About this time last year, I decided I needed to give back to others. Not that I had failed to do that with my business, but I wanted to do something that was more for others than for myself.
I was going through a rough patch and wanted to stop the bad ideas in my head. Volunteering for a good cause became a chance to help others.
To that end, I started volunteering at A Just Harvest up in Rogers Park in Chicago. It is a community kitchen on the far north side of the city. I focus on two main things while volunteering at A Just Harvest.
First, I work in the kitchen. Because I am a regular, usually I check-in the patrons at the kitchen front desk.
Second, I started a Think and Grow Rich (TGR) mastermind group specifically for those who used the kitchen and other Just Harvest services.
Through this small gift of giving every week, I discovered a lot about myself personally and professionally.
Today, I want to write about how volunteering specifically sharpens my entrepreneurial skills.
5 Ways Volunteering Sharpens My Entrepreneurial Skills
1. Learn Something New
As an online marketer and entrepreneur you learn how to be flexible. As many entrepreneurs mockingly attest, they are their company’s chief janitor as well as their CEO, COO, CIO, CMO and CSO.
One of the skills I learned working the front desk was how to deal with people in a forceful yet polite way. Checking people in requires you to sometimes interact with 5-10 patrons at once. Knowing how to organize yourself in the moment without freaking out is important.
Additionally, running the TGR group is something I am not used to doing as an Internet marketer. While I attend a lot of business networking events, I rarely run them.
Growing the TGR group taught me a lot about getting people together in the community to meet up for specific events. As I continue to build coalitions to do this, it amazes me. Sort of like when I first started my business and got my first few clients.
Learning something new keeps the wonder in our lives. As business owners, it is very easy to fall into the trap of old habits and ideas. No one, save the clients, can tell us otherwise.
2. What is In a Name
I remember, as a mortgage broker, I took the Dale Carnegie course to help improve your memory. While the skills were useful, truthfully, the CDs that I won collected dust over the years.
Checking people in every week at the front desk, I learned one specific thing. The more I remember people’s names the smoother the evening goes. That is because as Dale Carnegie once said in his book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” the sweetest sound you will ever hear is your own name.
Often I see people change their opinion of me when I remember their name. I had one lady with a hard to spell name who would come in almost angry as she spelled her name out to me every week. It was almost like she intended to say it with so much intensity that it would burn through my pen and write her name by itself.
One week she started her ritual spelling of her name, and I said, “I got it!” She looked at me with utter surprise as I spelled out her name that I had already written down as she approached. As you might imagine, my interactions with her are a lot better now.
Names matter, and working the front desk, I get to practice that for when I meet people at business events.
3. Appreciate My Business
I like what I do. Yes, there are days that I curse the gods of blogging and digital marketing for the latest calamity or client. However, most days are pretty good.
Working in the kitchen reminds me of how lucky I am. The more I remember that, the more I smile when I work. When I smile, good things happen.
Like the power of attraction, the more you appreciate what you do in life the more you find that good stuff in everything you do.
4. Expand My Mind
Too many people today feel that everyone else is stupid, rude, and/or ignorant. Yet, most people make snap decisions about others. They do not take the time to connect and learn from them.
By working at Just Harvest, I had to go out of my comfort zone and connect with a broad array of people I never would have met in the business world.
Sometimes I disagree with some of the things they say, but that is the point. If I just knew people who thought the way I did, my view of the world would never expand.
By meeting new people with diverse ideas and discussions, I have the ability to see things that others in business might miss. One day these new ideas could bring me the idea that takes my company to the next level.
That is the beauty of broadening your network. Every person you meet is a little expansion of your beliefs. A signpost on the road to success.
5. Broaden Network
I was at the funeral this past weekend for Anthony Boatman. When you think of a world class guy, Anthony comes to mind. He was the type of guy who knew everyone and was actively involved in every project in the community.
At 59, he died way too early. However, he was an exemplary person to know. I am glad that I had the chance to meet him.
Yet, Anthony was just one of many people I met at Just Harvest. Some are homeless, looking to find a better place in the world. Others are volunteers with a heart of gold.
The cool thing about volunteering at A Just Harvest is that I have the ability to broaden my network. After all, you never know where you find your next client. By expanding my network through volunteering I increase the chances of finding new clients.
Volunteering is not just about helping your business. I get a lot of personal satisfaction and confidence from it because of the fact that I do this for others. It reminds me of what is important in life.
Improving my entrepreneurial skills is the cherry on top. I get to help others and improve my skills at the same time.
Where else can you do that? If you know, put it in the comment area.
In the meantime, think about what you are passionate about in life. How can you help others with that passion, and improve your entrepreneurial skills at the same time?
Image: A Just Harvest/Facebook
I think volunteering teaches you a lot about understanding your target market and addressing their needs. Because this is what you have to do when you have a business, knowing it will help you conduct your business in such a way that is sensitive to your market’s needs.
That’s an interesting observation Aira. While volunteering is not always in your target market, sometimes it can help you sharpen your understanding of your market. Thanks!
Hi Andy, sorry to hear about your friend’s passing. I agree, 59 years old is too young.
Thank you Alex!