This past week, I was happy to get the chance to return as a guest on the Small Business Advocate Show with my buddy Jim Blasingame. As a long time member of the SBA "brain trust," I always enjoy getting the opportunity to talk with Jim about what's going on at ISI and the many challenges of running a small business in today's challenging marketplace.
This topic of this past show was one that is near and dear to my heart which is how to take your business from success to significance. Maybe I'm crazy, but starting and growing ISI has never been about the money for me. Never has been, never will be. It's always been about making a difference in people's lives.
One way ISI tries to make a difference is by sponsoring the Education that Works program (ETW). As an ETW company, ISI pays the tuition for an inner city student to get a college prep education (by attending Memphis Catholic High School) that they otherwise couldn't afford. In return the student works one day a week at ISI doing basic office work (scanning documents, filing etc). It is our hope that by giving the ETW student a chance to see what a successful company looks like (teamwork, ethics, etc.), they will someday use that positive experience to help shape their own successful future.
Another way ISI is giving back is through the mentoring program with StartCo which is an accelerator program for startup businesses in Memphis. This past week I got the chance (as a mentor) to have an initial meeting with over a dozen startups to get a feel for their businesses and what ISI could do to help them. I must say it was really impressive to see companies from all across the country (California, New York etc.) in Memphis to tell their story and the "speed dating" format definitely kept me on my toes.
I met with people from lots of interesting companies like Play-tag that utilizes smart wearable technology to connect puppies to people, products and services. And Fuel Film Memphis who wants to develop and grow successful independent filmmakers in Memphis. Also, the College Initiative who is working with high school students and teachers to develop programs because "every child deserves the opportunity to go to college."
Lots of impressive concepts and entrepreneurs and hopefully with some solid mentoring from ISI a number of them will move on to a successful future. Not a bad way to make a difference in people's lives. The financial success of ISI has allowed me to provide my family and for the families of my employees. But beyond that financial successful, having societal significance means even more to me because it means I've truly improved the world around me.