: Women United in Philanthropy

What does simplicity in business look like? As I considered this question, an organization that I did not expect came to mind: Women United in Philanthropy (WUIP). I have been a member of this giving circle for several years, and its clear focus and extensive impact on the community it supports with its strategic philanthropy have always impressed me. I thought to myself, if this charitable organization can use the benefits of simplicity, why can’t businesses?

WUIP helps women in the larger Bergen County, New Jersey area achieve economic independence. It has given away $625,000 since it was founded in 2005 and has grown from 15 members to over 100 members.

How It Works

Each WUIP member donates $1,000 annually and these donations are pooled together in a grant fund. Every year, one organization dedicated to serving women in Bergen County is selected to receive a high impact grant in support of its efforts.  The entire grant pool is exhausted every year.  Every year, this organization starts from $0 and gives away whatever is in their coffers.  If they have 50 members, they get $ 50,000, and they give that much away.  If they get 100 members, the tally goes to $ 100,000, and that too is dispensed to a worthy cause on or around the issue of helping women achieve economic independence and gain skills that will enable them to make a living wage.

Why It Works

WUIP attributes its success to its simplicity and its singular focus. Its goal is to change its corner of the world – one grant at a time. It has enabled nine different organizations through these grants. Zoe’s Cupcake Café in Teaneck, NJ is one example. The café was launched with a $100,000 grant from WUIP. This bakery is both a revenue-generating business and a program for teen moms who need job training and experience to provide for their babies.

Thousands of women in the Bergen County community have been impacted through WUIP’s clear focus and simple mission. Each member has the same amount of power, contribution and impact.  This organization does not allow seniority, rank, or wealth to take away from the level playing field it has created.

It is beautiful in its simplicity.

Application

How can you simplify your business to maximize success? It requires narrowing down your options and focusing on a single path. Here are some basic guidelines that Jack Trout suggests to use in his book The Power of Simplicity: A Management Guide to Cutting Through the Nonsense and Doing Things Right.

Achieving simplicity throughout your business will certainly not be easy, but it will be beneficial.  I’ll leave you with a final thought on the impact that simplicity can have from one of the most successful business leaders of our day, Steve Jobs:

“That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: you have to work hard to get your thinking clean and make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

By the way, if you are interested in learning more about WUIP, you can visit its website.

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