Our Journey to “B Corp In Waiting”

WRITTEN BY Liz Hunt

We believe that for-profit businesses can and should be a force for good in the world. When we created Smith Assembly, we spent a lot of time talking about how to build that ethos into our foundation and practices from the beginning. We felt one of the best ways to do that was to become a certified B Corp. It’s been quite a journey to our current status of “B Corp in Waiting" — challenging and labor intensive, but worthwhile (whether or not we ultimately pass the certification process). Several people have asked us what it took to get to this point, so we thought we’d share some of our major milestones and tips learned so far.

Documentation The first step in our journey was our Founders Agreement. Before we incorporated, we talked through our partnership in great detail. We shared our motivations and fears with each other. We documented the high-level goal for our company, our roles and responsibilities, our equity and vesting schedules, initial plans for compensation and benefits, how we’d resolve conflicts, and what we’d do if one of us wanted or needed to exit the company.

Tips for B Corp Certification…

  • You’ll need an org chart, job descriptions for all roles, and an employee handbook (amongst innumerable other documents). We recommend getting started early and incrementally adding to your documentation as your company grows. Thankfully, we still have a couple more months in queue before our formal evaluation and verification to finalize all of ours!
  • Your company’s legal governing documents will need to require the board of directors to balance profit and purpose. Learn from our mistake — it’s cheaper to do that when first incorporating your company (instead of paying an additional fee to amend your articles a year later when transitioning to a benefit company).

Mission & Community Our desire to continue collaborating with the brilliant and inspirational innovators we had met around the world was what inspired us to start our company. We agreed that it was crucial for those collaborations to be fairly compensated and mutually beneficial, and captured that intention early on in a policy and procedures document. Since we’re both purpose- and impact-driven, we also wanted to share our successes so decided at the beginning to donate 5% of our revenues to nonprofits selected by our global innovators in order to amplify the positive impact they have in their communities. Later on, we expanded our impact to include participating in 1% for the Planet.

Tips for B Corp Certification…

  • You’ll need to share your mission statement in your application as well as when you transition to a benefit company. We recommend investing whatever time is necessary to define one that succinctly encompasses your founders’ and company’s purpose.
  • You’ll need to have thought deeply about how you engage with and impact your workers, community (including your supply chain), environment, and customers. We recommend taking a look at the assessment ahead of time for suggestions on which characteristics and metrics to track.

Application We admit it — we found the B Impact Assessment confusing. So, as we mentioned in a previous post, we attended a preparation program that helped us figure out if/how we could qualify. We’re incredibly proud to have submitted our application in mid-February 2021!

Tips for B Corp Certification…

  • Your company will be eligible to apply after completing its first fiscal year, and will need to score at least 80 points on the assessment. We recommend budgeting a lot more time for completing your assessment than the 1-3 hours mentioned in B Lab’s FAQ.
  • You’ll need documentation and detailed data from every department in your company to successfully complete the assessment. We recommend identifying a point person to shepherd your application process and ensuring that the people they need to coordinate with on the various sections have committed the necessary time and resources.

We’re still in the midst of our journey. Are you a certified B Corp or further along in the process? Let’s connect — we’d love to hear your advice and get to know you!

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Smith Assembly offers multi-dimensional learning experiences that promote healthier and more inclusive workplace cultures. We do this through a radically-inclusive approach in which we co-create our Team Building and JEDI Training workshops with leaders from the underserved communities supported by our donations.

We respectfully acknowledge that we're headquartered on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples including the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. We're grateful to live, work, and play here and value our relationships with their land.

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