Benefit from Profitless Networking
I enjoy making money as much as anyone else does running my own company. But in business, it’s equally satisfying watching the same corporate action slightly removed.
For each of the past 15 years, I’ve overseen 25 projects where teams of graduate business and law students work with entrepreneurs worldwide helping them to further succeed strategically or operationally. It’s exciting to then see these ventures take off, often using much of the students’ work.
This ecosystem is more powerful than most due to its profitless nature. Despite excessive tuition bills and future years of possibly being shackled by student loans, education at its core is still meant to engender knowledge exchange, personal development and intellectual growth. Even in the business sphere, making money constantly need not be a direct, or even corollary, objective.
We’ve been fortunate to have a cadre of dedicated volunteers who return to my classrooms year after year, simply to help my students, and, by extension, the business community, to prosper. They engage in activities whose spoils are refreshingly free of equity stakes, warrants and deal sweeteners. They’re truly doing it to give something back.
It’s rare to see such support “for the heck of it.” But it makes a tremendous difference for students and entrepreneurs. And, it positively impacts the volunteers themselves. Although they don’t get a direct monetary benefit, they gain experience, and learn from watching others try new things. It’s something I would encourage anyone to do.
The challenge will be in balancing life’s commitments, as we’re all too hyper programmed. Going to work, making it to the gym and hitting the supermarket are all “must do” items. Tucking the kids in at night or spending time with your significant other obviously speak for themselves. In the scant weekly minutes remaining, it’s difficult to justify activities lacking any monetary return on effort.
But, one of the best ways to learn more about growing your own business and to push your personal boundaries of success is to take the time to mentor others. Although there is no immediate financial benefit, the insights you gain are invaluable. You may additionally gain the unparalleled satisfaction of being a part of someone else’s success.
And, entrepreneurs are the business demographic needing such profitless assistance from advisors the most. They’re especially vulnerable working solo since their nascent ventures often lack prior operating history or institutional memory. Their ranks are also often stretched thin to reduce the cash burn rate.
Embrace any business mentoring opportunities, even if you can only spare a few minutes per day, or at best review planning documents via email or telephone. You have much to offer either in prospectively analyzing the market, or lending perspective based on your own past successes and failures. By giving advice you also have an opportunity to vicariously not make the same mistake twice.
Greg Stoller is a senior lecturer involved in building entrepreneurship and international business programs at Boston University. Check out his blog at www.languageofbusiness.biz and watch his nationally broadcast Language of Business monthly TV show. This Op Ed was inspired by feedback received from his latest TV episode on Non-profit and Socially Responsible Entrepreneurship.