I have been working in the construction industry for almost 60 years. Forty years ago I co-founded Shaker Computer and Management Services, the original developer of COINS.
Then in 1989 we had a visit from Larry Sullivan and Nigel Cope of CSB Holdings. We licensed the COINS software to CSB for its development, sales and support in the UK and over the next 18 years we built a successful relationship with Larry and Nigel.
Moving forward to 2007, after discussions with several buyers, we took the decision to sell Shaker to CSB. Why did we choose CSB? In all honesty the sales price offered by CSB was not the highest. But we made the decision based on three major points. Firstly, our 18-year solid working relationship. Secondly, we looked forward to becoming part of a global organization. Thirdly, the core philosophy of the CSB/COINS leadership.
The CSB & COINS philosophy in business:
1. When dealing with clients always emphasize creating value in the best interest of the client. By emphasizing the creation of value on behalf of its clients, COINS chooses to act as a fiduciary would act, rather than in its own self-interest. In some instances, this may result in the loss of assignments but normally trusted long-term relationships with clients are built.
2. In addition to creating value for clients it is also important to create value for the worldwide community. To pursue that goal, COINS Foundation was established to help in relieving the financial hardship of vulnerable groups and individuals through the use of grants or in-kind services.
3. In connection with 1 and 2, the focus of all activities should be that they are sustainable, working towards longevity as opposed to looking at short-term immediate rewards.
4. To do the right thing and to be a force for good.
Sustainable activities include considering the economic, social and environmental impact worldwide. We envision a result that will endure, while being mindful of how it can affect the world in which it operates. It is a major consideration when funding COINS Foundation projects, and even considered in the competitive COINS’ business sector, to the extent practicable.
A recent global survey reported that three times as many people believe that business innovation is motivated by greed rather than by the desire to make the world a better place. However, more than 80% agree that corporate profits and efforts to improve society are compatible. Almost half the survey respondents place greater trust in corporations with a reputation for supporting the greater good.
With higher business confidence given to those companies demonstrating a sustainable model that expresses value and responsibility it is logical that these factors are considered in future business decisions.
This same study also states that effective management of social capital can assist with recruitment and retention of employees. In an annual survey of over 37,000 employers in 42 countries in 2014, 36% of employers reported having difficulty filling jobs, of which 54% stated that this has a ‘medium’ or ‘high’ impact on their ability to meet client needs. It has been proven that an organization’s reputation as a good employer is a key driver of attracting and retaining talent with one study identifying a spread of more than 5% in operating margin between companies with ‘low’ or ‘high’ employee engagement. This indicates that companies with social capital programs often boast higher employee satisfaction, and as a result better staff retention, clients’ needs met to a greater standard and potentially higher operating margins to satisfy the shareholders.
It is difficult to empirically prove that the benefits of investing in social capital can specifically redound to the company providing those investments. However, COINS management believes that energized, focused, competent and respected employees are the key to a successful company. In that regard we can infer that supporting social capital will impact the company favorably. Using my experience at COINS-US to support this it is evidenced by:
1. A closer and more cooperative relationship among employees, whether they’re actively engaged or engaged bystanders who are pleased and supportive of the investments that the company makes on their behalf.
2. Having an Employee Turnover Rate of 13%, compared to the industry average for software companies, which is 22.4%.
3. An eagerness for highly qualified prospective employees, familiar with our organization, to be hired by us due to the employee camaraderie and managements’ social policies.
4. 34% of the companies’ employees have worked here for more that 15 years.
What has COINS Foundation achieved:
COINS Foundation was established in 2007, not because of the areas of influence identified in the recent survey, although they do confirm that changes in the way of thinking have occurred since the Foundation was established. Since its inception the achievements have been significant and include:
• Funding over 65 individual grants with over £2,000,000, awarded to 51 organizations, such as Promoting Equality in African Schools (PEAS), Habitat for Humanity, Stepping Stones School, Build It International, Kawama Widows and Orphans, Hot Courses, Challengers and Sunbeams Music Trust.
• Grants were provided to support schools serving a range of students with severe and debilitating disabilities, orphanages, permanent housing, school construction, homelessness, veterans’ assistance, contagious diseases, a 5-10 year filming program tracking 5 Ugandan low-income families for the purpose of portraying stories of hope, disability sport, and many other worthy causes.
• In addition to providing grants to the most vulnerable population of developed/industrial countries, a significant portion of the grants has been focused on the least developed parts of the world, such as Gambia, Haiti, Kenya, Nairobi, Swaziland, The Himalayas, Uganda and Zambia where the poverty, lack of human resources and economic vulnerability are the lowest indicators of socioeconomic development in the world.
• Establishment of the Cookie Bar, owned by Inclusive Enterprises, a for-profit subsidiary of COINS Foundation with the profits reinvested back in to projects supported by the Foundation. The Cookie Bar works with Stepping Stones School to provide a safe environment to acquaint them with the practical aspects of running a business.
• Larry Sullivan, who leads the vision and direction of the Foundation, continued his practice of speaking at business schools. This was done in an effort to influence future business leaders to consider setting up social enterprises and to advance social values within their organizations.
COINS Foundation is in its 10th year and during this period COINS Global’s turnover has more than doubled, almost all of the funds will come from COINS itself. Part of the future model for the Foundation is to generate funds by making investments in commercial organizations, using the Cookie Bar as an example we can ensure sustainable income for the Foundation.
As Chairman for COINS USA, one of the benefits of writing this piece is for me to realize and reflect on how impressive the accomplishments of COINS Foundation really are. I am proud to be working with COINS Global, a company that is making a tangible effort to “be a force for good” and “doing the right thing”. I hope other COINS employees understand this and realize that their efforts on behalf of COINS are enabling such contributions to our most vulnerable population.