There are so many ways to give back as an entrepreneur
9 June 2022
In my experience, when entrepreneurs become successful, they begin to think about how they can give back. They start thinking about the impact they can make on society, on the next generation of entrepreneurs, and their local communities.
For many years, my purpose in life has been twofold: to build meaningful businesses and to do all I can to have a positive impact on the world around me. Luckily, there are many channels out there for entrepreneurs seeking to do good: you can channel a percentage of profits to worthy causes, make personal donations, and even become a start-up investor to encourage the next wave of entrepreneurs.
But, today, I’d like to talk to you about another route to impact.
Sometimes, as a business builder, your time is worth more than money. Your experience, insight, your contacts, your knack for seeing solutions to complex issues – that is a currency that has the potential to accelerate the growth of an organisation far quicker than cold, hard cash.
This is why I have started giving my time away to businesses that I really believe in – for free.
I recently joined MoreLife, a company that supports people to live healthier lives, as a strategic adviser and board observer. MoreLife takes a holistic approach to help its customers, through weight management, giving up smoking, healthy cooking and more. It’s a cause that is close to my heart, both as someone who has constantly battled with my own weight over the years, and through concern for my son Joseph, whose learning difficulties mean that he struggles to make healthy decisions.
I met the founder, Professor Paul Gately, many years ago and wanted to get involved – but could never find the time. After moving into my chairman role at BigChange, we started talking about how I could help him with growth, sales and marketing, and I’m delighted that I’m now actively creating strategies and plans with Paul to help achieve all his goals.
When you invest your time, as an entrepreneur, it is so important to be passionate about the business that you are supporting. I couldn’t be more impressed by all that MoreLife has achieved to date. They helped 5,500 people in Manchester alone last year, and many of the individuals they serve come from deprived areas. It may sound strange but when you tackle physical health, the impact on mental health can be significant, but MoreLife also believe if you tackle mental health, physical health returns too, with results such as helping long-term unemployed people get back into work and giving them the confidence to pursue their dreams in life. I’m particularly moved by MoreLife’s successes in childhood obesity, giving kids the tools to stay healthy their whole life long. You can read some of the stories on their case study page
Right now, my focus at MoreLife is on a few key areas: helping to set up an incubator within MoreLife to champion the company’s technology projects and grow the whole proposition; helping them do more with their data, and creating a sales function (they still don’t have a single salesman in the business). Eventually, I would like to help MoreLife roll out a series of kitchens where people can come and learn how to make healthier meals.
For any business leaders out there who are considering supporting a business in this way, I thought I’d share my learnings so far. Be prepared for your time investment to be front-loaded. It may take quite a few meetings to get under the skin of the business in the early days and to start creating momentum, but once things are up and running, you can usually drop your time commitment to a couple of days a month – most of us can afford to spare that. If you give your time for free and don’t invest in the business, it’s easier to give your advice without being seen to have an agenda, which helps maximise your impact. Finally, know your strengths and limit your advice to the areas where the business needs support – MoreLife has an outstanding team and I would never interfere with the services they provide or presume to understand their customers better than they do.
There are so many benefits to giving your time to exciting businesses. Thinking about different problems and issues is invigorating, and you learn so much – you can sometimes apply these insights to your own venture. But the main thing, for me, is that when you start making a difference, it just feels amazing. So, don’t delay, lend your entrepreneurial nous to a great business that wants your support – you won’t regret it.
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