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Education is good business
If you are an entrepreneur launching a business and want to get ahead of your competitors, have you and your team ever considered volunteering to help out at local schools?
It may sound strange for me to advocate such a move, considering that I left school at 16 to set up my first business. But as I have written before, creating a successful company is all about building community, and education is often a great means for doing good while doing business.
This isn’t an area where you can just go charging in, however. It is imperative that the project you propose be deeply linked to your business’s mission and the sense of purpose that carries your employees through the workday.
If you are unsure about what your business’ purpose is, except perhaps to make money, it might be a good time to rethink your approach. Companies that survive and thrive over the long term have more significant interactions with their customers than just conducting transactions; great businesses are places where problems are solved and lives are improved. A sense of mission helps such enterprises to keep sight of the bigger picture.
It could be that developing a project to support local or international educational efforts may help you to map out what you’d like your company to accomplish in the long term. I was thinking about this just the other day, when I was in London watching my daughter Holly co-host Britain’s first We Day, celebrating the achievements of the 12,000 school children in attendance, who all earned their tickets through their volunteer work.
The event was planned by Free the Children, an organisation founded by Craig Kielburger in 1995, when he persuaded 11 school friends to join him in a crusade against child labour. He’d been inspired by the story of Iqbal, a Pakistani child labourer who escaped a carpet factory where he’d been held prisoner and then gained worldwide attention by speaking out for children’s rights. Iqbal was murdered for his efforts.
(Richard Branson is the founder of the Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Active. He maintains a blog at www.virgin.com/richard-branson/blog. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/richardbranson. To learn more about the Virgin Group: http://www.virgin.com/.)
(Questions from readers will be answered in future columns. Please send them to RichardBranson@nytimes.com. Please include your name, country, e-mail address and the name of the Web site or publication where you read the column.)
@2014 Richard Branson. Distributed by the New York Times Syndicate
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