A year ago I published a blog calledThe Necklace, about a dream regarding my late wife, Elisabeth. I have had several prophetic dreams since then and I felt compelled to write about the most recent one.
In mid-November, I had a dream where I was standing in a ship’s stateroom. I saw Elisabeth on my left and on my right, our daughter, Dorian, came up to me and said, “do you have a safety pin?” I said, “what?” And she repeated, “do you have a safety pin?” I immediately woke up and wrote the dream down.
Well, I knew I was headed out on an Antarctic expedition with Dorian in less than two weeks so as a lark, I put a safety pin in one of the pockets of my shaving kit.
Our first stop on the ship’s expedition was South Georgia Island. I brought along two flags for photographs on Antarctica. One was a BNI® flag and the other was a BNI Foundation flag.
Elisabeth was the Co-Founder of theBNI Foundation and ran it for many years. She was really proud of the work we did for charity through the Foundation. Dorian and I did a dry-run taking photos with the flags on South Georgia Island before we got to Antarctica. The BNI flag was heavier and the photos worked out fine. However, the BNI Foundation flag came from another source and was much lighter in weight. The wind caused it to flap all around and we could not get a good photo of me with the flag.
When we got back on the ship, I spoke to Dorian about what we could do when we got to Antarctica so she could get a good photo of me holding it. That’s when she looked at me and said, “do you have a safety pin?” I said, “what?” (in shock with her using the same words as in my dream) and she said again, “do you have a safety pin?” She went on to say, “you can pin one corner of the flag to your pants, so it stays down for a photo.”
I then showed Dorian my notes from the dream that I had several weeks earlier. I also brought out my shaving kit and showed her the safety pin I brought because of the dream. We both sat there in shock and wonder about yet another prophetic dream that she was involved in regarding her mother.
If you look closely at the photo above and the blown-up photo below, you can see the safety pin that I used to pin the BNI Foundation flag to my pants because of the dream I had with Elisabeth.
During the summer of 2013, while spending a week on Necker Island with Sir Richard Branson, I had the opportunity to discuss his “B Team” concept in depth with him. The B Team is a group of internationally renowned business and thought leaders that seek to accelerate the implementation of Plan B, an equal commitment to the planet and people, as well as profit. When I interviewed Sir Richard, he said, “We can’t leave every problem to government — non-profits alone cannot solve the tasks at hand. We cannot continue to do ‘business as usual”.
Plan A for business has traditionally been to focus only on making the largest profit possible. You know that adage, “He who dies with the most toys wins?” That is how I have personally seen most people in business approach their corporate and personal success. Now we are seeing more and more successful businesses giving back in order to make the world a better place.
Conversations are taking place in the marketplace that reveal this shift happening. Books like Conscious Capitalism by my friends Dr. Raj Sisodia and John Mackey, and We First by my good friend, Simon Mainwaring, have become best sellers. It is encouraging to see that a new focus has reached critical mass and is rapidly moving toward the tipping point.
As I interviewed Sir Richard about the B Team and Plan B, he began to inspire me question what it would look like within my own company if we were to seek to implement Plan B. Then my thoughts led me to consider what it would look like in our communities if not only my company implemented Plan B, but many others did so as well.
Four ways businesses can engage in their own Plan B focus
1. Create a nonprofit arm of your company.
While you may feel that it is too costly or needs a lot of administration to create your own nonprofit charity, that’s simply not true. Most cities and even states have community foundations in which you would be able to create a donor-advised fund. When my own company, BNI®, started to really become successful, we chose to start a corporate charity with a focus on children and education. The BNI Foundation awards grants to teachers who can’t secure funding from their school districts or states for the resources they need so badly.
2. Get to know the nonprofit organizations that are working hard to support life-changing and environment-sustaining causes.
For the BNI Foundation, that means learning what we can about organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs, and Junior Achievement. They need resources, like computers and tablets, consultants and mentors, as well as host businesses so students can come in and learn about business — to find the inspiration to press through their challenges in order to graduate from high school or even to dare to dream that they may one day go to university. They also need community members to be involved on their boards and with their fund-raising efforts.
In order to reach in and help out, you have to know what the needs are. Keith Ferrazzi, in his book Never Eat Alone, encourages us to use our lunch breaks as power meetings with others with whom we want to network. You can set aside one lunch per week (or more, as your time allows) to have with the organizers of charities you want to get to know better. This is a great way to develop relationships with the people who are pouring into the causes that matter to you.
3. Bring your employees and clients along with you.
Show them how they, too, can help out. Consider holding a staff volunteer day at a school site that needs hands-on help. There are many ways your company can work together to address the many needs these schools have.
Without our help, inner-city high schools will continue to experience the average drop-out rate of nearly 40 percent. This is certainly not good for business! We need a strong, well-educated working class in our country. As we have implemented our call to action and are getting to know the educational support organizations in the major cities of our nation, we are learning that students who are able to access mentoring from the business community have a high-school graduation rate of between 95 to 100 percent. The BNI Foundation is starting an initiative we are calling Business VOICES to let entrepreneurs know what needs are out there. You can start something similar as it relates to your company’s cause or join us.
4. Host a Get-Acquainted Meeting for a nonprofit that is having a positive impact in your community.
You can be a gatekeeper for the organizations which need support. You might have space at your office to host a gathering there. If not, consider underwriting a get-acquainted meeting at a local establishment. Some of these organizations have regularly scheduled get-acquainted meetings and would benefit greatly from your support in sponsoring one or several of these events.
These are just some of the ways you can plug into Plan B and help make a difference. Charitable activities are an important part of building a powerful personal network. Things will change for the better when small companies adopt local issues and bigger companies adopt national issues and global companies adopt international issues. I believe business can be noble and change the world in thousands of positive ways!
In 2013, my late wife Elisabeth and I had a chance to spend a week with Richard Branson on his island. While we were there, I was able to do a video with Richard that you can find on this blog. In the video, I asked Richard about his concept of the “Plan B Initiative.” He told me that the ‘Plan B’ concept aims to bring businesses together in a united effort to achieve greater social responsibility.
Elisabeth and I talked about this concept a lot. We realized that business can be noble. That business can make a difference in the world and it can do it locally and it can do it swiftly. We also discussed ways that BNI was already doing that at local chapters and how that might be expanded globally.
I was speaking at the California Riverside/San Bernardino Regional event for BNI on August 27th, 2014. Elisabeth was to go up before me and talk about the BNI Foundation. I saw her scribbling her ideas on the back of a napkin that she was going to use as her notes. On that morning she stood up and said (much to my surprise):
“I want to start a movement (that’s what she said). I want to start a movement. A movement where business has a voice in what happens throughout our local communities. A movement that makes a difference for children around the world. I want to call it Business Voices and I want it to help us change the world by engaging our Directors and members to help their local communities address problems that affect them most.” And on that day, at that meeting – Elisabeth began our Business Voices initiative for the BNI Foundation.
Since that announcement, people all around the world have done hundreds (if not thousands) of local community projects to collect books, do vocation days, collect school supplies, repair broken items in schools, and many other projects that make a quick and important difference in a local community.
I was proud of her for coming up with this initiative and I am proud of the people who have participated in Business Voices (it is open to people outside BNI) over the years.
If you are interested in making a difference in your local community, go to this link to help make a difference in the world:
One of the first steps toward networking your business is to become more visible in the community. Remember that people need to know you, like you and trust you in order to refer you. Volunteering can position you to meet key people in your community. It connects you with people who share your passion. Volunteering gives you opportunities to demonstrate your talents, skills, and integrity, as well as your ability to follow up and do what you say you are going to do. It instantly expands the depth and breadth of your network.
Volunteering is not a recreational activity: it’s a serious commitment. Remember that people need to know you. They need to like you, trust you, in order to refer you. Volunteering can actually position you in order for you to meet key people in the community- a connection with people who share your passion. I believe that people who volunteer demonstrate their commitment to a cause without concern for personal gain. Thus, you should be volunteering with organizations which you have genuine interest in and concern about. So to find an organization or a cause that relates with your interests, you need to approach volunteerism with a healthy level of thought and strategy. How do you decide which organization to support?
Here are a few things to think about when you choosing a service organization to volunteer at:
What are three organizations that you can identify that appeal to you? Choose the one that most appeals to you and research the group online.
Will that group give you the opportunity to meet one of your professional or personal goals? Will you have an opportunity to connect with other people who will be supportive of your business?
After visiting the group, do you still want to make a final commitment of your time?
Are other group members satisfied with the organization?
It is really important to get to know your referral partners better so that you can pass referrals to them. Ask others during your one-to-one’s a few of these questions about their volunteering activities:
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time, and is there any connection to serving the community?
What hobbies do you enjoy, and do they provide any opportunities for volunteering?
What brings you joy and satisfaction?
What social or health issues are you passionate about?
Volunteering is a great way to get visibility in your community. It’s a great way to build your personal network. Don’t be a cave dweller. Get out, connect with your community and volunteerism is a great way to do that. I encourage you to do so.
A friend of mine once said, “If we could get every single business person in the world, every single entrepreneur, to play their part, we could get on top of most of the world’s problems.” That friend was Richard Branson, and I took his message about his Plan B Initiative.to heart. It made me think about what I could do through BNI to make an impact on the globe and sent me on an introspective journey about being a business owner and the responsibility we had to serve not only our customers but society as a whole.
What I came up with are four ways to help your business find direction and purpose in helping others, whether it be in your local area or in the global community.
Garage to Global
In this video, I discuss how businesses can give back to the community. This is a part of what I call the “Ivanisms Series”: all of my personal quotes and phrases and why they have worked for me. Therefore, please watch this video to understand what Richard Branson means.
Can Your Business Serve the Greater Good?
All of us are in business to make a profit. But if that’s the primary driving force in business, we become mercenaries to that process. I believe that I should serve a greater need than simply to make a profit. I believe that business can be honorable. It can make a difference in individual lives as well as communities.
Business can be honorable. It can be something that improves people’s lives as well as supports and helps local communities. It can do so, by not only helping to generate more business for one another, but by giving back to the community, mentoring others, immersing in a culture of shared learning, and by collaborating with others.
The BNI Foundation
When corporations have a vision bigger than their profit and loss statement, amazing things can happen. BNI, the world’s leading referral organization, is one such corporation. Started by Ivan and Beth Misner in 1998, the BNI Foundation has been supporting children and education in the United States and around the world by mobilizing resources to give kids everywhere a quality education. The focus of the BNI Foundation is to help the youth of our community to find the path to productive and successful lives. For us, the mechanism to help with this shift is by investing our time, treasure, and talent to assist in education where we can. http://bnifoundation.org/
What is Business Voices ™?
The BNI Foundation has a long, proud legacy of helping out where schools have needed extra funding for projects not provided for by school districts or state funding. A pivotal factor of our philanthropic work was the creation of the Business Voices™ initiative to provide even more to the schools which have with the greatest needs.
Our initiative pairs BNI members and concerned, engaged and motivated corporations, service clubs and community groups with schools and educational organizations. The goal is to help them find the resources they need to have maximum impact on the kids of our communities.
Blaine Bartlett joins Ivan Misner to discuss his International Best Selling book, “Compassionate Capitalism: Journey to the Soul of Business”.
Pay attention to the soul of your business or you might miss incredible opportunities.
Business is the most pervasive and influential force on the planet today. Its activities transcend national and international borders. Its activities are not unduly constrained by financial, political, cultural, ethnic, or religious concerns. The net of this is that business, as a prevalent and important force, has a moral responsibility to guide, enhance, value, and nourish the existence of all that it encounters. In the world today, the absolute opposite of this occurs. Therefore, business today seldom assesses the efficacy of its activities through the lens of anything but profit.
Traditional capitalism forgets an important variable, that of happiness. The true purpose of business is to uplift the experience of existing. It is not to make owners wealthy. It is not to produce ever-cheaper goods and services. Compassionate capitalism is an economic system meant to make a lot of money, help a lot of people, and have a lot of fun. It is not to keep an avaricious and toxic economic model afloat and it is certainly not (with no apology to Milton Friedman) to make a profit.
Click the URL below to purchase this book, and use the special offer code: BNI
WHO: When you were growing up, did you have an adult (teacher, coach, mentor, NOT immediate family) who significantly influenced your life? Then, we at the BNI Foundation want to hear from YOU!
WHY: We want you to share your story with us so we can share it with the world so people will see and hear the huge impact that adults can have on kids!
WHAT: So, tell us in a 1 minute or less video, about the person who inspired you, possibly even changed the trajectory of your life when you were between age 6 and graduating from high school. We especially welcome stories in which a small gesture or action made a big difference, showing how easy it can be to help our youth, without always spending a ton of time over many years. It does NOT need to be professionally filmed or edited. Just grab your phone and press record.
Today the BNI Foundation is supporting the National Education Association’s “Read Across America Day”. Therefore, go find a classroom and volunteer to read a Dr. Seuss story to the students. For example, in this video, I share a story about reading to my kids when they were younger, the Dr. Seuss classic, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street“.
Dr. Seuss’s very first book for children!
Originally published: December 21, 1937
From a mere horse and wagon, young Marco concocts a colorful cast of characters, making Mulberry Street the most interesting location in town. Most noteworthy, Dr. Seuss’s signature rhythmic text, combined with his unmistakable illustrations, will appeal to fans of all ages. Finally, who will cheer when our hero proves that a little imagination can go a very long way. Now over eighty years old, this story is as timeless as ever.