Last week, I worked with an organization to help raise over $200,000 for entrepreneurs in the developing world.
Last week, I traveled to Puerto Rico to speak at a sales conference for leaders in the auto insurance industry.
Last week, I spoke to a college class of aspiring musicians about how they can use their musical gifts to make a living and an impact.
But I never would have done any of these things if I hadn’t first started a business.
Listen to the audio version of this essay here:
For seven years, I worked for a nonprofit organization trying to do good in the world. Before that, I toured the country with a band, playing churches, schools, and prisons, trying to do good. And before that, I studied Spanish in college to go be a missionary… so that I could do good.
But what I’ve learned since leaving the nonprofit world and creating a for-profit enterprise is that you can do a lot of good through business. Commerce doesn’t have to be evil, greedy, or selfish. In fact, I now believe that the best way (for me) to help people is through business. I certainly don’t think that’s true for everyone, but it’s been true for me and for many of my friends. I know a lot of people who come from a ministry or a nonprofit background who are now doing more good in terms of the number of people they are able to help through for-profit enterprises.
So if you find yourself saying, as I’ve said over the years, “I want to make a difference in this world,” then maybe you should consider starting a business. Maybe the way you reach people with a message that matters and make your mark on the world is going to be through commercial efforts, and maybe there’s nothing wrong with that.
My friend Tim Chermak is always talking about this in his short but poignant posts on Facebook about why entrepreneurship makes the world a better place. I agree. If you want to change the world, start a business.
If you want to change the world, start a business.
Here are a few reasons why that’s important.
1. Doing good usually requires money
I’m not someone who thinks all of the world’s problems can be solved with money. But I am also not someone who believes money is the source of the world’s problems.
You can do a lot of good with money. And whether you realize it or not, every ministry and nonprofit that you support is an organization that requires money to run it. In essence, it is a business. It has a profit and loss statement and requires revenue in order for it to continue operating and doing good in the world.
If you want to help people, you either have to raise money or you have to make money. You have to get people to donate, or you have to get them to buy something. At the end of the day, it still requires money.
In my opinion, it is easier to get people to give you money when they get something in return than it is to just get them to give you money. So why not start a business?
2. Doing good requires people
This is often referred to as human capital or human resources, but the bottom line is that if you want to help a lot of people, you need other people to help you. Even Mother Teresa had a team of people who helped her feed the poor and take care of the lepers.
A great way to get people to help you is to pay them. Volunteering is wonderful, but you often get people from a variety of skill sets and don’t always have control over what people do and how they spend their time.
A great way to get people to help you is to pay them.
One way to get higher quality people is to start a business and pay people to help you. Every month, I pay incredibly talented people thousands of dollars to help me do what I do. I am able to do better work, help more people, and not dig myself into a hole that I can’t get out of, because I have people who are paid to help me.
Now, these are all nice, generous people. But I guarantee you they wouldn’t all be giving me their time if I weren’t giving them money. I also don’t think that you could be a jerk, pay people to help you, and have everything be cool. In other words, money isn’t the best motivator, but it’s a nice way of trading value without somebody feeling taken advantage of.
3. Doing good requires influence
It should be no surprise to you that the world’s best communicators don’t necessarily get the most attention. The world’s best actors aren’t necessarily the ones who are starring in the hit blockbusters of the summer. And the world’s best musicians aren’t necessarily the ones on the radio.
So why is it that when we set out to do good in the world, we assume that people will pay attention to us or support our cause or believe in us simply because it is a good idea?
There is a reason why leaders of nonprofit organizations and ministers and spiritual leaders and healers write books, have podcasts, and share their work for free with the world. And it’s not always about ego. It’s about reach.
I have always wanted to share my words with the world and struggled with the reality that people don’t necessarily want to pay attention to just anyone. For years, I would struggle with feeling like I had something important to say but nobody wanted to listen. It wasn’t until I took the advice of Michael Hyatt and started a platform that I began to see that people pay attention to you, not just for your message, but for your influence.
What this means is that you don’t just have to have something worth saying. You also have to have an audience. One of the best ways you build an audience is by helping people. Zig Ziglar once said that if you help enough people get what they want, they’ll help you get whatever you want.
One of the best ways you build an audience is by helping people.
A business is a great way to help people and earn influence that you can then direct towards other efforts.
There is no doubt in my mind that Bill Gates could not be defeating malaria around the world and literally saving millions of lives if he didn’t first create Microsoft and spend decades leading that company. Now, of course, he made a lot of money doing that. But he also earned a lot of influence. And the Gates Foundation raises millions of dollars a year based on that influence.
A great way to grow influence through a blog or a podcast or some kind of platform is to have a business that allows you to support all the expenses associated with those marketing efforts. A platform helps your voice reach the many, and a business helps you establish a platform.
Do more good with your business
I am a big fan of business because I have seen how it allows you to help so many people in a sustainable way. There are certainly are many great causes out there that deserve to be supported to maintain their nonprofit status. But just because you want to do good in the world, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get paid to do it. Business is a great way to help people in a fulfilling and fun way.
Business is a great way to help people in a fulfilling and fun way.
If you want some help with that, a great way to get started is by setting up your first or next online course. This is a topic we will be talking about this week in a live webinar with Thinkific.