Can Transparency Solve the Boba Guys' Profit Problem?

Can the market reward businesses who emphasize transparency?

While Bin is traveling in Taiwan (watch Bin dancing here!), Andrew will continue the conversation on the profit motive. We are also working on securing a consistent home base to complement our mobile operations. The poster above is from our first public event.

We want to thank everyone for the candid and engaging conversation around profit! We have been wrestling with the issue since we asked the GOOD community what we should do with our excess revenue. As the topic of responsible business heats up on the national stove, we want to stay as transparent as possible.

I remember my ethics professor asking our class, “Does it pay to be socially responsible?” I thought it was a trick question: “Um… I don’t know.” Now, we have an opinion.

Generally speaking, Wall Street and consumers do not reward social responsibility through higher valuations, consumer preference, willingness-to-pay, and other profit-driving metrics. There are niche consumer segments out there that do reward companies that overtly prioritize social contributions over profit. However, not every business wants to or can cater to the socially conscious segments. In some industries, people simply do not factor in social impact. Therefore, what should companies do? What should we do?

The response from the community was nothing short of amazing. The comments vary in level, from the strategic (“keep the money for expansion”) to the tactical (“give it to food-related causes”), so we will try to keep the conversation simple. We want to address two comments directly which should capture the general sentiment of the Facebook, Twitter, emails, and blog responses:

The first comment (thanks Ronan!) does require more definition—specifically, the exact meaning of “rewarding”— but it summarizes the situation quite succinctly.

Similarly, we also saw several people including Sarah use the old adage, “you can’t serve two masters.”

Our response puts the two thoughts together: What if the “master” was transparency instead of profit maximization or social responsibility? Can the market reward businesses who emphasize transparency?

We hope the market can and will reward companies who strive for transparency. Transparency leads to trust and trust is a proxy for certainty—and we believe the market does reward certainty.

Therefore, we have decided to make our business model as transparent as possible. That is the purpose behind our profit question to the public. It is why we openly share our list of ingredients. Our mission remains the same—to share our passion of boba with the world—but how we do it is just as important. It may not work for every business, but it aligns well with our values.

We know our response does not directly address what we should do with our profits, but we felt that any other answer may misrepresent our response. What we (or other businesses) do with our profits is inevitably polarizing, so the best we can do is to engage openly with the public. Hopefully, our fans and readers value transparency as much as we do. Before we continue this conversation and reveal where we’re putting our profits, we’ll have Bin update us on his trip in our next post.

See you next week!

You can Meet the Boba Guys each Monday.

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