I had one of my college students ask me the other day why I started my own business. It was a good question, and at first glance, seemed to have an easy answer. All the common answers flooded right into my mind: “I wanted autonomy,” “I don’t like having a boss,” “I wanted to make as much money as possible.” But, then it hit me: none of those answers are really what drove my decision to start my own business, and they are definitely not what keep me going today. No, the real reason I wanted to start my own business is so that I could change the world.
A few months back, I wrote another article about why you should not worry about changing the world. The article focuses on the idea that we should worry more about the people standing right next to us, as opposed to the big, and rather vague, goal of “changing the whole world.” The idea is that if everyone worked to better their individual communities, families, and the people closest to them, the world would be a better place. This is still my definition of changing the world, and it is what makes business such a powerful, world-changing tool.
Yes, business literally can and has changed the whole world, but I am more worried about changing someone else’s world. Every day, I have the opportunity to walk into peoples lives and make a positive impact in their world, whether it’s helping a client increase their sales and better support their family, inspiring a student in one of my college classes, or paying my subcontractors better than any other firm in town. For me, business is all about the impact that I can make in other peoples lives and this is what drives me forward.
A call to all business owners and executives
I don’t believe that I am alone in this pursuit, but I think that many share my story. We have forgotten what our passion is and replaced it with the typical pocket answers about what drives us forward.
Don’t get me wrong: I love my autonomy and I always want to make more money, but what if we had bigger goals than these? No other entity in the world has the ability that business does to impact peoples lives. Business is everywhere, and everyone is affected by it. It is up to us as business owners and executives to decide how we will wield that power.
Will we use it solely for our own gain, letting greed, envy, and raw ambition guide us? Or, will we realize that we are stewards of the world around us? Our businesses support the families of our employees, provide much needed goods and services to our customers, and build strong economies in our communities. The weight of the realization, that our businesses are vastly more important to the world around us than we realize, can be a heavy burden to bear. But this is why it is so important for us to examine our motives and remember our original passions that got us started.
Business will always have the power to change lives, but it is up to us to make sure that that power is wielded for good, and not merely for gain.