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Diversity and Inclusion: Cultural Shifts Changing The Way We Do Business

Business

As sentiments from the #MeToo movement continue into 2018, gender dynamics and expectations for equality - both qualitative and quantitative - are on the top of everyone’s mind in America’s technology and business sectors. Company-wide initiatives that advocate for diversity and inclusion are becoming more prevalent, and we are likely to see these initiatives become the standard across the board.


By 2022, the Human Capital Management market is expected to reach $22.5 billion, almost doubled from 2017. And with a third of executives expected to increase Diversity and Inclusion spending next year, it’s safe to say this growing market opportunity will include tools, resources and a new crop of companies and services focused on D&I.

As with any cultural or social shift, innovation and funding tends to follow. We can expect new companies and technologies to emerge. These solutions will be particularly important for small businesses and early-stage companies, who stand to create teams and workplaces where D&I is built in to culture and policy from the get go.

The market opportunity for D&I is finally gaining more widespread attention, but based on some of my own qualitative research, as well as hard data, it’s about to grow significantly and quickly. Here are five market trends and opportunities in the D&I space we can expect to develop over the next few years:

The “I” in D&I

The discussion and action thus far has primarily been focused on diversity. Recruiting teams are looking at numbers of minorities and underrepresented groups within a company and then seeking out or hiring talent accordingly. While this isn’t a comprehensive approach, it’s quantifiable and concrete. Plus, research shows that diverse teams perform better than homogenous teams, which is making it easier to convince executives and boards to spend on diversity initiatives.

"Research shows that diverse teams perform better than homogenous teams, which is making it easier to convince executives and boards to spend on diversity initiatives." - Kate Brodock

The next step — radical inclusion — is far less linear. It relies more on psychology, as well as social, emotional and cultural intelligence across leadership and entire teams. However, as those teams diversify so will the thinkers, and diverse thinkers can more readily tap into diverse layers of human connection and culture.

In other words, we’ll naturally see an increase in the focus on inclusion and the creation of a work culture and set of principles that supports a diverse workforce.

Frameworks

In order to truly reveal the value of D&I, companies will need to implement new systems. We'll see new narratives and frameworks seep into the D&I market via internal teams and third-party service providers. At Women 2.0, we use the 3Ps (Principle, Policy, Process) to frame how we interact with the industry.

“Principle” relates to a company’s core values and culture. It’s essentially saying “do you have the moral foundation built in and set by leadership”?

With “Policy,” we’re looking at the tangible, recorded and actionable guidelines a company puts in place to support an organic D&I culture.

And finally, “Process” focuses on defining results and developing measurable systems that drive ongoing success.

Budget Spend

There will be two primary shifts in how money flows through the D&I market. We’ve already observed D&I dollars are moving from external-facing CSR efforts to internal-facing initiatives. With 96% of executives understanding that D&I could improve their bottom lines, this means D&I is lined up to receive budgets more akin to recruiting and HR.

Which brings us to the second major shift in budget: the sheer number of core resources, whether it’s bandwidth or capital, dedicated to D&I. In the second half of last year, 35% of executives reported that they would be increasing their budgets for D&I, and I suspect that number has gone up since then.

People are beginning to understand that this isn’t a numbers game. Processes need to be changed, cultures have to shift to support a diversified workplace, and policies have to get overhauled. This takes time and energy, and isn’t for the faint of heart.

DiversityTech

As we’ve seen with HRTech, we’re going to see a lot more tech-enabled solutions hit the market for D&I. Technology can increase access to D&I resources while lowering costs. However, especially when considering that Artificial Intelligence will likely play a massive role in the emergence of DiversityTech, the effectiveness of some of these technologies remains to be seen, and it will likely become a more nuanced conversation.

In my previous role, we ran an AI-driven talent marketplace that matches technologists to open tech roles. It demonstrated how AI can help companies develop their workforces, and what could happen in the future.

It also showed how difficult issues like bias were to be solved, and emphasized the adoption hurdles people had to get over in order to introduce technology and machines as solutions to what are traditionally perceived as “human” and “emotional” problems.

There is absolutely room for technology in this space, but we aren’t going to see a big adoption curve this year. The curve is also going to be lower, as many of the DiversityTech solutions out there are targeted at larger companies, so smaller companies won’t have immediate access.

Data & Analytics

This may be an obvious one (what market doesn’t rely on data?) but it’s also a tough one. Similar to AI’s role in D&I, data and analytics are best reserved for concrete numbers and tangible results. With D&I, we’re dealing with the connection between "soft" things, like humans and culture, and "hard" things, like bottom line and team performance. Traditionally, D&I has had very little measurement around it - aside from general HR data - and the industry is having to build metrics and frameworks from scratch.

But if the connection can be made, it’s clearly valuable, as evidenced by an unprecedented IBM lawsuit that thrust the value of diversity-yielding data, resources and strategy into the spotlight earlier this year.

IBM sued its former Chief Diversity Officer for presumably violating a non-compete agreement after she left the company for a similar job at Microsoft. This lawsuit suggested that she had access to IBM’s internal data on D&I, and that she would be taking that knowledge with her to Microsoft. IBM considered this a breach of contract by leaving with “trade secrets.”

This is significant, as it highlights just how much value the tech giants place on diversity strategies and their impact on business results, and it reveals that they will go to great lengths to protect them.

Especially for early-stage companies and small businesses, the D&I market paints a clearer picture of how bottom lines, employee morale and social progress work - or don’t work - together. And as small companies become big companies, the next Google, Amazon, Apple or even IBMs of the world will, with any luck, be born with D&I in their DNA.

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Choosing the Right Corporate Structure: Which Business Entity Should You Go With?

Business entities can be defined as the corporate, tax and legal structures which an organization chooses to officially follow at the time of its official registration with the state authorities. In total, there are fifteen different types of business entities, which would be the following.


  • Sole Proprietorship
  • General Partnership
  • Limited Partnership or LP
  • Limited Liability Partnership or LLP
  • Limited Liability Limited Partnership or LLLP
  • Limited Liability Company or LLC
  • Professional LLC
  • Professional Corporation
  • B-Corporation
  • C-Corporation
  • S-Corporation
  • Nonprofit Organization
  • Estate
  • Cooperative Organization
  • Municipality

As estates, municipalities and nonprofits do not concern the main topic here, the following discussions will exclude the three.

Importance of the State: The Same Corporate Structure Will Vary from State to State

All organizations must register themselves as entities at the state level in United States, so the rules and regulations governing them differ quite a bit, based on the state in question.

What this means is that a Texas LLC for example will not operate under the same rules and regulations as an LLC registered in New York. Also, an LLC in Texas can have the same name as another company that is registered in a different state, but it's not advisable given how difficult it could become in the future while filing for patents.

To know more about such quirks and step-by-step instructions on how to start an LLC in Texas, visit howtostartanllc.com, and you could get started with the online process immediately. The information and services on the website are not just limited to Texas LLC organizations either, but they have a dedicated page for guiding fresh entrepreneurs through the corporate tax structures in every state.

Sole Proprietorship: Default for Freelancers and Consultants

There is only one owner or head in a sole proprietorship, and that's what makes it ideal for one-man businesses that deal with freelance work and consulting services. Single man sole proprietorships are automatic in nature, therefore, registration with the state is unnecessary.

Sole proprietorships are also suited to a degree for singular teams such as a small construction crew, a group of handymen, or even miniature establishments in retail. Also, this puts the owner's personal financial status at jeopardy.

Due to the fact that a sole proprietorship entity puts all responsibilities for paying taxes and returning loans, it directly jeopardizes the sole proprietor's personal belongings in case of a lawsuit, or even after a failed loan repayment.

This is the main reason why even the most miniature establishments find LLCs to be a better option, but this is not the only reason either. Sole proprietors also find it hard to start their business credit or even get significant business loans.

General Partnership: Equal Responsibilities

The only significant difference between a General Partnership and a Sole Proprietorship is the fact that two or more owners share responsibilities and liabilities equally in a General Partnership, as opposed to there being only one responsible and liable party in the latter. Other than that, they more or less share the same pros and cons.

Registration with the state is not necessary in most cases, and although it still puts the finances of the business owners at risk here, the partnership divides the liability, making it a slightly better option than sole proprietorship for small teams of skilled workers or even small restaurants and such.

Limited Partnership: Active and Investing Partners

A Limited Partnership (LP) has to be registered with a state and whether it has just two or more partners, there are two different types of partners in all LP establishments.

The active partner or the general partner is the one who is responsible and liable for operating the business in its entirety. The silent or investing partner, on the other hand, is the one who invests funds or other resources into the organization. The latter has very limited liability or control over the company's operations.

It's a perfect way for investors to put their money into a sector that they are personally not experienced with, but have access to people who do. From the perspective of the general partners, they have similar responsibilities and liabilities to those in a general partnership.

It's the default strategy for startups to find funding and as long as the idea is sound, it has made way for multiple successful entrepreneurial ventures in the recent past. However, personal liability still looms as a dangerous prospect for the active partners to consider.

Limited Liability Company and Professional LLC

Small businesses have no better entity structure to follow than the LLC, given that it takes multiple good ideas from various corporate structures, virtually eliminating most cons that are inherent to them. Any and all small businesses that are in a position to or are in requirement of signing up with their respective state, usually choose an LLC entity because of the following reasons:

  • It removes the dangerous aspect of personal liability if the business falls in debt or is sued for reparations
  • The state offers the choice of choosing between corporation and partnership tax slabs
  • The limited legalities and paperwork make it suited for small businesses

While more expensive than a general partnership or a sole proprietorship, a professional LLC is going to be a much safer choice for freelancers and consultants, especially if it involves risk of any kind. This makes it ideal for even single man businesses such a physician's practice or the consultancy services of an accountant.

B, C and S-Corporation

By definition, all corporation entities share most of the same attributes and as the term suggests, they're more suited for larger or at least medium sized businesses in any sector. The differences between the three are vast once you delve into the tax structures which govern each entity.

However, the basic differences can be observed by simply taking a look at each of their definitive descriptions, as stated below.

C-Corporation – This is the default corporate entity for large or medium-large businesses, complete with a board of directors, a CEO/CEOs, other executive officers and shareholders.

The shareholders or owners are not liable for debts or legal dispute settlements in a C-Corporation, and they may qualify for lower tax slabs than is possible in any other corporate structure. On becoming big enough, they also have the option to become a publicly traded company, which is ideal for generating growth investments.

B- Corporation – the same rules apply as a C-Corporation, but due to their registered and certified commitment to social and environmental standards maintenance, B-Corporations will have a more lenient tax structure to deal with.

S-Corporation – Almost identical to a C-Corporation, the difference is in scale, as S-Corporations are only meant for small businesses, general partnerships and even sole proprietors. The main difference here is that due to the creation of a pass-through entity, aka a S-Corporation, the owner/owners do not have liability for business debt and legal disputes. They also are not taxed on the corporate slab.

Cooperative: Limited Application

A cooperation structure in most cases is a voluntary partnership of limited responsibilities that binds people in mutual interest - it is an inefficient structure due to the voluntary nature of its legal bindings, which often makes it unsuitable for traditional business operations. Nevertheless, the limited liability clause exempts all members of a cooperative from having personal liability for paying debts and settling claims.

This should clear up most of the confusion surrounding the core concepts and their suitability. In case you are wondering why the Professional Corporation structure wasn't mentioned, then that's because it has very limited applications. Meant for self-employed, skilled professionals or small organizations founded by them, they have less appeal now in comparison to an LLC or an S-Corporation.