Better results. Better business. Better region.

If you are reading this magazine, you are likely one of our region’s business owners and leaders. You are a leader who is driving growth at a higher-than-average rate and someone who is likely to be employing and influencing more people, on average, than most other small and middle-market businesses.

Therefore, economic inclusion and the success that comes from it in Northeast Ohio will come faster from actions that you take, more so than from any other place in our community.

If you can achieve a more inclusive team in your company, defined here as more women and more people of color in your business and in key decision-making roles, your business’ success will help us win as a region.

As the captain of your ship, you chart the course, and you make the decisions. To be more inclusive, you will have to intentionally focus on changing your team. If you are like most, you look around at your top people or business partners, and they look a lot like you. It’s not terrible — it’s gotten you to where you are today. But all the research tells us that being more inclusive brings better business results.

Here’s how you get there. It’s not easy, but growth and success are not for average leaders.

The thinking about your next top hires, key decision-makers or business partners for your company is likely already forming inside your head. At some point, you’ll be connected to someone who “fits.” We know that most opportunities in smaller and middle-market companies come about through networking. And, if we are talking about white people who, statistically, lead most companies, it’s likely you live in a neighborhood that is 75 percent other white people. So, from an inclusion perspective, the connections you make that lead to the selections you make are driven from a particularly shallow pool.

So, go deeper. You’re probably familiar with the Rooney Rule in the NFL that requires teams to interview a minimum number of final candidates of color for head coaching and senior jobs. The good news is that, as the captain of your own ship, no one is going to fine you if you don’t follow the rule. But isn’t lower EBIT, suboptimal innovation and less effective decision-making penalty enough?

To give yourself the best shot at the benefits of inclusion, require that your next big decision about a key hire or partner comes from a pool of candidates that is more inclusive. Demand from yourself and your other leaders that in your final three candidates, at least one brings a very different perspective. That will require you to source a few more of those inclusive candidates earlier in the process.

If you need help sourcing those candidates or finding those partners, reach out to me. I can give you some ideas that have worked for me and other business owners.

The facts are clear that inclusion will help you win with EBIT, innovation and decision making. And, if you win, we all win.