A typical entrepreneur’s origin story includes an impassioned desire to meet a challenge head-on and to build a business that solves a problem, eases a pain point or creates new opportunity for consumers. This drive becomes missional to the company – often providing the context for the formation of core values, the early recruiting of partners and certainly winning favor in the chambers of local and regional government. Brands are increasingly being lauded for their net positive impact on the wider community, inspiring loyalty that is values- and mission-driven.
Yet, there remains a nagging reality that one day, all the good intentions in the world will be called to account by the unforgiving, uncaring tribunal of sales, profit and investor returns. This formidable hydra of traditional success is still a powerful gatekeeper in capital negotiations, but as broader societal expectations change, is the role diminishing to a mere, nagging devil on one shoulder of visionary entrepreneurs?
I had the opportunity to attend the Inc. GrowCo event this week in New Orleans. Among a crowd of several hundred entrepreneurs and executives, there was remarkable diversity in terms of gender, race and age. The two-day event featured titans of entrepreneurship: AOL’s Steve Case, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary, Warby Parker’s Neil Blumenthal and a coterie of other speakers, consultants and moderators including EO Fort Worth’s very own Jason Forrest, leading sessions to educate and inspire attendees.