When Leili and I started Apparatus, we wrestled with what kind of company we were going to be. Not just at a brand level, but fundamentally -- who were we? The options available to us at the time didn't fit quite right; we weren't a nonprofit, but we had a mission that made us different than a standard LLC. Ultimately we did the best we could by forming as an LLC and using a .org website address to demonstrate our in-betweenness.
Luckily, not long after Apparatus was off the ground, Minnesota passed the Minnesota Public Benefit Corporation Act which made it possible to choose something different: to be a Public Benefit Corporation.
Public Benefit Corporations (either with a stated general (General Benefit Corporation, like Apparatus, GBC) or specific (SBC) benefit) fit in an increasingly growing industry of social enterprises, for-profit companies with a mission at their core. All Minnesota PBCs annually file a report with the Secretary of State's office which can be perused by the public.
For Apparatus, being a General Benefit Corporation gives us the ability to clearly speak to our work, our approach, and why we're passionate about what we do. The general benefit we work to provide is through developing and leading projects that seek to improve our social, natural, and built environments. Simply put, We help clients across industries and sectors promote social justice and advance the common good.
As a very small and quick example, at left you can see how we brought an unexpected dynamic to the 2017 Robotics Alley conference by asking attendees how they felt about robots and their societal impacts. We used this information to inform our client, the conference organizer, about the ways they could address apprehensions and excitement of individuals who wish to better understand how robots can/will become a part of our workforce. This information was also used in a bipartisan panel that took place at the event where lawmakers discussed their views on a changing workforce, STEM education, and attracting high tech talent to Minnesota.
So, what's in a name? To roughly paraphrase Shakespeare, would a company by any other designation smell as sweet? In our estimation, no. Being a Public Benefit Corporation is about holding a commitment to social benefit above all else. It requires us to examine our work, our partners, and ourselves to ensure we're meeting the mission we've determined as critical and integral to our work.
What does this mean if you're looking to engage a firm for services? There's a value-add for companies that hire PBCs in working with a team that will help you achieve your goals while putting you on a path to help others outside your four walls. It's a new way to potentially evaluate the companies you work with as you consider what your own values are and how they can best be expressed and acted upon.
If you have more questions about becoming a PBC, check out the Secretary of State's website.
If you have more questions about working with a PBC, you know where to find us!