A Life (and Business) With Purpose!
I have never been one to dig deep on “knowing your why” or building my company for a “higher reason” – things I’ve always been told I needed to have in order to be successful in business. Instead, I’ve always just built because I enjoy challenges, overcoming obstacles, and feeling a sense of accomplishment when I see what I’ve created.
I love that I get to impact the lives of those I get to work beside and the clients I get to work for. I love the luxury my growing businesses has afforded me. I love working hard, and in return enjoying a little more flexibility with my time so I can do the things I enjoy. I’ve always believed those were good enough “whys.” I also really thought I was starting to “make it.” Until just recently…
A few months ago, I stumbled across an opportunity to visit the Dominican Republic that was focused around the concept of micro-financing: giving small loans (“micro loans”) to impoverished people to help them start and grow businesses that ultimately, hopefully, reverse the cycle of poverty in their families. Of course I was intrigued! As someone who loves and has made a career of building businesses, I figured this would be a pretty cool trip to go on and witness. I didn’t realize it would change my life.
Last week I finally took that trip. I went with an organization called Esperanza. Since I only had a basic knowledge of this group, I didn’t really understand what I was getting myself into. The first day, our small group of people visited three villages where micro-finance was improving individuals’ lives. Since I had done mission work in the United States before, I thought I knew what poverty looked like. I assumed I was completely prepared for what I was about to witness. I was not.
The people I was privileged to interact with were primarily Haitian immigrants who had come to the Dominican for a better life. It may have been better by their standards, but the only way I can describe what I saw is that I saw it all through my tears. These tears encompassed every emotion I was feeling — sadness, fear, anger, desperation, and awe — all while being happy, enthusiastic, blessed for the experience, and excited for the new possibilities these people had to change their lives with their businesses.
We spent the next two days teaching some of the associates how to budget, save, and market their businesses. At the end of each day, we presented each person with a certificate of completion. Their willingness to learn and gratitude was mesmerizing.
It has now been more than a week since I was so sure I knew my “why” and was “making it.” That now seems so naive. I can’t help but laugh because now I know it’s just the beginning! I returned to my office after the trip with a new appreciation for service and a new understanding of how important it is.
My Brand New, Much Better “Why”
I implemented a policy allowing all of my employees to take five extra consecutive, paid days outside the office to use for mission or charity work. Our company will also fund either half of the trip and/or match the donations they generate for a charitable organization. I am so excited to realize I can build a corporation of individuals who devote one week of their lives each year helping the greater good. If my company grows to 100 employees, that means almost two people every single week will be out “doing good” and making a difference in this world, and I selfishly get to be a small part of it!
One of my gifts to this world is building businesses. It took me awhile to figure out how I was going to use that gift to help more than just my employees and clients. Now I know I get to use that gift to grow my own business, help others here in the United States grow their businesses, teach impoverished people how to build and grow for a better way of life, then instruct and enable my employees to pay it forward. My eye is on the target — two people every week helping others and promoting valuable causes. And later four people. Then 10 people, and hopefully more.
And now I ask you, will you join me on this? Think of the domino effect of good we can achieve, together! I would love to hear your story about realizing your “why” and paying it forward!