By Michael Gunther

“Service above self” is an easy concept to understand, but harder to implement on a consistent basis. Recently, after hosting a social event for the local Rotary club to which my partner Steve belongs, I realized that there are many individuals here who are truly dedicated to not just improving our community but improving communities around the globe. Many of the people I met that night have been volunteering for years, assisting those less fortunate and enhancing our local community.

This got me thinking about the growing number of socially responsible businesses—increasing at an exceedingly fast pace. Organizations like Tom’s Shoes and Life is Good are using their businesses to not only provide jobs and make profits, but also focusing on making a positive social impact on our world.

Is this rise of socially responsible businesses a symptom of something larger within our social fabric? I believe that once again small businesses are leading the way improving our communities by understanding that Gordon Gecko’s “greed is good” motto of the 80’s hasn’t really benefited society as a whole.

But before I continue, I do want to distinguish between small businesses and major corporations. I see major corporations as the billion dollar+ multinational organizations where small businesses are those with 100 or less employees (according to the Small Business Administration this group makes up 98.2% of all businesses in the United States).

Major corporations continue to get bigger and more profitable, the financial institutions continue to gain financial strength, and yet the basic needs of our communities (education, arts, recreation, support for small businesses, etc.) are not being met. At some point these organizations must realize the value of investing back into communities—and not just by sponsoring charity events, but by fostering serious changes needed in our educational systems and cities.

If not, society will rebel against those institutions (i.e. the occupy movement and the tea party). Remember, history shows a pattern of uprisings when the wealthy sector becomes isolated from the real issues going on within society. I find it interesting as well that more people are not standing up and saying, “Hey, this system is out of whack!”

All you have to do is look at the PACs supporting the current election—with no limits to what an individual can spend to support a candidate—really? The wealthiest class and major corporations then are truly controlling what’s happening in Washington, which in turn impacts all of us in our local communities.

As small business owners, do we really believe that a society with so many fundamental cracks in it is going to sustain us in the long term? It will get harder and harder to find quality employees, build profitable businesses, and support our communities.

The American dream is defined by many people in as many different ways, but isn’t it fundamentally about securing enough wealth to support you, your family, and your community as well? I think of Dale Carnegie, one of the earliest multi-millionaires who dedicated his life to giving back to the world by funding libraries and schools. He understood the importance of creating a strong social fabric for our society.

Bottom Line

Why my rant today? I hear politicians saying that the people who want to tax the wealthy are just envious, and yet these politicians will be the first to provide tax incentives for corporations, furthering our national debt. At the same time, they state that the poor have safety nets, yet both the elderly and the poor have fared worst in this recession as the wealthy continue to gain momentum. At some point, you can accumulate only so much, and if we don’t take care of the fabric of our society, we will make it harder for both individuals and small businesses to survive.

This is another article in a series on Michael’s entrepreneurial story and how being raised in a large family has influenced his career. To read the previous articles in this series, visit his blog at

Michael Gunther is Founder and President of Collaboration LLC, a team of highly skilled business professionals who are dedicated to assisting proactive business owners to build profitable, sustainable businesses through results-oriented education and consulting services. Learn more at

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