Kellogg World Alumni Magazine Winter 2009

Alumni Profile: Michael Pirron KR-04

Doing well and doing good

By Amy Trang

Michael Pirron spent more than 10 years working as a consultant in the IT and healthcare industries. Though he was making a decent living, he began to think about a broader definition of success.  

  Michael Pirron
  Michael Pirron (top row, third from the left)
with the Rx Partnership team, Impact Makers’
nonprofit partner.

"My co-workers were travelling the world, making loads of money, but not feeling like they were making any impact (on society) except on the company's bottom line," the 2001 Kellogg-Recanati graduate says. "That was not how I wanted to live my life."

Pirron imagined a different sort of consulting firm, one that would offer competitive, market-rate salaries and high-quality services to its clients but whose focus wouldn't be the fattening of shareholders' wallets. Instead, its goal would be to maximize profits to make a social impact.

Pirron outlined this unusual business plan in 2001 in his final paper for an ethics and leadership course taught by Professor Emeritus David Messick. That plan came to fruition in 2006 when Pirron founded Impact Makers, a Richmond, Va.-based firm offering healthcare, management and IT consulting services to a range of clients, from large corporations to government agencies.

Structured as a non-stock corporation, Impact Makers has no shareholders and cannot be acquired by another firm. After paying salaries and operating expenses, the company directs all its profits toward nonprofit partners.  Its current partner is Rx Partnership, which provides free prescription medications for Virginia's uninsured. The organization fits Impact Makers' partnership criteria: It is a local, secular and nonpolitical nonprofit that "helps people help themselves."

Over the past two years, the firm has directed more than $53,000 toward its charitable partners and given over 340 pro-bono consulting hours valued at another $34,000.

Impact Makers' unique business model has attracted national attention. In 2009, it was named second on BusinessWeek's list of "Most Promising Social Entrepreneurs." It was also one of the first firms to meet the rigorous social and environmental standards required for certification as a B Corporation by B Lab, an influential social-enterprise ratings group.

Pirron reports to a volunteer board comprised of business and community leaders; the 12-member board has management control of and fiduciary responsibility for the firm. The company pays its consultants market-rate salaries and allows them to work on their own pro-bono projects on the firm's dime. "As a consulting company in a competitive labor market, your biggest asset is your employees," Pirron says. "This model allows you to attract and retain top talent in the labor market and also gives you an edge on client proposals because of the social impact factor."

Impact Makers is contracted to give a minimum of $1,000 a month to Rx Partnership regardless of profitability, but can give more depending on the company's year-end profits. The goal is to endow at least 20 percent of Rx Partnership's $340,000 budget before adding another nonprofit partner, Pirron says.

The company has already lived up to its name and made an impact: The funds donated thus far have enabled Rx Partnership to provide nearly $250,000 in free medications to about 400 families in Virginia, says Amy Yarcich, the organization's executive director.

Pirron says he hopes to scale Impact Makers nationally, so that his social business venture can succeed in communities across the nation.

"Impact Makers came out of the thought process that there has to be some other way to do well and do good — a way to transform your skills and experience into social impact, not just maximizing corporate returns," he says. By all accounts, Pirron has found a way to do both.

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