5 Tips to Becoming a B Corp Consultant

Ryan Honeyman, author of “The B Corp Handbook.”

By Julie Fahnestock

Ryan Honeyman didn’t necessarily intend to be the B Corp expert. If you told the Ryan Honeyman of 2008 with his master’s in criminal justice that in five years he would quit his job, write a book, and be named the 2014 B Corp MVP, he might have asked, “‘B’ Corp? Why not an ‘A’ Corp?”

To be an expert is to be just a few steps ahead. The Ryan Honeyman of 2015 knows B Corp consulting is about asking questions and finding ways to create meaningful, long-term value. Not long into his career as a B Corp consultant, many requests from sustainability-minded professionals came his way asking for advice on networking with B Corps, turning the B Impact Assessment into a business model and feeding a family while doing so. Ryan realized that to dramatically expand the B Corp movement, there was an opportunity to create a training and mentorship network for aspiring B Corp consultants.

Together with Conscious Brands, an awesome, Canadian-based, sustainability consulting firm, he launched a webinar series called “Secrets of B Corp Consulting,” aimed at equipping participants with tools, framing and expertise in this burgeoning field.

As of now, two cohorts have completed six class hours and several, albeit always optional, homework assignments. Ryan and his colleagues at Conscious Brands think that the trainees are ready to hit the ground running and help companies make more meaningful impact. Here are five insider tips from the Secrets of B Corp Consulting, which I compiled as a member of the September 2015 cohort:

1. B Corp certifications are only 50 percent of the business opportunity

Christian Greico, president of Optimus One & Secrets of B Corp Consulting Alumni

Ryan said that when he first started Honeyman Consulting, he made the mistake of chasing B Corp certifications, neglecting to develop long-term, client relationships. The more meaningful approach, he has learned, is to create deeper value for clients through other activities such as PR, carbon counting projects and half-day, employee engagement training. This is also true for other B Corp consulting companies. For Conscious Brands, B Corp certification makes up roughly one-third of their revenue stream.

2. Get going when you’re 80 percent ready.

Nadine Martel, sustainability consultant, Bronson Consulting Group & Secrets of B Corp Consulting Alumna

As management consultant Alan Weiss puts it, “When you are 80 percent done, then move forward. The final 20 percent is dysfunctional.”  When Ryan first started his consulting business in 2011, he knew he needed to find a way to provide long-term value for his clients quickly and effectively. He didn’t have time to refine his expertise and then start consulting. Ryan says that the goal is to trust your gut, constantly tweak and iterate on new approaches, and admit when you don’t have the answer.

3. You don’t need to be an expert in sustainability to help businesses improve impact

Yours Truly, Julie Fahnestock, founder of B Storytelling & Secrets of B Corp Consulting Alumna

Ryan says that “B Lab calls itself a lab because they aren’t pretending to have all of the answers.” In fact, one of the most interesting things for me during this course was that Ryan said he had only mentioned GRI and LEED once and never used them. He says that the value that the B Impact Assessment provides is that you don’t need a long, deep history of sustainable knowledge to help businesses improve their social and environmental performance.

4. Use the B Impact Assessment to get a baseline

Christian Greico, president of Optimus One & Secrets of B Corp Consulting Alumni

“Regardless of how the client proceeds,” says Greico, “the B Corp model is such a strong framework.” Whether or not the client decides to pursue or finalize B Corp certification, the assessment outlines the great impact they are making and where they have room to improve. Ryan says that you should walk your clients through the Quick Start Guide in The B Corp Handbook and set a goal to get a baseline via the B Impact Assessment in 90 minutes or less.

5. Contextualize the value of the B Corp model.

Nadine Martel, sustainability consultant, Bronson Consulting Group & Secrets of B Corp Consulting Alumna

“It’s important to find what resonates with each business. It could be attracting and retaining top talent, or it could be demonstrating leadership in sustainability or ensuring the values and mission are embedded and protected in the business’ legal structure,” says Martel. “Each message will depend on the type of business, its current situation and who you are speaking with. When consulting with businesses, it makes sense to select two or three points explaining the benefits of B Corp that will resonate with the business to whom you are pitching.”

For more secrets, check out the October/November webinar series the Secrets of B Corp Consulting. Read more about it on Just Means.

Julie Fahnestock is the Founder and Sustainability Storyteller at B Storytelling, a content development company specifically designed to help popularize the good happening through business. They do this by helping Benefit Corporations and other social enterprises identify, build and leverage their brands. Julie has an MBA in Managing for Sustainability from Marlboro Graduate School and she lives in West Palm Beach, Florida.

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