You own a small business or startup and your budget is often your biggest concern. Funding is not guaranteed. The process to get investors in the door can be a long one. There is so much work to do, your aspirations are often bigger than your wallet.
How do you go about accomplishing the goals for your business while keeping your overhead costs low?
There is a valuable untapped solution in the world of startups: free labor.
No, I’m not talking about interns. I’m talking about experienced industry leaders. Yes, you read right. I’m suggesting that we seek out the assistance of executives with decades of professional insight.
A lot of people frown on the words “free labor” because they think it is a selfish arrangement that involves taking advantage of people’s valuable time in order to boost the bottom line. But I look at it more as sharing expertise. It is not about money. It’s about an educational lending process.
Approximately 2.5 million Americans turned 65 in 2012 and 3.5 million will turn 65 in 2013. That’s in addition to the 40 million people who were already 65 or older in 2010. While we struggle to figure out Social Security and Medicare solutions, let’s not lose track of the burgeoning market for leveraging our richer-than-ever American seniors, thanks largely to more working women than ever before.
With life expectancies into the 70s, there are many experienced professionals out there who aren’t dependent on a paycheck and have the skills and drive to make their expertise accessible to businesses with a shared vision and purpose.
Since we started The Global Good Fund, I have been astonished by the amount of meaningful work that our organization achieves through support from experienced professionals. I was curious to understand why, so I asked each team member to answer a series of questions in an attempt to better understand the driving forces behind what motivates them. The questions touched on personal, professional, financial, and health goals.
I discovered that my colleagues (regardless of age, gender, background, etc.) placed an extremely high emphasis on a value-driven life.
Across the board, their idea of a successful and meaningful career had little to do with their paycheck. Instead, they prioritized their professional values around helping others succeed and collectively working with their teammates towards social change.
The Global Good Fund has a mission that aims to accelerate the professional development of young leaders in the social impact space – and I think this mission is what attracted my team to The Global Good Fund in the first place. But I don’t think socially-driven organizations are the only types of companies that can benefit from free labor.
There are many experienced professionals who seek to lend expertise to startups, entrepreneurs and social innovators. One group of individuals consistently committed to lending support are retirees and soon-to-be-retired professionals. These individuals have knowledge gained throughout their careers and are at a stage in life where they now want to provide extra meaning by helping others.
Other entrepreneurs (in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors) are also a great source to tap into for knowledge swapping and free labor. They understand what it’s like to be in your shoes and they want to help you become successful. Furthermore, business owners that are in the same industry as you may also want to lend a helping hand to create strategic partnerships. They see mentorship as a mutually beneficial relationship to both parties that is the foundation for something stronger down the line.
Besides experienced professionals and like-minded entrepreneurs, there are plenty of other individuals out there who want to help boost your organization at little to no cost to you. Pro bono work has become such an excellent way to exchange knowledge (all while keeping costs down) and it is only becoming increasingly popular. Useful online resources connect entrepreneurs with pro bono mentors and experts: Score, the Taproot Foundation, Catchafire, VolunteerMatch, etc.
When starting a business, I highly suggest putting yourself out there and sharing your organization’s mission with the world. You might be surprised at who shares your vision and will come out of the woodwork to lend a free hand in order to help your organization succeed.
Carrie Rich is the co-founder and CEO of The Global Good Fund, an organization dedicated to investing in the leadership development of high potential young entrepreneurs committed to social impact. Carrie enjoys photography, other people’s cooking and jogging, on occasion.
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