Although we're already almost two weeks into the new year, it's not too late to make resolutions for your small business. One I'm making this year - and I encourage you to make, as well - is to find ways to increase commitment to diversity. In part, this is in response to the social justice awakening last year, but it's also good business.
"The way companies show up for diverse communities impacts the way that people want to spend their dollars," said Atira Charles, head of inclusion, diversity and equity at Moët Hennessy North America. "There's both a moral reason and a business case for doing what's right."
Regardless of your politics, diversity and inclusion affect your bottom line.
A diverse workforce makes your company more resilient and helps you grow. An inclusive attitude helps you attract a broader audience. Customers increasingly want to know you respect and embrace diversity.
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I spoke with Charles because the issue of diversity is a challenging one for small businesses. Even if we want to do the right thing, it's tough. After all, we may hire only a few people - so how can a small business ensure a diverse set of workers? We have only so many marketing dollars - so how can a small business attract a diverse set of customers?
"The first step," Charles said, "is to ask yourself: What is the pulse of our company climate and culture, and how do people feel here? The number of who's in the room doesn't matter if the culture and climate of the business is not inclusive."
A company's culture and communication style is important for attracting and retaining diverse workers and a diverse customer base.
"It's like inviting someone to your house," Charles said. "If the whole family got into a fight before anyone comes over, your guests aren't going to feel good either."
"If you look around, and everyone looks the same, thinks the same and comes from the same place, that's the first problem," Charles said.
That lack of diversity affects potential growth. "If there's a lack of people from different backgrounds, it affects all the innovations that could come from a more diverse workforce. … Ask yourself, 'Does my employee base reflect the community I serve or want to serve?' Recognize there are opportunities there," Charles said.
You might be thinking: "Isn't all this attention to diversity just in response to recent events? Won't it go away?" No. Employees and customers want to know that the companies they do business with reflect inclusive values. That's a trend that's been growing for many years.
I was among the first authors to include a "Social Responsibility" section into a business plan guide, 30 years ago when I wrote "Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies." Everyone thought I was crazy. Even I thought I'd lose sales. Now, incorporating social responsibility - and issues such as diversity and inclusion - into your business and business plan is expected.
What steps can small businesses take to increase diversity, inclusion and equity?
Ensure a welcoming, communicative work environment where everyone feels they are seen, heard and valued.
Train all staff to treat everyone with respect, no matter what they look like, how they're dressed, their ethnicity, age, gender or religion.
Be more inclusive in messaging and the images used on websites and in marketing materials.
Expand your reach and pipeline when you have job openings to communicate with a more diverse potential applicant pool.
Look for more diversity in suppliers.
Consider ways to make products and services meet the needs of a more diverse and inclusive community.
If you still have a bottle of your New Year's champagne hanging around, you might want to raise a glass and share a toast with Charles: "As we say 'cheers' to a new year, let us focus on impacting people in the most positive way we can."
Rhonda Abrams' newest book "The Sh*t's Hit the Fan: Now What, 99 Recession-Proof Tips for Small Business Success" has just been released. Rhonda was named a "Top 30 Global Guru" for Startups. Connect with Rhonda on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Register for Rhonda's free business tips newsletter at www.PlanningShop.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How small businesses can commit to diversity