The reason I’m so passionate about sharing the stories of midlevel businesses is because I believe they make a difference far beyond their own walls. Every week on CEO Exclusive we hear stories and insights from successful CEOs. This week on CEO Exclusive I decided to share my own story, along with some of the lessons I learned that led me down this path. The first lessons I learned about business came from the first entrepreneur in my life, my grandmother.
Every summer and every Christmas my Mom sent me to stay with my grandmother in rural Jamaica. I loved it. I still spend most holidays there, and to this day, when I get off the plane in Montego Bay and feel that blast of hot, tropical air, I feel an upwelling of pure joy from the bottom of my feet to the top of my head. My grandparents had a beautiful orange farm in the country, with fruit trees, flowers and a flowing river, nestled in the mountains.
My grandmother, like so many entrepreneurs I’ve come to know and love, did some pretty amazing things. She and my grandfather went from impoverished sharecroppers to owning a sizeable estate spanning various parts of the island, and even across the ocean to what was then British Honduras (now Belize).
My early years made me tough, and gave me a fierce determination to succeed. Through grit and careful planning, I became my class Valedictorian and headed off to Harvard University.
After Harvard I started working for McKinsey and Company in their New York office. I loved the exposure, as well as the training and skills I developed, but there was something in me that was not quite settled in the wonderful Ivory Towers of Manhattan. For me, McKinsey was like a beautiful pair of shoes that was a size too tight. Working with the large companies that I came into contact with in my role with McKinsey and Company was rewarding in many ways, but I missed the experience of seeing the results of my work up close. That’s where the lessons I learned from my Grandmother came into play, and it’s those same lessons that make me passionate about helping entrepreneurs and CEOs find success.
Employing People Makes a Difference
Some aspects of my grandmother’s entrepreneurship really left an indelible impression on me, and one of those was seeing the difference she made in her community with her ability to employ people. I got to see her transform people’s lives by generating a stream of income. The same is true for all of you that are running small and mid-level businesses.
Here’s what the SBA has to say:
- America’s small businesses are the engines of job creation. Small businesses create seven of every ten new jobs and they employ just over half of the country’s private sector workforce. (SBA Office of Advocacy)
- Small businesses create more than half of the nonfarm private gross domestic product (GDP). (SBA Office of Advocacy)
- Small businesses have generated 64% of net new jobs over the past 15 years. (SBA Office of Advocacy)
A Successful Business Brings Community Cohesiveness
My grandparent’s farm was an important element of the glue that held that rural community in Jamaica together. My grandmother’s house was a sort of pit stop or rest area along the main road. When people would drive long distances they would stop for a drink or a snack, and my grandmother would always provide it for them. Her door was always open. It was a gathering place, and a place to seek comfort. That was made possible by the success of her farm.
While not all businesses act as a gathering place for the public, they offer community support in different ways. Our article two weeks ago specifically covered ways that CEOs are making a difference. We do a version of this article at the end of each year, and it’s one of my favorites because it expresses a lot of variations on the theme of how successful businesses bring life to their communities. Those of you reading, regardless of your industry or geography, there is a way that you and your company are making a difference for your employees, your communities, and for your segment of the market.
Successful Businesses Bring Innovation
As humble as it was, the farm brought a lot of innovation and exposure to a place in Jamaica that was, in many ways, very cut off. My grandparents were the first to get a telephone, and people in the community would actually walk miles to my grandmother’s house to be able to make a phone call. She willingly opened her home to allow people to do that, and that was also really meaningful to me as well. I see that same innovation happening in the communities where the CEOs on the show participate.
Hannah Solar brings affordable, sustainable energy to businesses and individuals. NewsRX helps businesses use artificial intelligence to handle some of their repetitive tasks, freeing team members to take the business to the next level. Meeting these innovation needs brings growth to the community, and it’s midlevel businesses that lead the way in this area.
Being a Business Owner Allows Freedom
Another key lesson that I learned from my grandmother was the freedom allowed by being a business owner. She was always busy, but I never saw her chained to her desk. I saw her free to interact in her community, build her business, and enjoy her life.
I love my work as a business strategist, and hosting CEO Exclusive, because I see a world where people’s hearts, minds, bellies, and wallets are full. And, I firmly believe–down to the tips of my toes–that entrepreneurship is one of the most effective vehicles to realize this vision. That’s what I learned from my grandmother, and that’s why I do this show.
My promise is that each of you reading will get at least one idea, insight, recommendation, or golden nugget that will help you grow your business and be more successful. Why? Because your success grows the pie for all of us—your success creates the opportunities, the innovation, and the jobs that make this country, and the world, a more habitable, prosperous place to live. So, thank you for being who you are, and thank you for listening to CEO Exclusive.