Why Social Impact Is the Only KPI That Should Matter for Entrepreneurs
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It’s 5:02 a.m. on a Monday morning. I’m up and posting to my Facebook group of 16,000-plus international entrepreneurs that I mentor. Sometimes my excitement as an entrepreneur wakes me up and keeps me up. I have so many rewarding projects that are either making a huge impact on society or (excuse my overt entrepreneurial confidence) will make a huge impact.
In my opinion, there’s only one metric that actually matters as an entrepreneur. No, it’s not social interactions, lead conversions, lifetime value or any of the growth metrics hocked by your favorite entrepreneurs trying to sell you a new product. Social impact is arguably the only metric that should wake us up, and keep us up, as entrepreneurs.
Related: When 'Doing Good' Isn't Good Enough
Let me give you some context to what I mean.
I’ve overcome massive obstacles on my journey as an entrepreneur. Like when I went to prison for two years. During that time, I taught myself to build websites by reading textbooks. I wrote my first line of code with a No. 2 golf pencil. When I was released, I continued my education, and created a software development company that has been blessed to work with Fortune 500 companies like Microsoft, Warner Bros. and IBM.
Yes, that’s rewarding, but it pales in comparison to the satisfaction and intrinsic value I get while teaching other inmates in prison how to code. After my successful completion of my sentence, I realized the power of a positive prison program and joined The Last Mile, which is a nonprofit that is changing the prison system from the inside out. What started off as an entrepreneurship program for inmates has evolved into a program that teaches inmates in prisons how to write computer programs. I’m leading the charge with our team, developing the learning management system that is going to scale our program to the rest of the country so that inmates can learn how to code rather than stamp license plates. The social impact of this project is exponential.
In December 2015, I was devastated. My wife passed away, and nothing seemed to matter at that time; my dreams, my life, even food lost its taste. So, I decided to travel the world for six months. It was during that time I realized the only moment I felt truly alive was when I gave back and helped people in need. So, I put together a nonprofit, rallied friends, family and anyone interested, and provided underserved communities resources. We did campaigns on Skid Row, helped women with addiction issues and gave back to orphans. The social impact was clear by the gratitude on every person’s face we were helping.
A few weeks ago I was in New Jersey at Fownders' headquarters, hanging out with my friend Gerard Adams doing a Facebook Live for Entrepreneur, and working on ways to collaborate. After our Facebook Live, the question “What matters most as an entrepreneur?” came up, as we both have a passion for giving back. Not only does Adams and his team believe that social impact matters most, but he’s put his money where his mouth is.
By age 32, Adams has already sold Elite Daily for $50 million and has made millions over the course of his 14-year startup career. He could easily go “retire” in Miami, or come to LA and live the Hollywood lifestyle. Instead, he’s dedicated his life to helping underserved entrepreneurs through his accelerator program Fownders, in his hometown Newark, N.J. Everything Adams does is about giving back and helping others. It’s clear to see it in action when he operates as a leader; it’s depicted by what he stands for and posts on his social channels (he’s a must-follow on Instagram), and has even created an entire show around helping other leaders called, Leaders Create Leaders (an Entrepreneur syndicated program).
Fownders is no different, with a very clear mission as explained on their site: “Fownders' mission is to disrupt the paradigm of how entrepreneurs, creatives and the next generation of leaders get the right education, exposure and self-awareness needed to truly leave an impactful legacy.”
It is a progressive education social enterprise, focused on educating young entrepreneurs through the principles of entrepreneurship and human development. The program has helped hundreds of young entrepreneurs and attracted business experts and social entrepreneurs from all over the world like Eric Thomas, Ryan Blair, Craig Clemens and Tom Bilyeu.
Another example that I learned while in New Jersey: After finding Adams on Instagram, Arian Ney left Germany temporarily to pursue a mentorship opportunity with Adams and his squad. Ney has a successful company of his own, where he focuses on social and digital marketing including Instagram strategy and growth, in addition to being a notable German fashion icon as shown through his own impressive Instagram following of almost 300,000 followers. However, as he mentioned to me, being around Adams and the team was a risk worth taking. The exposure, the networking and the impact they’re making was too hard to pass up, so he left Germany and moved to New Jersey for three months.
The Fownders team is a group of dedicated, loyal and passionate intrapreneurs who are focused on making the world a better place. After meeting some of the team members like Mitch Snyder, Brian Ragone, Jade Jordan, Amanda Johnson and Anthony Delgado, it’s no wonder how they’ve been able to achieve so much in such a short period of time. Their latest accomplishment has been the launch of their online platform, which will allow them to scale the program across the country, using the New Jersey location as the headquarters. The platform will give any entrepreneur direct access to Adams and the team, a startup curriculum YC Combinator would envy, a private Slack channel, tools, deals, resources and even in-person experiences.
The question remains, is social impact the only KPI that should matter for entrepreneurs? I think so, and so does Adams, his Fownders team and all of the other entrepreneurs out there making a positive difference in the world. If you’re helping someone in need, you’re awakening someone else (and keeping them up, even at 5 a.m. on a Monday).