In trying to build up a business, we focus almost all of our energies into the work we’re doing and the goals we’ve set for ourselves. By its very nature, entrepreneurship is something of a self-centered enterprise; though we employ people and provide a product that people hopefully want, both are done in service of our own goals. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that — those who aren’t in business for themselves are working towards their own ends in the form of a paycheck. We all need to take care of ourselves and our families, in whatever way we choose.
Hiker giving his hand helping partner climb up to the top of mountain.
Looking out for only ourselves, however, can make our work feel like a bit of a hollow pursuit. One effect of a world as interconnected as ours is an awareness of the lives and fortunes of others beyond what we might otherwise see on a day-to-day basis. We understand that as difficult as running a business may, it’s a joy and a privilege compared to the actual difficulties faced by so many.
Often there is so much misfortune that we’re numbed into a sense of despair and helplessness, particularly in our present times. What can one person do in the face of so much misery?
Fortunately, there’s been an example set as to what we can do. You don’t have to look much further beyond the news itself to see stories of companies doing any number of good deeds to try to make the world a better place. Each in its own way is working to further a worthy cause while still providing a good product.
Here are a few examples highlighted by Buzzfeed:
- H&M giving school supplies to refugee children
- Sudara offering skills and opportunities to women in India at risk of sex trafficking
- Toms donating a pair of shoes for every pair purchased
Even Amazon, which receives its share of well-earned criticism, has the Amazon Smile program to allow customers to generate donations for their favorite charities.
Perhaps you think that, as great as those efforts are, they’re beyond what you and your company can hope to do. Your business doesn’t have the time or resources to spare for a sustained charitable effort like those listed above. As much as you’d like to help, there’s nothing that you could realistically do.
But not all efforts have to be big or flashy or even require a large outlay of resources. Every business is a part of a community, a community that has its own challenges and its own people in need. Even if you don’t have much in the way of money to give, you have your time, if you choose to make it, and so many charities are in need of bodies as much as dollars. And if you organize a company initiative, you’ll probably have plenty of the good people that you hired willing to help in the cause.
Strictly speaking, this sort of thing isn’t the business advice that you would normally see, nor is it something that will earn you much in the way of additional business, though knowing a company does good work can burnish your reputation in the minds of potential customers. It might not even be so much about business, but rather how we view ourselves and the role of our business in our lives. Something that takes up so much of our time and energy takes on an outsized performance, and myopia makes the business seem that much more important. Stepping back to do good work, not for yourself but for others, is how we stay grounded and keep perspective.
Charity is something for which we all have the best attitude and intentions, but rarely follow through on. We say we’re too busy, but comfort ourselves knowing that there are better people than us actually taking the time to do the good work that we would if, again, we weren’t so busy. But we’re in control of our schedule, and what we choose to spend our time on. However, the sad truth is that too many of us see that sort of work as not being to our benefit when we could be employed doing things that are. It’s in those times that we need to rethink our priorities the most, to recognize that we’re not so important, in the grand scheme, and that it’s in service of others that we can really prove the worth of ourselves and our companies. #onwards.