Speaking to the 2005 graduating class at Stanford University, Steve Jobs uttered one of the most profound statements about the business world: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
Yet, too many small business owners find that their passion for their work has deflated. What once inspired them to get up in the morning becomes a slog, even when success is pouring in.
This was definitely the case when Ability Remodeling owner Mike Daniel decided to give up his share of a successful company. He was formerly at the head of an award-winning and highly lucrative design, remodeling, and home building company based in the Scottsdale area. Everything about the company was exemplary, including their processes, procedures and results. But something was missing.
“I guess you could say I got bored,” explains Daniel, “But it would be more accurate to say I was burnt out — not feeling the passion anymore. I wanted to be a part of something bigger than the company. But instead, I was the company.”
So, Daniel started fresh, founding Ability Remodeling in a smaller town so he could feel closer to the community. He built his remodeling business in Prescott from the ground up to serve a greater purpose than just bringing in revenue. By offering training and work opportunities to people with developmental disabilities, the business could directly help the community flourish. And, the community could invest in Prescott by choosing a philanthropy focused remodeling company.
It was a win-win, and it provides a compelling fable for business owners: you can find greater purpose in your work and feel truly proud of your results when you make your business part of something bigger. Only then can you do not just “great work,” but work that matters.
The real difference between Ability Remodeling and the typical approach to business charity is that philanthropy isn’t just a side activity for Ability.
Instead, every job is an opportunity for disadvantaged people within the community to gain skills, earn a living, and have a sense of inner pride. That’s because Ability Remodeling employs workers with developmental disabilities from all over the greater Prescott area. These individuals typically come from work training programs that help them develop job skills and hands-on training.
Ability Remodeling offers participants the opportunity to improve and expand on these skills within real job situations. They can then have a chance to become a regular part of the Ability Remodeling crew, visiting homes, learning a craft, and helping themselves live more independently.
“Offering skills, training, outreach, and other opportunities for those with developmental disabilities gives more meaning to what we do and where we do it,” explains Daniel. “These are individuals who typically lack opportunities for real work outside of a confined warehouse or shop setting. We bring our trainees and employees out into the community — into people’s homes — and help them see how their work gets results and benefits customers.”
Seeing these results and having a job to do improves the quality of life for people with developmental conditions. “They want to live normal lives, have a home to live in and a job so they can contribute to our community,” says United Cerebral Palsy researcher Tarren Bragdon. “But, those things are often difficult for them to find.”
In addition to their work with individuals who have developmental disabilities, Ability Remodeling donates ample amounts of time, money, materials, and volunteer work to locally based causes. Daniel states that some of the organizations “closest to our heart” include U.S. Vets, which helps provide counseling, housing, and employment to veterans, and Disabled American Veterans.
Other important causes Ability supports include Prescott area Boys and Girls Clubs, the Big Sister/Big Brother Program, Catholic Charities Mana House, Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, Humane Society, Food for the Poor and many others. They also help support the Public Unified Prescott School District, propping up education and services for Prescott area families.
All of these causes lead to direct impacts, something critically important to Mr. Daniel’s ethos. “Almost everything we do is hyper-local and focused on direct action for people affected the most. It’s not just about throwing money at a problem; it’s about strong people getting the support to do everything they can to make changes for people they see face-to-face. So, whether we’re on the front lines or supporting people on the front lines, every dollar or man hour we offer counts.”
When talking to Daniel, he always makes sure to emphasize that real philanthropy is about having a vision for results, not just seeking a certain image for yourself. For that reason, it’s not only critical to be proactive with how you solve problems in the community but to also be a leader for important social, economic and industry issues.
Leaders can shape the vision of other business owners by serving as an example and visionary. That focus on leadership is why Daniel sits on the board of directors for the Yavapai County Industrial Development Authority. He is also active within the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and the Yavapai County Contractors Association.
Within these organizations, Daniel and his team can help shape policy and solve problems in ways that benefit the community. “It’s all about being proactively engaged in offering leadership and stepping up to fill a need,” he asserts
By making philanthropy a central part of your business model and participating actively as a leader, you can achieve so much more compared to occasional donations or fundraising drives.
In turn, people can recognize your contributions as a way for your business to stand out among competitors. 66% of people under 34 and 59% of people between 35-44 years old prefer working with charitable businesses, according to a 2016 Fortune poll.
That’s because they know their dollars don’t go into someone’s account but back into the community. “People choosing our quality services don’t just get an awesome home remodeling company,” observes Daniel, “But they also directly help us serve the Prescott community.”
More importantly to Daniel, he knows that his goals go beyond simply growing his business or his personal wealth. “For me, it’s a big picture about how we value this company not by how much money we’re making or remodeling success, but rather how much we’re in this community helping them and being a part of it.”
This echoes a recent story in USA Today that found business owners who have charitable goals feel more satisfied. “For small business owners,” they write, “waking up every morning and loving what they do is a dream come true. And serving the community is a big reason why they feel it’s worth it.”
Find a cause you care about, combine it with work you love, and really take the reins to follow your vision and get results. That’s the true formula for fulfilling small business growth and success.