POVERTY: POOR, DESTITUTION, SCARCITY, DEFICIENCY

I have left many posts site in my drafts folder, but I can’t let this day go by without supporting Blog Action Day. The purpose of Blog Action Day is to bring focus to an issue that matters to all of us by putting the power of blogging behind one topic. This year’s topic is Poverty.

I’m not an expert on poverty, and haven’t been an anti-poverty advocate other than occasional donations and volunteer work. As I was thinking about this post, I did what I normally do when I start thinking about a topic: I went to the Oxford English Dictionary to get a better sense of the topic based on definitions. That’s what drove the subject line and the structure of this post.

I have to admit that I felt a bit of unease and somewhat frustration… why haven’t I done more? As I thought through this more over the last month, I remembered something my grandmother, Zella Beattie, used to say to me: Use your talents.

It sounds simple, too simple or broad for impact. Aren’t we always using our talents… except when we get lazy? What she meant though is along the lines of what Marcus Buckingham is teaching regarding focusing on your strengths. This leads to the question of what are your strengths, and how can the regularly be used to help the state of poverty, in your city, country, continent, or world — as part of your daily life, along with special actions, like donations and volunteering — official or unofficial.

So, as a high-tech executive, where are my strengths best used to act against poverty? Here are my top 5:

  • Job creation. A great deal is reported in the news about layoffs, what isn’t reported is job creation. The most thorough statistics I found are from the Small Business Administration in the US, reporting employment across companies from 1990-2005. In only two years of that 15 year span has there been a decrease in net employment numbers. Remarkable record. I am a business builder — less poor.
  • Training. I believe in focusing a business on skilled work — anything else possible should be outsourced, as it isn’t how you will win. Skilled work also means you need to train employees, making an investment in them. Training ==> higher productivity ==> better margins ==> more money to invest back into the business. With a focus on training, along with increasing your business value, you are increasing the overall wealth of the population by adding more skill — less deficiency.
  • Vendor relationships. Understand your vendors in the same way you understand your customers. What are their goals and how do you fit in? Select those vendors that are important to your business and spend the time building the relationship. Together, you will find efficiencies pretty easily, and you will also find new business opportunities regularly. Being strategic about your vendors means a healthier, stronger business — less scarcity.
  • Community action. When it comes to community action that supports your business, my hero is Danny Meyer, who started Union Square Cafe and has turned it into a very successful restaurant and catering group in NYC — one of the toughest places in the world to succeed with a restaurant. He’s had a community-action approach with every restaurant with an eye to the community impact. I highly recommend his book, Setting the Table, to learn more about a community-focus for your business — less destitution in your area.
  • Mentoring. As an executive, realistically, you can impact 1-3 companies at most. But you have a multiplier in the people that you provide mentoring. Mentoring can be formal or informal. Intuit had an incredible internship program that was designed in a way that increased mentoring opportunities. I have wanted to start a similar program via a network of start-ups and growth businesses to provide strength in numbers. Thanks to Blog Action Day for bringing this back to the forefront of my mind. I believe that through mentoring the multiplier effect will keep that job creation number high. Go out and inspire others for less poverty!

Thanks for listening. Writing this post has helped me think about some new ways I can have an impact on poverty in my everyday life. I thank the folks at Blog Action Day for encouraging this type of thought exercise, as I know it will lead to actions. Please take some time to visit their site, as there is a wealth of resources and ideas on what you can do to help!

On my shirt today, in honor of my grandmother:

Use your talents.

5 thoughts on “POVERTY: POOR, DESTITUTION, SCARCITY, DEFICIENCY

  1. Matt says:

    What about direct support? I sponsor two children, one in Cambodia and another in Bangladesh. It’s only $30 per month for each child, and it helps them and their communities a great deal. World Vision

  2. Jana Eggers says:

    Matt, I agree with this type of ongoing support. It is a great way, and there are several good organizations for this that handle this in in a great way!

    Take care,
    Jana

  3. Jill says:

    Jana,

    Thank you for such a thoughtful, insightful blog. I must admit, I received your posting because I work for Danny Meyer (thanks for the shout out!), but I thought your blog was wonderful and touched on the many things we can do each day in our lives both private and business that create opportunities for growth, learning, teaching, and the support of those less fortunate that ourselves.

    thank you!

  4. Great post. I think educational equity and smarter education is a key. As a teacher, I see kids who don’t have any idea what their talents are or how to leverage them or who are thwarted because the talents they have don’t fit or are ground down by cookie cutter school settings. If you like Buckingham’s approach, you have to check out Jenifer Fox’s book Your Child’s Strengths (Viking 2008). She points out that focusing on kids strengths in school is an equity and justice issue. And she shows how to do it.

  5. Jana Eggers says:

    Jill and Nick, Thanks to you both for your notes on the blog.

    Jill, I’m delighted (but not surprised) that Mr. Meyer’s team tracks what’s happening online.

    Nick, I’m always happy to know about new tools, particularly those focused on kids.

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