Although the holidays are a time for giving, “taking” is what comes to mind for many people when they think of business. This image is especially unfortunate as it applies to entrepreneurs, who risk much and give more than most of us ever realize.
Here are three of their greatest gifts:
We live in a society where it’s so easy to be a critic and point out what’s wrong in what others have done. Meanwhile, it’s much more challenging to create — to come up with a new approach that no one has ever thought of before, or to make an incremental improvement to an already good concept. Such new ideas are golden.
Yes, the tangible outcomes of these ideas are very important, but the intangible impact is also invaluable. One person’s idea for a new enterprise may spur dozens or even thousands of other ideas, which may or may not be business-related. Creativity spawns creativity.
New ideas also implant a sense of optimism and hope: We don’t need to accept the status quo. Things can be different. Things can be better.
Of course, entrepreneurship wouldn’t be what it is if ideas were the sole end. Thankfully, much of the creativity described above results in commercially successful products and processes that become the backbone of new business and essential elements in our lives.
Innovations from entrepreneurs such as Johannes Gutenberg, Henry Ford and Steve Jobs have enriched humanity throughout history and transformed our world. From the minute we wake in the morning until the moment we lay down to sleep at night, entrepreneurial products and services facilitate our work, play and nearly every other activity we perform.
Many professions offer extraordinary gifts to individuals and society: physicians give health, teachers impart wisdom, judges bestow justice, counselors offer direction and soldiers provide protection. What do entrepreneurs give of such significance? Jobs.
To provide another with gainful employment is one of the most profound gifts one can give. While doctors heal people physically, business owners heal people economically. A job allows someone to provide for his/her own needs as well as those of loved ones and even others. Employment is much more than financial security, however. For most people, meaningful work helps provide them with a sense of purpose and supports their self-worth.
I recently had the opportunity to visit the headquarters of the Hershey Company, the creation of another great entrepreneur, Milton Hershey. Given Hershey’s legendary kindness, he likely would credit his employees and others for his businesses’ outstanding success. At the same time one can’t help but think of all the things that wouldn’t exist today aside from one man’s bold entrepreneurship, for instance: thousands of jobs around the world, a school for disadvantage youth, a hospital and an entire town.
Idea, innovation and employment aren’t exclusive to entrepreneurship. They are, however, three very important gifts that entrepreneurs are especially capable of giving.