“I’m only in it for the money.”
Really? Hardly anyone admits to it; most of us are accused of it.
But we know that being motivated primarily by personal gain and short-term profit are losing propositions. We must have a higher purpose and a wider range of goals and objectives to satisfy the wide spectrum of stakeholders who affect the long-term success of our businesses.
We have to consistently satisfy the needs and meet the expectations of our employees and customers, suppliers and strategic partners, governments and regulators, our communities, society and the environment. Yes, it might be called recognizing our social responsibilities and, yes, it can still be justified by the free enterprise principle of working in our own self-interest to make more money and inadvertently benefitting society at the same time.
You do not have to be a dedicated, altruistic social entrepreneur to recognize your social responsibilities. Every business has to deliver products or services with a net benefit to society and within the limits of acceptable social and environmental impacts. An enlightened entrepreneur is aware of those requirements and manages accordingly.
The need for Enlightened Entrepreneurship
My mission, whether it’s providing advice to entrepreneurs or commenting on current issues, is to promote that vision of enlightened entrepreneurship. It needs to be understood, supported and encouraged by business owners and managers and the stakeholders who have a vested interest in the consequences.
I didn’t invent the term, but here is my definition of Enlightened entrepreneurship:
Business leadership that recognizes that doing better for the business also means doing better for employees and their families, for customers, suppliers and business partners, for communities and the planet. Enlightened entrepreneurs manage their businesses to achieve the economic objectives while also recognizing and meeting their social responsibilities and having a positive impact on society.
Enlightened entrepreneurs manage this way not because it is good marketing or public relations or just to feel good about themselves, but because it is the best way to build a thriving sustainable business. That expectation may seem hopelessly ambitious or naïve, but I believe it is, in fact, the only way to grow a business. We should expect nothing less.
If the entrepreneur is focused only on making money, then the consequences for everyone, including the entrepreneur, are likely to be unacceptable. Growing a business is never as simple as making short-term profits. It requires looking at the bigger picture and managing assets and people for increasing business value.
Enlightened entrepreneurship is more than a moral or ethical imperative, it is an overriding principle of good business management. It’s not a new idea, it’s a logical extension of the principles of building sustainable long-term value in a business by continuously satisfying all the stakeholders – employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders, governments and local communities. Ultimately, they will decide whether they are willing to support your business success. It is never entirely up to you.
So start thinking enlightened entrepreneurship. There is no other way that works.
Your Uncle Ralph,