The entrepreneurial journey is a chaotic one, regardless of how long you’ve been at it. It’s easy to get caught up on the tasks, goals, developments, and problems that arise. Daily struggles can morph into sleepless nights. But even when it feels like there’s never enough time to get everything done, it’s important to prioritize the practice of paying it forward.
Paying it forward is a twist on the idea of paying someone back. Instead of simply returning favors for good deeds done for you — balancing an endless checkbook of goodwill — paying it forward means doing a good deed for someone you don’t owe anything to. Selfless actions without expectation for “return on investment” can spark a train of kindness, social connections, and even transformative life changes. It may sound cheesy, but it’s an important part of making the business world a better place. Paying it forward can create virtuous cycles of cooperation in the workplace, bring about a sense of camaraderie, new partnerships, and increased clout.
There are plenty of ways you can pay it forward to your employees, clients, partners, colleagues or members of your community. Here, five entrepreneurs from different busines sectors explain how they do it.
Share your unique insights with the world.
Jeff Minnichbach is founder of the design service No Limit Creatives, and he says one way he tries to pay it forward is by sharing his knowledge with large audiences that might not have access to other learning resources. “There are many ways entrepreneurs can share their insights,” he says. “I normally take the route of podcasts or Facebook Live interviews in which I would share best practices, but there are other routes that can be taken as well, such as creating eBooks, or even simply making a list of helpful resources and sharing it on a company blog post, or in a newsletter.”
Invest in your community
Ezi Rapaport is social businessman who established the Empower Africa business network, which works to strength the role of the private sector by building mutually beneficial long-lasting relationships with African governments and grassroots businesses. “Empowerment is driven by our ability to appreciate each other, and the value we can create together,” Rapaport says. Creating business initiatives focused on building bonds of trust and goodwill can drive sustainable economic development.
But hope is not lost for entrepreneurs who can’t pay it forward on such a large scale. They can still do things like make donations to local groups or charity organizations. And if an entrepreneur involves his or her staff members in selecting a charity for the company to donate to or volunteer with, that can foster team bonding over a sense of purpose and doing good in the community.
Offer free expertise
A little advice goes a long way. Dr. Edward F. Group III, the gounder of natural/organic health resource site Global Healing Center, is a big believer in offering free advice for the greater good. On his website, in addition to selling health supplements and detox products, Dr. Group also offers free advice on how to live healthy in terms of nutrition, mind and body, green living, and more. Paying it forward this way not only helps others, but also helps establish credibility and thought leadership for the brand offering valuable expertise.
Taking the time to consistently encourage others is a vital leadership quality. Envouragement shouldn’t wait for annual evaluations. Regular recognition and affirmation keeps team members enthusiastic, and trying their best. Penny stock trader Steven Dux says that before he achieved success (to the tune of $69 million), he was struggling to catch a break, and struggling even more with his self-worth. The one person who continued to believe in him was his mom. “I felt alone, and I felt like I had run out of options,” he says, “But she supported me. I knew how strong she had been and how she didn’t let anybody stand in her way. It was this strength that gave me my own.” You never know where a little bit of encouragement is finding someone. It can truly make a difference.
Give referrals to other businesses
When entrepreneurs refer potential customers to other relevant small businesses for different products or services, it can have a huge impact. “This is a love train that entrepreneurs all over the world should join hands for,” says Farhana Rahman, marketing director of agricultural data service SeeTree. “It’s no secret that word-of-mouth recommendations are the best advertisements, but it was very much the secret sauce to our original success before SeeTree launched in early 2019. Upon launch, in addition to $15M in funding, we also secured partnerships with some of the largest growers while still in beta, thanks to those referrals. So we are paying it forward as well!”
There are numerous other creative ways entrepreneurs and their companies can pay it forward. They can create scholarship programs, internship programs, nominate people for awards, host periodic events, loan unused office space to charitable groups in need of space, put together care packages, and so much more. The feeling that comes from giving gifts that keep on giving is (quite literally) priceless.