Michael J. Berland
Consultant, author

Michael J. Berland

A strategic adviser and communications consultant who co-authored "What Makes You Tick? How Successful People Do It -- And What You Can Learn from Them."

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At the core

Q: Do financially successful people have an obligation to help those in need? Are Bill and Melinda Gates, who have given away hundreds of millions of dollars through their foundation, encouraging others to step up to the plate? How much should people who have made millions be expected to give?

The ability to make a difference to others can be a much more fulfilling measure of success than a fancy title or having your company championed in a leading business or trade publication. And being able to offer a fraction of your income as financial support to people in need or to causes you believe in can be a big part of that.

Often there's a moral or religious component to this for people, whether it's tithing, as in Christian traditions, tzedakah as in Judaism, or zakat or sadaqah as in Islam. That can feel very gratifying for individuals. But, increasingly, many businesses are baking their charitable, community and cause-related commitments into their core mission.

Roger Barnett is the chair and CEO of Shaklee, the top natural nutrition company in the United States. When I interviewed him as one of the super-successful people for What Makes You Tick?: How Successful People Do It -- And What You Can Learn from Them, he told me: "I've always been fascinated with that approach -- trying to leverage private sector techniques for public sector goals. I was sure I'd eventually have to choose, but I kept trying to combine the two." He's worked really hard to achieve that at Shaklee.

The nonprofit B Corporation is leading the way in helping other businesses to embed community and charitable commitments into their corporate governing documents so that those commitments can survive new investors, new management and even new ownership. So, doing good becomes not just a choice that financially successful individuals make one by one, or even a happenstance business byproduct -- but rather an official commitment by a company's leaders, employees and stakeholders.

My friend Susan Smith Ellis is CEO of (PRODUCT) RED, the groundbreaking initiative founded by Bono and Bobby Shriver that creates retail commerce opportunities to fund the fight against AIDS in Africa. She put it best: "What [all] we do, as individuals or as companies, is not just business. We're not just part of an economy. We're part of a society. And what we do matters beyond the boundaries of our immediate stakeholders."

By Michael J. Berland  |  November 23, 2009; 9:06 AM ET  | Category:  giving Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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