Dr. Rick Franza, Professor of Management at the Hull College of Business, discusses a different, timely business topic each Monday in this column. This week, he discusses how small business owners develop a sense of purpose. The interview has been edited for clarity and impact.
ABD: Business owners, especially when the business is small, can often feel bogged down in the daily activities of running a business. How important is it to have a sense of purpose to keep you going?
Rick: Some people start businesses with the goal of getting rich, but a lot of people start small businesses because of a need they see in the community and trying to fill that. You can’t lose sight of that. If the business gets hot and grows, you still need to think of the purpose of why you started it.
Some people just want to provide jobs, some want to give back to the community, and some want to have more time with family. Hopefully, it’s something that makes the community where you live a better place to be.
Reflection is important because sometimes, you lose sight of that original purpose, either from a lack of success or too much success. The lure of making more money is often a problem. You start chasing money and forget why you started the business in the first place.
ABD: You mentioned becoming successful, and I’ve noticed that often when a business is running comfortably is when small business owners start looking for a purpose beyond their business. What are some ways they can start doing that?
Rick: At the beginning, the purpose is to meet a need and you get fulfilled by meeting that need. But then, you can get to a point where you’ve built a team and you’re willing to delegate and you have more time. I think a majority of people are looking for ways of giving back to the community.
In Augusta, there are so many opportunities to give back, and people do. As someone who started a small business, you’ve developed a whole new skill set that can be valuable as a volunteer to a nonprofit. If you are looking for ways to get involved as a volunteer for a nonprofit, get involved in civic organizations like Kiwanis and Rotary Club. You’ll find that United Way, Red Cross, and many other nonprofits are in those organizations.
ABD: Are there ways for a small business owner to use the business in helping others?
Rick: I knew a guy who left working for Coca-Cola and basically created a business where all the profits went into supporting water projects in countries where they didn’t have adequate water resources. Not every business can do that, but you can participate in other ways. You can create teams of employees for community events and competitions. Many businesses have service days where they help out with a community need.
A company becomes more attractive to employees if you’re out doing good. That’s especially true for the younger generations. Your company also becomes more well known and you develop a good reputation in the community.
ABD: We hear a lot of talk about work-life balance and avoiding burnout. How does having a sense of purpose relate to that?
Rick: Purpose helps with both of those. You tend not to get burned out when you are more focused on others. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, relationships are important to mental health. The more you focus on others, the more you bring people around you.
I’ve heard people described as “lifestyle entrepreneurs” where they don’t really care about growing the company but in having a company that can sustain the lifestyle they’ve chosen. That’s kind of a healthy way to look at it if you can do it.
ABD: It seems that we have something within us that craves a sense of purpose beyond just taking care of ourselves.
Rick: I like to think so, that that’s something that’s part of humanity. I won’t criticize people for wanting to make money but it’s important for most people to have some other reason to create a business than just that. It’s never too early to think about how your business is going to contribute to others.