When I hired Michelle Fields to be a Franchise Success Representative for Any Lab Test Now, I knew I had hit the jackpot. Her warm and welcoming nature, coupled with her medical experience and attention to detail, enabled her to connect instantly with our franchisees. She helped them grow their businesses and they adored her. So did we, back at the home office.

When Michelle was diagnosed with colon cancer at 46 years old, she put up the good fight for more than three years, working right up until the last month of her life. I can still remember the first day she complained of her symptoms before there was a diagnosis. I also remember sitting with her in hospice those final days in June 2016. Watching Michelle walk that road was hard, but it was also a gift to witness her strength, grace and compassion.

As a company, we embraced the colon cancer awareness banner with new vigor and every franchise in our system was “all in.” In addition to financially supporting the Colon Cancer Alliance, as a lab testing company, we were able to offer our clients discounts on the colon cancer screening Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), which we do every March during Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

When a disease hits you at a personal level like that, you feel helpless. But being actively involved in building awareness, facilitating early detection and funding research, gives us the feeling that we are still honoring Michelle, even though she’s passed, and helping others in the future. It’s how we can make an impact.

I was encouraged to read in a Cone Communications Survey recently that, “2017 will be remembered as the year that redefined Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).” I think it is safe to say we now live in a society in which it is not just nice for businesses to be socially responsible, but it is expected and necessary. And that is a good thing.

As CEO, I am blessed to be leading a company that is driven to contribute to a greater good. Incorporating social responsibility into our business model on the local and national levels has made us a stronger, better company from top to bottom.

Impacting Communities

Franchisees will often tell you one of the best things about being their own boss, is the freedom and latitude they have in making decisions on how to run their business. For many of our franchisees, that means a commitment to making an impact in their local communities. Aside from our corporate-wide initiatives to support Heart Health Month in February and Colon Cancer Awareness month in March, franchisees have free rein to choose how they will be a force for good in their communities. We have one franchisee located right across from a women’s shelter, so they have chosen to make an impact very close to home by holding a 5K race every year to benefit the shelter. Another franchisee teaches paddleboarding to children with special needs and holds a tournament every summer for them. As a company, when we have franchisees that are passionate about a cause in their community, we do our best to offer corporate support through sponsorships.

In our home office, our small group of employees chooses what resonates with them, and we go out as a team to work on making life a little better for those in our Atlanta community, whether it is sorting food at the local food bank or serving meals to at-risk teens at Covenant House. For us, it’s all about making an impact in our little part of the world.

Impacting People

However, I have seen first-hand that it’s more than our communities that are impacted. Our people are impacted too. When we close our office down on a Friday afternoon, to engage as a team in a hands-on activity, you can see and feel the difference in peoples’ attitudes. I see smiles and laughter. I see the level of depth and compassion increase as colleagues work together side-by-side outside office walls. I see a different side to them and I think they see a different side to the company, a genuinely human side. They have an increased appreciation for their workplace.

Millennials, especially, are drawn to companies who authentically practice CSR. According to a Cone Communications Millennial Employee Engagement Study, 76 percent of millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work, and 64 percent won’t take a job if a potential employer doesn’t have strong CSR practices.

Customers are holding companies more responsible too. Again, the Cone survey found nearly 90 percent of Americans will purchase a product/service because a company advocated for an issue they cared about, and 88 percent will be more loyal to the company, even if there is a slightly higher cost in doing so.

I see this most clearly when I check out our social media. The most engagement we get on any social media is when we are giving back to the community. That lets us know what we are doing resonates with our customers. It also resonates with our employees, and it resonates with me.

At Any Lab Test Now, I am proud to be working with good people, with good hearts, who are impacting their communities, in large and small ways, every day. May the year 2018 be our most impactful year yet!