By Maurie Cashman
Last week I rode part of RAGBRAI and on the first stop between Ottumwa and Washington I stopped at the Farm Kids tent for a breakfast burrito. As we were getting in line I struck up a conversation with the man in front of me. We talked about RAGBRAI 2016 and it soon became apparent that he was not from around here. I asked him where he was from and he said Tokyo.
His immediate story was that he had always been interested in Japan and had gone over to teach following college. Christian Parkes teaches English to students young and old in Japan and has been living there for nearly eight years. He absolutely loves what he does and this seemed to come from a passion for helping others. He does not have an education degree but rather a degree in marketing. I was particularly interested because my son has expressed interest in teaching in Japan following college as well.
â€œOnly a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.â€â€” Albert Einstein
We talked more and I found out that he grew up in northern California. So what is a guy who grew up in California and lives and teaches in Japan doing on RAGBRAI? He had never been to Iowa before last week and admitted that he knew very little about our state. This is where truth becomes stranger than fiction.
He told me that his mother had given him and his sister up for adoption when they were babies and that he had never met either. He didnâ€™t get into the circumstances about his mother.
Recently he had found his sister and they had begun communicating. They had Skyped and she told him about RAGBRAI. A plan emerged and she invited him to meet her on RAGBRAI. Then he somehow found his birth mother and they decided to meet at the end of RAGBRAI in Muscatine for the first time. He was both excited and nervous about what to say. Another two days on a bike was probably well-spent thinking about this. I hope it turned out well for them all and I was honored to have had this chance meeting.
I have tried to reflect on our brief discussion and what I could learn from it. As business leaders, we also have the opportunity to make choices that affect the lives of our families and the people we come into contact with.
I would propose that we have a dual mandate. One is to keep our businesses profitable and to increase the profitability, value and sustainability of the business. The second is to provide opportunities for those who work with us. Our children, spouses, employees, suppliers and customers all depend on the future success of our business. The second mandate depends on the success of the first.
Part of the first mandate is to provide for the sustainability of the business. Do you have a plan in place that maximizes your ability to provide for your family and the families of those who depend upon you? Do you know how to sustain that plan into a future without you in it? Are you in business solely for yourself or do you believe that you have a larger commitment to those who are dependent on you for their livelihoods?
The second mandate depends much on values not commonly acknowledged in business school or the corporate world. Decisions are often taken with very little regard for the families they will impact. Strong families are the backbone of our society. I believe that if we provide a sustainable future for the families we work with, they will in turn provide a sustained positive impact on their communities. There may even be a second or third generation that ends up having an impact on families in Japan!
If your mission in life was to create a sustainable business that provides a living for several families impacting their future generations, would you accept it?
Â© 2016 Aspen Grove Investments, Inc.