“Mr. Jobs made a lot of money over the years, for himself and for Apple shareholders. But money never seemed to be his principal motivation. One day in the late 1990s, Mr. Jobs and I were walking near his home in Palo Alto. Internet stocks were getting bubbly at the time, and Mr. Jobs spoke of the proliferation of start-ups, with so many young entrepreneurs focused on an “exit strategy,” selling their companies for a quick and hefty profit. ‘It’s such a small ambition and sad really,’ Mr. Jobs said. ‘They should want to build something, something that lasts.'” -Andy Hertzfeld, The Power of Taking the Big Chance
“I can honestly say that I have never gone into any business purely to make money. If that is the sole motive then I believe you are better off not doing it.” -Richard Branson
PBS has a website called The New Heroes.
According to the site’s description,
“The New Heroes tells the dramatic stories of 14 daring people from all corners of the globe who, against all odds, are successfully alleviating poverty and illness, combating unemployment and violence, and bringing education, light, opportunity and freedom to poor and marginalized people around the world. Also known as “social entrepreneurs,” they develop innovations that bring life-changing tools and resources to people desperate for viable solutions. What is possible? You’d be surprised. Take a journey into a world where people take action to make a big difference.”
I couldn’t help but feel inspired as I read the stories of people who are motivated by a desire to positively change the world through creativity and innovation.
These “social entrepreneurs” are solving problems, improving lives, and giving skeptics some very persuasive reasons for believing in the positive possibilities of the marketplace.
But there was one sentence on the site that I just couldn’t ignore:
“Unlike traditional business entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs primarily seek to generate “social value” rather than profits.”
In other words, traditional entrepreneurs focus mostly on making profits while social entrepreneurs focus mostly on improving society.
But in many instances where social entrepreneurship is defined, it involves throwing the traditional concept of entrepreneurship under the bus by depicting it as a profit driven enterprise in which the needs of society are a secondary concern.
Those who live the life of an entrepreneur, however, know a different reality.
What separates an entrepreneur from a person who merely requests, demands, or seeks after revenue, is his accountability to society.
Even if the entrepreneur were motivated by greed, he is incapable of fulfilling his own self-interest without becoming skillful at the art of meeting other people’s wants and needs.
Profit, in the eyes of an entrepreneur, is simply a way of measuring the value society places on his services, products, and innovations.
It’s easy for entrepreneurs, social or otherwise, to overestimate the value of their contributions to society. Profit is the great arbitrator.
In entrepreneurship, the desire for profit is not only a good thing, but it’s a social thing. Profit is the very thing that keeps entrepreneurs from forgetting that they are servants to society.
“The nice thing about money is that people don’t like to give it up. Therefore, when you ask people to give you money in exchange for your product, you’re going to get brutally honest feedback.”
Getting people to give you money is one of the most difficult things you can possibly do. Such a task is only made easy by the utmost determination to introduce progress and prosperity into the lives of others.
Entrepreneurship is never successful unless it’s social.
If your primary focus is on making a profit, that doesn’t make you an entrepreneur. That makes you out-of-business.