Highly Successful Business Leaders Opt to Shift Their Focus to Mission-Driven Organizations

If you’ve been to my weblog before, you know I’ve spent some time highlighting just a few of the local organizations serving those in need. I wanted to share some examples not only of the need that exists but the fact that good work is being done by some amazing people who dedicate their lives to mission-driven careers. Throughout my start-up research specific to social service trends, I’ve learned that there is increasingly more focus on helping those in need to learn life skills and employment skills, face and conquer their challenges, and become empowered to work to improve their own situation, starting with the caring help of fellow citizens.  It’s only a lesson from somewhere between 4th and 6th Century B.C…

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”    ~ Chinese Proverb

With the recent “retirement” announcement of one of the world’s richest and most successful businessmen, I thought it fitting to write just a bit about this current day well-known name who supports the same “teach a man to fish” concept passed down, first simply by the spoken word, literally since before the beginning of recorded history…  Of course, you know by now the person of whom I blog is none other than Microsoft Founder Bill Gates. This past winter, while attending an amazing Leadership Conference at Bentley College (just read the My Alma Mater Rocks post!), I had the pleasure to listen to speaker Patty Stonesifer, the then-CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Stonesifer discussed Gates’ plans to focus on his foundation upon his “retirement” from Microsoft. Some of the main points she shared are reflected in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s website… Here’s the organization’s tag-line on press releases:

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, the foundation is led by CEO Patty Stonesifer and co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

The foundation’s core values are as impressive as they are simple:

There are two simple values that lie at the core of the foundation’s work:

  • All lives—no matter where they are being lived—have equal value.
  • To whom much is given, much is expected.

The Foundation’s 15 Guiding Principles are worth a peek as well…

Funny ~ I’ve been defining my guiding principles, too… And, you guessed it, I’m thinking that writing my guiding principles up on a page of my real website (someday, someday) is a good idea (if it’s good enough for Bill Gates…)

Imagine the possibilities of putting the best of technology together with the mission to serve mankind. Another cool reality, Gates and his organization are only the tip of the iceberg (okay, it’s a pretty big tip). Others are using their success, wealth, intelligence and compassion to make a difference rather than just making a buck. One I’ll focus on here literally went from being a rocket scientist to being a social entrepreneur. His name is Jim Fruchterman and his company is Benetech. I almost saw him at the Social Enterprise Summit in Boston this past March (alas, I could only afford to attend for just one day!). I did “see” him recently on PBS (alas, I was cleaning the kitchen) using his technology to help others. A quick visit to the company’s home page clearly illustrates the mission-driven nature of Benetech and its founder Jim Fruchtermann…  So, check out that first page , but be forewarned:  I expect you’ll be tempted to learn more about the inspirational work being done by Benetech. Their three-word tag line says so much ~ “Technology Serving Humanity” ~ that you’ll want to learn more!

Bill Gates, Jim Fruchtermann, CraigsList Founder Craig Newmark, Ebay’s CoFounder Jeff Skoll … There are so many that I start to mix them up ~ But, I think that’s not a bad thing ~ So many incredibly successful people turning their attention to mission-driven business while still in their prime, turning not only their wealth, but their influence and intelligence to the “work” of doing truly great things for those in need. Nice trend! Moreover, I’d hazard a guess that this “trend” reflects a bit of the “money can’t buy happiness” saying along with the Gates’ guiding principle “To whom much is given, much is expected.” I’m not implying these men aren’t happy. Rather, I’m guessing that they have the wisdom and/or life experience (funny how those two are connected)  that “money alone can not buy happiness,” that giving and contributing are a great path to happiness, in fact. I think I’ll have my kids write each of those famous sayings one hundred times a day until they realize they really have been “given much” and should “expect much” of themselves…

One Final Note ~ With the short week and all, I’m sure my time to blog will be limited. If you “happen by,” feel free to check out some of my recent posts and, as always, let me know what you think. After the 4th of July, I’ll be getting into the nitty-gritty of the business including a lot of work, a little less blogging, and some big announcements. After all, I can’t start contributing to helping those in need and increasing environmental awareness until I “help myself” get this business up and running!

Until Next Time, Stay Cool! N.

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