First Person: Commentary from Dave Squire, president of the Entrepreneurs Foundation of the Northwest

| Print |  Email
Friday, September 01, 2006

{safe_alt_text}

A new generation of hope

New startup companies get it right with early philanthropic goals.

By Dave Squire

Every company I’ve ever worked at had commitment to the community somewhere in its mission statement — but it wasn’t supposed to be taken too seriously. It took me about 20 years to figure that out. When I volunteered in the community, the response was, “That’s great; we fully support you.” Silently, they added, “As long as it doesn’t take any time away from work or cost money. But please feel free to use the company name.”

But a new generation of entrepreneurs is changing that. As president of the Entrepreneurs Foundation of the Northwest, I’ve been blown away by the commitment of these new philanthropists. They are the leaders and employees of entrepreneurial startup companies who believe that getting involved with the community early on is a vital part of their corporate strategy.

These entrepreneurs actually take action at a time when most companies would claim to be too poor or too busy to even consider the idea of giving back to the community.

These companies also lead by example by encouraging and demonstrating volunteerism. They have paid time-off policies for employee volunteers, corporate volunteer councils, matching giving programs, and HR policies that encourage and reward community involvement. And they have executives who are directly involved.

One such company is Clarity Visual Systems, a tech company in Wilsonville, acquired by Planar systems in July. Paul Gulick, the CEO and founder, is involved in Clarity’s community involvement program and chairs its Give Back to the Community committee. Clarity has a strategic focus for involvement, a matching gift program, time off for volunteerism, and includes all of this in its recruiting and promotional materials. Clarity is a fairly mature startup, but some companies have jumped into our community involvement programs before they’ve even completed our membership process (which includes granting future stock options for a company donor-directed fund).

My son works at another one of our member companies, Sabrix, which actively promotes volunteerism and has one day per quarter of paid time off for employees who volunteer. He’s in a high-pressure job with few breaks in the grind. What better way to relax than to nail siding with a company executive or dress up like a storm trooper to collect food for the Oregon Food Bank? He gets to do good works with people that he might not even see on the job and it’s in an atmosphere where the normal work hierarchies don’t exist. I think it also gives him a sense of pride in being a member of a company and team of people who care about the community.

I believe the reasons for this trend are a new sense of values in companies and a realization that having and living these values is good business. Also, nonprofits face declining support from federal and state governments while demand for services is expanding. They desperately need new sources of support, both financial and operational. They need access to the entrepreneurial talent that has driven the innovation in productivity and effectiveness in the private sector.

And there’s a workforce problem looming. Baby boomers are retiring and severe shortages of skilled workers are predicted. Companies are going to need every advantage they can muster to attract and retain skilled employees. There is a triple win for companies with a strong community involvement program. First, they attract the right kind of employee. Second, community involvement programs create leadership and team building opportunities for employees. And third, they create stronger communities that in turn nourish the companies.

The events that have given me the highest highs in my career are those that involved working on a team with shared values and a shared commitment to some really tough objective: launching awesome new products in fiercely competitive markets, developing an innovative school-to-work program for high school students, or just climbing to the top of Mount Hood. A money incentive will get you somewhere in the short term, but employees with values and loyalty and passion for new visions of the future will be attracted to companies that be-lieve in community.

Like this new generation of entrepreneurs, I want to work in a place that lets me use my talents to create success for the business and the community. I’m inspired by the number of new companies that get it: Companies and communities must grow together.

Dave Squire is president of the Entrepreneurs Foundation of the Northwest in Portland and managing partner of the Tygh Valley Group.

 

More Articles

Undersea Power

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Mike Morrow and Mike Delos-Reyes first came up with the idea of an ocean power device 23 years ago, when they were students at Oregon State University. They realized a long-held vision last summer, when their startup, M3 Wave, successfully launched the first ocean power device that works underwater.


Read more...

100 Best Green Workplaces announced

News
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
OBM-100-best-Green-logo-2015-1000pxwBY LINDA BAKER | EDITOR

More than 250 people turned out today for Oregon Business magazine’s seventh annual celebration of the 100 Best Green Companies to Work For in Oregon.


Read more...

Foundations perspective

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

A conversation with Martha Richards, executive director of the James F. & Marion L. Miller Foundation.


Read more...

Oregon businesses face destruction from future earthquake

The Latest
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
htctthumb1BY KIM MOORE | RESEARCH EDITOR

An earthquake would completely destroy many Oregon businesses, highlighting the urgent need for the private and public sectors to collaborate on shoring up disaster preparedness, said panelists at an Oregon Business breakfast summit today.


Read more...

Eco Zoned

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY HANNAH WALLACE

Travelers have always come to Oregon for its natural beauty. But will the increasing popularity of agritourism, European-style hiking getaways and forest resorts relax Oregon's notoriously strict land-use laws?


Read more...

Short Shrift:The threat of just-in-time scheduling

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN

Companies can benefit when they use software to meet staffing requirements and address employees' family and life commitments.


Read more...

Knight Cancer Challenge No Biotech Dream

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY JOE CORTRIGHT

The Knight challenge is an important instance of philanthropy. But we should not assume it will magically transform OHSU into a business- and job-spinning engine for the local economy.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS