Do you care about what you do for a living? Do you pursue it passionately enough to want to spend every living moment thinking and doing something about it? Are you doing something that at your death bed, as you review your life in those last moments, you can honestly be proud of?
Here’s why you should pursue in business what you passionately do outside of it.
My wife, one of our close friends and I launched CanvasPet.com last year. Below’s an excerpt of the organization’s mission:
[To provide] a one-stop-shop for conscientious pet owners to purchase organic, environmentally safe products to treat common family pet health issues, while donating 100% of our annual profits to local and national dog rescues.
Our intent has always been, and continues to be, to help pets live a happier life, whether through the pet products their people purchase from us to live healthier lives, or through the donations we give to pet rescues, to insure pets find good homes where they’re loved by their people. This mission was inspired by issues we had with our own dogs and Gandhi's quote:
The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
Whenever we tell the CanvasPet.com story, we get one of two reactions: disbelief or complete support, the latter possibly accompanied with a bit of envy. Your reaction too may fall in one of these buckets after reading our mission statement.
The disbelief has cynical roots: that nobody cares enough for our fellow companions to devote a whole business to it. In other words, some may think this is just a “clever” marketing scheme to get people to spend money with us, and that we will hide our profits as salaries, bonuses, or expenses. Once we explain that our goal for 2012 is to take no salaries and donate all of our profits, and that we’re filing our 501 non-profit status with the federal government this year, the disbelief melts away. This is especially true if the people are aware that by becoming a non-profit our finances will be available for public review and scrutiny, thus preventing us from giving ourselves high salaries or bonuses.
The point here is not to defend CanvasPet.com and its practices, but to illustrate a point: genuine interest to do good for those who can’t help themselves, often demonstrates an organization’s mission for even the most cynical among us. In fact, preponderance of facts supporting this, in conjunction with heart-felt curiosity about people’s needs and wants, wipes away any last doubts.
The second reaction conjoined with envy is quite interesting as well. The words we’ve heard used in these situations often are statements like, “that’s the kind of work I’ve always wanted to do,” or, “I wish I could leave my job and do what you’re doing,” and even, “how can you possibly do that and make a living.”
As a society, we tend to think we can either do good or work for a living, where our work involves exploiting people in some way. Somehow, somewhere in our lives, we incorrectly learned that business can’t possibly do good, since a business is purely about forcing people to purchase what they don’t need nor want. We’ve divorced a business from doing good for society.
That’s simply untrue. Business can do good. I’m not just referring to how businesses create jobs. Of course they do. Heck, they must, but that isn’t the only good they can deliver. To claim that’s the best a business can deliver is similar to claiming that the best a pen can do is require paper to write on! Just as a pen becomes an instrument for a person to inspire, free our minds, and ameliorate understanding among us, so too can a business do good by the people it serves.
A business does well for the society when it fulfills a need to make it healthier, better and its members happier. The employment, the cash it produces, the profits it generates then become byproducts of this effort. They should not be the end-goal of any business.
Does this mean a business shouldn’t care about cash flow and profits? Of course not. In a capitalistic system, cash is the means to exchange goods. Unless the system changes this means, no one can ignore cash and profitability, especially when we want to insure our continued future support for the causes we believe in.
Cash is simply the means to deliver goods and through which a company can do good. It’s cash that’s used in exchange for food and shelter for those in need, to help those that can’t help themselves, to provide comfort and long-term happiness for the masses that makes any endeavor worth pursuing. So, yes, cash flow and profits matter, only to insure we can do good for our fellow man, the animals that keep us company, all living things, including our ecosystem and, thereby, the world at large.
So, if you feel envy for any business that aims to better society in some way, get in the game and become a part of it. Shed the idea that helping society is something we do part time, when we have time away from our daily work. Do it now, whether that means joining a non-profit, starting your own, or finding a for-profit company that aims to improve society as opposed to just make money.
What Do You Think?
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