As a small business owner or entrepreneur, you don’t have to give all your money away to the homeless or drop everything to help the Peace Corps bring clean water to a remote third world village in order to help others. “But,” you might be wondering, “how can I help…and why should I?”
Which of these statements seem most true to you?
- The purpose of life is to help others and, in doing so, foster a helpful society.
- The purpose of life is to put you first, focus on obtaining personal success, and let others find their own ways.
Certainly, there’s no societal mandate that says you must help others. Maybe the most truthful statement is a combination of both: You can pursue your own success with ferocity and also help others along the way.
The Proof Is in the Doing
There aren’t any studies or statistics that show that people who help others become more successful, but there is evidence of benefit. Speaking in terms of volunteerism, University of Minnesota researcher Mark Snyder said, “People who volunteer tend to have higher self-esteem, psychological well-being, and happiness.” As they begin to feel more socially connected, these effects increase. It improves their health and longevity as well.
Helping Is a Natural Part of Who You Are
As children, you sought to help your parents—setting the table for dinner, opening a door for them when their hands were full, passing them tools while they worked on the car. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute suggest that this altruism is not learned from parents or society, but comes naturally.
“Young children’s early helping,” they wrote, “is motivated by a genuine concern for the welfare of the person in need.”
Children intuitively desire to contribute to the family unit—the people who are helping them to survive.
People, some more than others, carry this natural impulse into adulthood, giving help and cooperation beyond their families, into the wider circle of their lives.
Does this include entrepreneurs and small business owners?
There’s Plenty to Go Around
A lot of people have the idea that the world, particularly the business world, is a ruthless battle where you lose ground the moment you show any mercy. The fact is, the world is full of opportunities. It’s full of money. There are countless new leads to generate, clients to take on, and sales to be closed.
When you believe that you are in competition for some ultimate prize or limited resource, and you conduct your business that way, you actually create that reality.
When you are selfish with your time and insist you have none for others, you will soon discover they have none for you either.
It becomes a case of you versus the world. No one survives on their own. As a corollary to Snyder’s previously mentioned proposition, when you begin to feel less and less social connected, your self-esteem suffers, as does your sense of well-being and happiness.
Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” Though people tend to return favors, don’t think about what you might get in return; just do it because it makes you feel good.
Ways Business People Can Help Others
There are more ways to help than to volunteer (though volunteering is certainly worthwhile, especially when it’s a cause you’re enthusiastic about). Here are some ways you may not have thought of:
1. Share What You Know
No matter what line of business you’re in, you’ve got expertise and experience that others can benefit from. This can include mentoring or simply making yourself available to people who contact you for help.
2. Give Access to Your Resources
Do you know someone whose career could benefit from knowing one of your contacts? Introduce them. Are you aware of a talented person who is looking for work in your industry? Is there someone you could connect them with or even just repost their message so your social media contacts see it?
3. Talk It Up
If there’s a website, blog, book, or business that you’re really impressed with, tell your audience about it. Post on social media or blog about it.
4. When You Pass, Pass It On
Sometimes offers or opportunities come to you that aren’t a good fit. Is there someone you know for whom it might be? Make them aware of it.
5. Get Personal with Customers
The heart of any sale is identifying what problem your lead or customer is trying to solve and presenting the solution. What keeps them awake at night? What is wrecking their life or their business? Do your own research before your next client meeting. Find out where their needs intersect with your offerings. Even just sincerely listening to and acknowledging their concerns can make you into a friend for life.
6. Be Consistent
Make helping others a ritual—something you do daily or weekly. It will boost your moral and who knows what it will mean to your own business success?