I was touched and honoured at a recent speaking engagement when an attendee asked me to autograph a copy of an editorial I wrote nearly five years ago for PROFIT Magazine.
Usually, the stuff we did in the past stays in the past, and we never hear how it affected others. But my new friend told me how inspiring he had found the article, both as an entrepreneur and a concerned member of his community. He thanked me for writing – and now signing – the article. And I thanked him for the compliment and the feedback, which were inspiring in their own right.
If you're interested, here’s a copy of that editorial, from the November 2001 issue of PROFIT. It says a lot about the role I think entrepreneurs can play in the world. Most of it really was written in my car on the back of a piece of paper at the side of a road a mile south of Hockley Valley.
Letter from the Editor
The GrowthCamp valedictory that never was
A roadside appeal for entrepreneurs to get involved
By Rick Spence
I am writing this note in my car parked on the side of the Mono Third Line, which traverses Ontario's rolling hill country just east of Orangeville.
I've just left GrowthCamp, our second annual conference for Canada's Hottest Startups (a list published last issue). My senses are overwhelmed by the memories and energies unleashed by three days of close contact with the country's most exciting entrepreneurs. The comradeship, the networking and the laughter still echo in my mind. I closed down GrowthCamp with a reading of the camp poem and a call to return next year.
Driving home an hour later, I realize I left too much unsaid. So here it is — the GrowthCamp valedictory that never was:
'You are among Canada's finest entrepreneurs,' I should have said. 'You worked very hard to be here. And you've worked hard here, too, making contacts, listening to keynotes and sharing ideas in our workshops. You've met entrepreneurs from across the country, and I have watched you gain strength and confidence just from being around them.
'But now you have to take this further. Your talents, which have created success in business, are needed in a wider arena.
'Now is the time to begin using your skills to benefit your community. Take this energy, and all your many gifts — for sizing up a situation, seeing an opportunity, planning, leading and analyzing — and focus your efforts on organizations and issues outside of your business.
'We have so many needs in society. We have skills gaps and digital divides. We have too many homeless and not enough homes. We have schools that are out of touch with their market and unable to engage their students. We have big governments that overtax us and municipalities struggling to collect garbage.
'What can entrepreneurs give the world? Contagious enthusiasm and a bias for action. There are too many committees where lawyers debate process and nothing gets done. I've seen what impact one courageous board member can have on a group. By raising questions no one has asked before, suggesting new ways of thinking and proposing creative solutions, you can make an impact on any interest group.
'It won't be easy. Entrepreneurs are used to giving direction. And they like things done right away. Getting involved will require levels of patience and diplomacy you never knew you had. Don't give up, because you have unique gifts to share.
'Don't give up, because the world needs you.'
That's what I should have said.
It was Monday, September 10, 2001.