The Evolution of the Entrepreneur: Be An Example

So far, we have looked at some of the necessary softer skills to become a successful entrepreneur, touching upon how, despite somewhat daunting low first-year and overall longevity rates of small businesses around the globe, there is still plenty of room for outside players, namely Governments and the Corporate Sector to get involved.

It calls for, as I have put it, an “All Hands on Deck” approach, if success is to be attained. However, implicit in that, is the fact that we, as a society, are all in this together. We cannot reasonably expect to speak about the success and prosperity of one segment without appreciating how that segment fits into the larger whole. More importantly, any discussion of success and sustainability, must have at its heart the understanding that all the parts must work together toward common goals.

The 21st Century, not surprisingly, has consistently demanded a different grade of entrepreneur; one who is the embodiment of a mobile, empowered, and more socially compassionate entrepreneurial class.

With that comes a re-imagining of the entrepreneur.

With that comes the reconceptualisation of the dialogue on progress over profit to perhaps, and a forward movement toward the understanding that, regardless of sector, industry, or business, every member within a society has an obligation to serve and act in favour of the greater public good.

Including the entrepreneur.

Changing the Narrative

Changing the narrative for the entrepreneur of the 21st Century means recognising the opportunity to evolve business in innovative ways and seizing the unique chance to add greater impetus to larger movements for positive social change in the community.

This isn’t speaking directly to social entrepreneurship, whose primary focus is the search for innovations and businesses that show the greatest promise in solving community-based problems. As a general rule, social entrepreneurs, as embodied in their business pursuits,directly take on the risk and effort involved in creating positive changes in society through their initiatives. Microfinance, healthcare, and education programmes for particularly underdeveloped communities and poorer nations are instances of social entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurs of today, or the reimagined 21st Century entrepreneur, however, must be willing to explore and adopt ways of assisting in taking on some of that social risk by doing their part and becoming greatly involved.

On the one hand, one could state that small businesses already do this by significantly contributing to job creation and GDP.

A fair enough fact, to be sure.

However, it is foolhardy to sit back and expect that because entrepreneurs and small businesses are thriving, that the society and social good are being advanced and protected by extension. Sadly, one does not necessarily mean the other.

So, on the other, one can see how and why there is validity in the call for entrepreneurs to also become more involved in growth and development even as they adopt the most basic of social responsibility strategies.

Essentially, this reimagined entrepreneur creates and grows for-profit business that adds value beyond the traditional bottom line; immeasurable social and community value.

While many in the Caribbean and around the world already serve to this end; generously supporting and routinely investing in charitable initiatives and programmes, there is always a call for more, a call to do more.

The Reimagined Entrepreneur

As we have seen, an entrepreneur is a leader. From experience, I can tell you that if there is one thing that any sustainable social responsibility initiativeor business idea worth its salt demands, it is leaders.

Whether those leaders be government, the corporate sector, or the people on the ground, giving and doing their best, leadership comes to fore as the key factor in success. Because without it, even the best intentioned plans and ideas fail to come to fruition.

The 21st Century entrepreneur is no exception to leadership. However, they must be a leader across the board. This includes being a leader in the pursuit of that stronger, sustainable society; one more in touch with the need to preserve and act on that basic understanding and compassion that ultimately makes us who we are.

As can be expected, this is no easy task. With all the other aspects of the business to run, how can entrepreneurs be expected to take time away to lead charitable causes? A tough but honest question. This is perhaps why, for many, financial investment is the most efficient way to become involved; because it is less time consuming and most direct. While it works, it may not always be sustainable. The business may have undergone a bad year and is unable to contribute like it always has. What then? No one likes to be in that position of having to choose between contributing to one over the other. However, we can’t give everything to everyone. As it stands, too often, despite our most earnest intentions, many of us can’t give much to even one.

But there are other ways for the entrepreneur of today to become a social leader.

Be an example

By simply recognising how important social responsibility is and inculcating it into their businesses, entrepreneurs can walk the proverbial walk through a few key areas:

  1. Environmental Activism: Saving the environment is the major corporate social responsibility focus of the 21st Century. And for good reason. Businesses, regardless of size, have a large carbon footprint. “Going Green” must be more than just a catchphrase. The entrepreneur of today must be aware of the impacts they have and must take steps to reduce those footprints as far and as sustainably as possible.
  2. Ethical Labour Practices: The connection between job creation, employment rates and small business means that entrepreneurs can often do the most social good by treating employees fairly and ethically. As simple as this sounds, small business owners can play a significant role in social development by doing their best to provide equitable work environments which ultimately leads to greater job satisfaction and goodwill. (Going a step further, there is also the onus on entrepreneurs to demonstrate integrity in their operations and dealings with the public. (I will explore this a bit deeper at another time.)
  3. Sweat Equity: The tremendous value of volunteerism can never be overstated. Charitable organisations are always in need of volunteers – from every calling of society. Again, I know that time is always against the entrepreneur, with life and business pulling in every possible direction. However, any time invested in volunteerism is never wasted and always comes back a thousand-fold.
    Further, an active volunteer programme, with leadership joined at hip with the team can work wonders. Serving the greater good, by example, without the expectation of anything in return, may seem to some as bad business, however, it is the very definition of good business.

The Reimagined 21st Century Entrepreneur

I think the case can be made for the need for the reimagined 21st Century entrepreneur; the one who has a great idea, the resources and support to execute it, and, above all, the understanding and compassion to always be vigilant for ways to leverage ties between the business and the greater good.

This entrepreneur already has a place in this world. What the world needs now is for more, in heeding the call to own their business, to embrace this position of advocacy through example and accept their responsibility to build more successful and sustainable business idea, one entrepreneur, one human being at a time.

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