How Good Meals and Goodwill Lead to Good Business

When stumped for some creative inspiration, order up a round of collaboration while sharing victuals and conversation with the team.

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By Joe Erwin

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

However imperfect humans are, most are drawn to being in the company of others who aspire to do good. I can't speak for everyone, but in my experience, big ideas and lofty goals are more attainable when they are based in goodwill -- when the core purpose is bigger than one's self.

Businesses driven by goodwill -- which have a core purpose of helping others -- are businesses that are built to last. They succeed in attracting the best talent and benefit from inspiration and innovative thinking founded on a higher calling.

That's easier said than done, though. Inspiration isn't something that can be just ordered up. But when leading a business founded on ideas and creativity, one can certainly find ways to cultivate it. Here are some ways:

Related: Using a Purposeful Meal as a Networking Opportunity

1. Never underestimate the power of a great meal. Conversations on topics that inspire have a magnifying effect. Some say talk is cheap, and while that's true at times, it doesn't apply when discussing bold ideas and unconventional goals. Talk can lead to bigger, better ideas. And when the conversation is conducted over a meal, the ideas just flow more freely.

While sharing a meal, people tend to be at their creative best -- less guarded, more open-minded. They connect. I always have linked important planning or goal-setting sessions to meals.

As both an entrepreneur and someone in the advertising industry, I'm no stranger to wining and dining clients and friends, but it's more than just treating someone to a meal. It's creating an opportunity for everyone to be at the same level and speak openly. Maybe the deal will be sealed or maybe not, but a conversation over a meal will always go further -- and possibly in unexpected directions -- than one around a conference table.

2. Celebrate failure. Bold thinkers inspire me, especially individuals of great conviction who are willing to challenge convention. And that rarely happens without someone taking a great risk. Individuals who fail (sometimes spectacularly) but who get back up and try again; this is the stuff of stories that affect anyone with a beating heart. Underdogs can be similarly inspiring; it's impossible not to be moved by watching people who almost no one believed achieve a great goal after giving it their all.

3. Get emotional. Inspiration is behind all innovation, but understand that it takes many forms and arises from a range of emotions. Anger can fuel inspiration. So can frustration. Many people think inspiration is just a "feel good" thing but that's wrong. Heck, revenge can inspire people and it can even bring out a person's best efforts. This is true in athletics, business, the arts -- you name it. Understand that inspiration is born of human emotion and everyone is responsible for channeling powerful emotions into positive pursuits.

Related: A Sustainable Social Enterprise Takes Business Savvy, and Heaps of Passion

And remember when creating something special:

4. Never let money stand in the way of a great idea. If the idea is big enough, important enough, the necessary funding is out there. Money is a commodity; a great idea is a gem.

5. While pursuing a great objective, recruit winners to join in. Share the dream with them and if they believe in it, make them part of the team. Dump negative people, as they are inspiration killers.

6. Have fun! Tackling big objectives is hard, so learn to find joy in all the steps along the way. This can be critically important because times of great disappointment will surely arise. And tough times can be better endured when reflecting on all the joy of accomplishing the successful steps.

7. Share the victories. Allow others to realize that a win is theirs, too. Be humble and recognize that great achievements aren't accomplished alone.

Need a lift? Or on top of the world? Broadcaster and basketball coach Jim Valvano's 1993 speech at the ESPY awards just before he passed away is something to listen to. Every important thought about human inspiration and the human condition is in it, perhaps the most inspirational talk ever.

Those not taking "goodwill goals" as seriously as their bottom line are probably leaving something -- something special -- on the table. My suggestion? Invite everyone to pull up a chair to that table, fill a glass and a plate and start talking about what really matters the most.

Related: What Motivates Entrepreneurs to Do What They Do? (Infographic)

Joe Erwin
Joe Erwin is the president and founder of Erwin Penland, a full-service marketing agency. He is also the creator and driving force behind Food for Thought, an annual creativity and inspiration conference in Greenville, S.C.

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