Tuesday, September 04, 2018


If You Are Not Giving Back, You're Not Moving Forward
In the race to scale our businesses, we can lose track of purpose. Yet employees today seek meaning in work--or they'll work elsewhere. What are you doing to provide it?

Executive director, Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship, Illinois Institute of Technology

In the frenzied startup world where growth is the only real gospel, we're so taken with the idea of sheer size and the need to get "bigger quicker" that we sometimes lose sight of the fact that not everything that matters in life is about scale. The biggest crowd, the largest parade, the loudest voice, the most sales, etc. is only a small part of the story.

Sometimes, it's just as important to take the time to do something small and special, just because it's the right thing to do and needs to be done. No act of kindness or generosity --however small or modest-- is ever wasted. And it seems like we need a boatload of simple acts of kindness and charity these days just to try to help keep things in our country from running further aground.

These are harsh and difficult times. In my entire lifetime, I have never witnessed such disheartening and indiscriminate displays of political power and personal pettiness by our representatives on both sides of the aisle in Washington-- although today it feels more like a sewer.  And I'm afraid that sorry show shows no sign of abating any time soon.

But it's in these very kinds of hard times, when you can take a few moments to give someone else a helping hand (with no expectation of reward or recognition) that you somewhat restore your belief, hope and faith that things can get better. And you realize that you always get a lot more out of giving than you do from all the getting that occupies so much of the time and effort in our daily lives. Sometimes, in moments like these, the smallest things can take up the most room in your heart for a fleeting moment or two and remind you of the good that exists in most people and in most parts of the country.

And for those of you who might say that you don't have time for organized or even random acts of charity, or that you can't afford to take your eye off the ball even for a moment, I'd say that it's really important to whatever you're trying to accomplish that you find a little time to make a difference in a life other than your own. I like to remind young entrepreneurs that there's always more work, but you only have one family. Seeking the same equilibrium is just as essential in your business as well.  If you don't get the balance correct between "making a living" and "making a life" right from the start, I can guarantee you that you won't like what you ultimately grow into. Your business will suffer just as much as your personal life.

More to the point, establishing a company culture that cherishes purpose as much as profit has never been more essential or more critical to the success of new businesses than it is today. That culture starts from the CEO and is built through the day-to-day actions of the people in the business and from continued demonstrations of solid commitments to serious principles. This kind of culture is not built through spiffy slogans or endless conversations.

Show me, don't tell me. Or else I'll find a better place to be. The best and most talented employees today don't work for a company.  They work for a reason and a purpose.  And if your business can't demonstrate a purpose backed up by behaviors aligned with what they're looking for, they'll leave-- typically in less than a year. This isn't a situation where you eventually get around to doing it. Get started now before they get going out the door.

Today, because our time is so scarce and the demands on it are so great, we all kid ourselves into believing that there will be all the time we need later in life to do those good deeds and give back in meaningful ways.  Then one day, in the not too distant future, we wake up to find that the time and many of the most important opportunities have passed us by. That's why there's no better time than the present to take up the task and get started.

It's not that hard to help and to make a difference. And just remember when you wonder if even the simplest gesture matters that it's scale that doesn't matter; what matters is sincerity, real interest and simply stepping up.

The difference that your efforts can make in even a single life are incalculable and the impact can be immediate and life-changing. Start today.

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