With the holidays approaching, the season of giving is upon us. The old saying that "the more you give, the more you get" has certainly been true in my experience. I grew up in a family of business people who valued volunteerism and being involved with the communities in which we live and work. As I look at every branch of my family tree, I realize the impact each person has had, leaving the world a little better than they found it. Everyone is busy, overwhelmed with too many commitments and too little time.
The real question is how to spend the precious time we each have in ways that are meaningful and fulfilling. As a business owner, the most important commodity we have is our time. It is in such short supply but all work and no balance is a sure recipe for disaster. So if giving back is part of your belief system and you are looking to get more involved, where and how do you start when you don’t have much free time away from running your business?
Joining a Board is a great ways to have an impact. Share your knowledge, your contacts, and your experience with organizations that can benefit from them. Many non profits for example have boards or committees to help them grow. Whether your business skills are in finance, development, marketing, operations, sales or strategy, I am certain there are local organizations that would really appreciate and benefit from whatever time you can give them. Schools also use their boards to help them address many important issues. Look around your community and see where your business talents can help others. Volunteering strengthens your reputation as a committed business leader and increases your exposure to potential customers. Fellow board members get to observe how you think and solve problems and if they like what they see they’ll come back to you for more and tell their networks about your business as well.
Speak Up -- Your area of expertise may be intuitive to you but there are many organizations that could benefit from hearing about it. Local chambers of commerce, trade associations, conferences, groups, schools, and non profits are always looking for inspiring speakers for their events. Business people always have great stories to tell. Think about topics you know well and determine whether you could put together a 30 minute or hour long workshop to share some of those hard earned lessons you have picked up along the way building your company. I love the saying “to learn, read; to know, write; to master, teach.” Everybody has something they can teach I believe, so share your gift with others. I speak at local events regularly and often people in the audience will come up after and tell me about problems their companies are having and ask if I could come by and meet their CEO or President to share some of the ideas I had discussed in my talk. Being an invited expert into a company is a great way to make an introduction to the decision makers so turn your business skills into a talk.