While many of my compatriots in the compassionate arts are justifiably railing against corporate injustice, or devoting themselves to deserving non-profits, I’ve lived my whole work life creating one business after another.
I’m a serial entrepreneur on my fourth business. My current business is a company that consults, tracks, and mentors fashion tech startups. Two others were tech companies that are still around, and my first (my baby business, I call it) was an indie clothing boutique.
I really do believe in the power of businesses to do good in the world. I believe that people and profits can go hand in hand – and indeed, in today’s world, I think they must.
One of my favorite things about building new businesses, is that I get to create jobs for people. I like to find awesome people out there in the universe, and give them a chance to be even more awesome.
Right livelihood is part of the Noble Eightfold Path, one of the Four Noble Truths; this is clearly super important stuff. One of my favorite quotes about business comes from hip-hop mogul (and vegan meditator) Russell Simmons. When asked how he balances the demands of running a business with his desire to give back, Simmons said,
“You’re already giving back because you run a business that creates jobs. As an entrepreneur, the most important service you provide to the world is helping your company grow so that you can hire more employees and give them an opportunity to earn a living. To me, giving back isn’t about charity. It’s about empowerment.”
When I grow a business and can hire amazing people and help them find their career bliss, I feel like I am giving back to the world. And in turn, I have been blessed to find fabulous people again and again that I get to work with.
It probably drives my employees and colleagues crazy to hear me say the same things over and over again, but over the years, I’ve evolved some business mantras:
“We don’t make fear-based business decisions.”
“Let’s make sure that everybody is set up for success.”
I try to never put business before people. I believe in openness and collaboration, and I always try to be kind. Years ago, a client nicknamed me ‘The Velvet Hammer’ because he said that he’d never had anyone be so nice when they were telling him that he couldn’t get what he wanted.
Many of the same principles that have helped me to have a more fulfilling life also make good business sense to me. While many people seem to think that businesses can have inherently evil qualities, I found corporation after corporation and keep making my way in the world by relying on my values to help build businesses – and that works well for me, as well as the people who work with me.