One specific tenant had tears in his eyes, and told us that he had gone to the shelter to try to get a meal for his family, yet they were out of meals and so he thought he would be without a meal this ThanksGiving. It felt really good being able to make a small difference in this Families life.
For those who do not now that much about me – I love building companies. And have built a few of them over the last decade and a half. Most recently (about 4 years ago) I have fallen in love with companies that not only make a profit but also make a big difference in the lives of people to whom that difference really matters.
Specifically my partners and I built a company that provides homes to people in need, people who have very few options and people who most other folks do not want to provide housing to. All of this in an area that was and still is devastated by incredibly high foreclosures, high unemployment, crime, city just recently emerging out of bankruptcy/receivership and other hardships. Whole streets would be boarded up. Banks did not care (most of the foreclosed properties were purchased by out-of-state folks financed by out-of-state banks). The city cared but could do only so much.
We plowed forward and within 4 years are housing close to 250 families, working with some of the largest non-profits in the area that assist people in need, many either homeless, disabled, on parole, living in hotels or other shelters, recovering from substance abuse etc. People that need and want a fresh start – that very few companies/people want to work with. We feel privileged to be in a position to make a difference with this hardest hit demographic.
As part of our commitment to making a difference one of the many things we did differently – is instituting yearly Holiday Meal gifts to all of the families we provide homes for. This is a yearly tradition that started with just 20 meals being delivered in 2008. This year (2012) we delivered almost 250 meals!
The enthusiasm of the staff, our vendors and partners as well as clients was incredible! Random city workers on the street would stop us and congratulate us on what we are doing. Some of our tenants had tears in their eyes and were giving us hugs. One lady that looked pretty old and frail was so happy that hugged and lifted one of my partners!
A few entrepreneur friends of ours from out-of-town joined and helped hand out the meals. Which was also amazing.
Everyone got a meal. Including several tenants where communication had broken down and rental payments stopped. They where shocked that we would give them a holiday meal. It did not matter to us. All that mattered was that we cared – and we did not care what other people thought about us:)
In these 4 years of building this company we have tried to inspire other companies to consider running their company differently. To focus on providing more value and doing good – which in the short-term costs more – but in the long-term is financially just as rewarding as it is emotionally rewarding to help where you can.
This I find amazing! The feeling is hard to describe. You get addicted to it. You want more of it. You want to do more, you want to inspire other people to do the same. It becomes a way of life and a new way of looking at business. You want to grow revenues and profits by finding more ways to do good and do well.
I feel incredibly grateful to be in a position to do my part to make a difference as I had always wanted when I was a kid but had lost track of over the years. I feel blessed to have such an absolutely out of this world amazing team of partners, staff as well as supportive family and friends that makes all of this possible. You guys humble me!
It is amazing that one can do well by doing good. I am inspired to build more companies that follow this approach – and believe that in the future businesses that do social good will have much stronger competitive advantages, customer loyalty and ultimately profitability.