Thinking about your business as a cause can be a powerful success driver (because you are doing more than just making money.) It can also be the basis for better differentiation in your market.
The risk of thinking of your business as a cause is when the need to fight for the cause subsumes the needs of the business. Fighting for a cause alone does not make a viable sustainable business. Those is why many causes are set up as not-for-profit entities.
The business is at risk when you are no longer able to perceive it as a business. The video clip above is a visceral demonstration of this.
The two women pitching for investment from the dragons have a caused-based business – increasing women in construction. One of them, Jude, is clearly very passionate about this cause. Unfortunately, it is this very passion for this that derailed their pitch.
At around 4:00, dragon Theo Paphitis attempted to clarify the unusual ownership percentage description the women had used. He began to pluck simple numbers out of the air to use in an illustrative example. And he used the phrase “keep it simple" halfway through his comment; seemingly as a conjunction.
This immediately triggered a snarky interruption from Jude: “thank you, we are women.” Theo took instant umbrage at the slight on his character. And he called her out on it. This turned the pitch into a confrontation.
Of course, we can understand why Jude reacted the way she did. She may well have had bad experiences with sexism in the past. Bad experiences do shape the way we perceive and react to the world. We can see threats where there is none.
Unfortunately, in this instance, Jude was so caught up in her cause, she alienated someone who could have helped her business (and thus her cause.) She was no longer thinking about her business.