Deshpande on Entrepreneurship-Part 27: How do you attract top talent for your social enterprise?

By Desh Deshpande

(Editor’s note: This is Part-27 of the weekly video column with philanthropist and serial entrepreneur Desh Deshpande, with excerpts from his book “On Entrepreneurship and Impact.” This column appears every Monday.)

Desh Deshpande

Every enterprise, social or otherwise, needs awesome talent to create meaningful impact.

Early on in any enterprise, you typically don’t have enough resources for pretty much anything. So, attracting great talent becomes a big challenge.

Under those circumstances, how do you attract the right talent to take your initiative to the next level?

For startups, it is most important to demonstrate your commitment and conviction to your mission and vision. Your potential employees need to see your conviction and commitment to the journey to the “promised land”. By exciting them with that image you will attract the talent who share the common vision and commitment.

In addition, for for-profit startups, employees are willing to sacrifice short term salary for greater potential future financial gains, making it easier to recruit.

In social enterprises, employees are attracted to the mission and vision and their desire to make a significant and scalable social impact. The financial gains are secondary.

These passionate people are not running away from money, but are running towards meaning.

More than the for-profit sector, your ability to convey your vision of the change you are going to make in the world, is what will attract the most talented people to be a part of your mission. You might find these changemakers everywhere – at educational institutions where they are taking related courses, at relevant conferences, or as part of volunteering teams at relevant non-profits.

There is also another category of people who are looking for meaning after having made money.

Generally two things that motivate people are:

  • The impact one can make on the world
  • The financial gains from an endeavor

In the for-profit world, a large part of a person’s decisions is driven by financial rewards. However there are a number of successful entrepreneurs and professionals who have achieved financial success and now are motivated primarily by their ability to use their time and resources to make a big difference in the world.

While the first phase of life might have been about money, for some the next phase is about making meaning. It’s that group of people that has not been fully engaged. I see a lot of people who have had a successful career and are now looking for their second innings.

Social entrepreneurs who can tap into this demographic can find a valuable group of resources that they can get involved in many ways. These people not only bring extensive experience from successful for-profit ventures, but also are hungry to make meaning with their lives. It’s the best of both worlds.

 (About Desh Deshpande: During his entrepreneurial career spanning over three decades, Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande has built several companies. He has injected his passion for innovation and entrepreneurship into a number of social impact initiatives in India, the USA and Canada. He has been recognized for his entrepreneurial accomplishments by many institutions including being named co-chair of President Obama’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. He currently also serves as a Life Member of the MIT corporation. He resides in Boston together with his wife, Jaishree.)

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