Why are people not aware of entrepreneurship

More meaningfulness and more conscious economic activity with inspired entrepreneurship: »I advocate an economy in which it is a matter of course that people follow their personal vocation«

You have published a book called »Entrepreneurs Inspired by Souls«. What exactly does »inspired entrepreneurship« mean for you and how can I (e.g. as a customer or job seeker) recognize such companies? 

Christel Maurer: As early as 1912, the great economist Josef Schumpeter distinguished between two types of entrepreneurs: the ones who are primarily concerned with increasing their own wealth and power and the others who enjoy being creative and active. Its starting a business. The concept of inspired entrepreneurship is based on this distinction. Inspired entrepreneurs are people who follow their vocation and draw from inner sources in order to develop and implement a business idea that creates meaning and protects our livelihood. Inspired entrepreneurs are passionate about bringing a certain product or service to market. They see the fact that they make a profit as a consequence of their actions rather than the purpose of setting up a company. While in a traditionally run company the purpose of founding the company is to make a profit and the respective business idea is used for this purpose, it is exactly the other way round in ensouled companies: The purpose of such a company is to realize a certain business idea and generate profit is the means by which this is achieved.

This distinction gives rise to completely different strategic decisions than in conventionally managed companies. For example, the management of Forma Futura AG, which I portrayed, a company that offers sustainable investments, has developed its own sustainability criteria that are used to evaluate companies that are included in their portfolio. The company only works for clients who are interested in sustainable financial investments. At the beginning of her activity, this meant that some potential customers were not accepted in order to remain true to the business orientation. Another example is the company Neue Holzforum AG, which creates sustainable wooden houses. Markus Mosimann, the owner, has decided to only build a certain number of houses per year and not to exceed this, so that the quality of the products and services does not suffer, and neither does the corporate culture.

As a customer or as a job seeker, I recognize such companies by the fact that their products and services are often offered in a quality that goes far beyond what is usual in the industry. Inspired entrepreneurs and their employees identify with the company's goals, often dedicate themselves to their area of ​​activity with love and devotion and actually want to serve their customers. Customers appreciate the excellent service that such companies often offer. In addition, an exemplary corporate culture is often lived in these companies. Such establishments often have a very good reputation and attract public attention. Such companies are sought-after and attractive employers for job seekers.

The subtitle of your book is "Plea for a change in society": What should such a change look like for you and what are the most important building blocks for it?

Bricklayer: I advocate an economy in which it is a matter of course that people follow their personal vocation as part of their professional activity, be it as entrepreneurs or employees. If we choose this path, we will recognize this by the fact that what we do gives us the greatest joy and makes us blossom. By doing what we feel called to do, this not only leads to our greatest personal happiness: If we love what we do and not just pursue a more or less unloved job, we make other decisions. Then the likelihood increases that egocentric needs will lose weight and that we will increasingly work for the good of the whole, as illustrated by the model of Spiral Dynamics by Beck & Cowan.

This model assumes that individuals, as well as companies and societies, go through different levels of values ​​and adopt them as their own. In the course of this development, egocentric values ​​take a back seat, while a holistic view that promotes all forms of life is becoming more and more important. In this respect, the change in the economy depends on the individual level of development of the values ​​of the individual entrepreneurs and the decisions made on this basis.

The examples in my book show that our degrees of freedom to act unconventionally in the current economic system are significantly greater than we commonly assume. As an entrepreneur, I can decide to start a company that - based on my own calling - makes me really happy, fulfills and serves my life. As a job seeker, I can choose an employer who is dedicated to an area of ​​activity that corresponds to my calling and creates meaning. Such companies are being set up more and more often and more and more people who want a job are choosing this route. Change begins with each and every one of us. And when we set out on our way, we will immediately experience the effects in our own lives. For me it is just a matter of time before we make the change. Crises that arise in the meantime can help us to nudge ourselves to the steps that we (still) seem too unfamiliar and therefore uncomfortable.

In the economy, completely different rules seem to apply than in private life: competition instead of cooperation, excess instead of solidarity, cold rationality instead of compassion. How do you explain this phenomenon that fundamental ethical values ​​and humanity are ignored in a business context?

Bricklayer: I see our current economic system as a representation of what is going on in all of our consciousnesses. And I wonder, does our private life work so much differently? How often do we tend to decide in favor of competition instead of cooperation in our private sphere? Are the needs of our partner, for example, not only important to us as long as they do not conflict with our own wishes and ideas? In the last few decades we have allowed the principles of classical economics to become entrenched in our private lives. Relationships become objectified and questioned on the basis of cost-benefit calculations, even if we pretend to uphold romantic ideals.

But now to the economy: In traditional economics, profit maximization is of central importance. As we can read in the press, moral values ​​are regularly sacrificed to this principle. Currently we are collectively (still) on a level of consciousness in which egocentric needs are closer to us than what would benefit the world around us (and ultimately also ourselves). With our consumer activities, we have a direct influence on which form of economic activity we want to support. With our workforce, we decide on a daily basis which form of entrepreneurship we want to support. Each and every one of us can make a contribution every day to a world that we want. What do we choose?

In my estimation, we are currently in a collective change of consciousness - whereby disturbing noises are not absent - in which the well-being of the whole is gaining in importance. And more and more people are making different decisions than in the past.

What positive effects can a transformation towards "inspired entrepreneurship" have on companies and their employees or superiors?

Bricklayer: Animated entrepreneurship has a positive effect in a number of ways. When an entrepreneur translates a business idea that matches their personal calling, it is the best path for that person to a happy and fulfilling life. When entrepreneurs draw from their own inner sources - one could also call this the soul or inner essence - it is not uncommon for business ideas of special quality with a pioneering character that appear attractive both internally and externally. If the employees "commit" themselves with a "soulful", meaningful business idea, because this also corresponds to their calling, their chances of being happy and fulfilled while exercising their profession also increase immensely.

We know based on the consultancy's surveys Gallupthat the emotional bond among employees in small and medium-sized companies in German-speaking countries is not rosy. In 2019, 15 percent of employees in SMEs in Germany were fully committed to their company, while 85 percent either performed according to regulations or internally resigned. The figures for Austria and Switzerland are very similar. In addition, many traditionally run companies today have problems finding suitable specialist staff. When animated companies advertise a position, it is often the case that these companies cannot save themselves from applicants because more and more people want to work for a meaningful employer and are then also willing to show greater commitment than we do today see in many conventional establishments. The word of meaningful business ideas also gets around among potential customers. Customers appreciate the outstanding quality of products and services that such companies often offer. As a result, these establishments enjoy a good reputation and the word-of-mouth advertising by customers works well with these companies. Costly marketing measures can then be dispensed with and the money saved can be used more sensibly elsewhere.

All these factors give these companies advantages in the market that make them more resilient, especially in times of crisis. Incidentally, this is an experience that was confirmed by the companies I portrayed in the book in times of Corona.

Plato already demanded that future heads of state should be given extensive instruction in philosophy and ethics so that their actions correspond to reasonable guidelines. Do you think such an approach also makes sense and is important for the training of future economists?

Bricklayer: Absolutely! And there is also an urgent need to develop further alternative concepts for the economy. How frugality (sufficiency) can be implemented in companies, for example, is a topic that I also deal with and on which I publish. In the last few decades, the academic economy has largely failed to develop answers to our current greatest challenges, which we have known since the 1970s. In many places, the current approaches of classical economics are adhered to, which have brought us into our current situation. The University of Siegen, which offers a master's degree in "Plural Economics", is one of the few laudable exceptions. However, a different type of education alone is not enough to bring about change. Each and every one of us needs to be prepared to develop values ​​that overcome our often egocentric orientation so that alternative concepts can fall on fertile ground within us.

You also work as a consultant and coach and advise, among other things, small and medium-sized companies on how they can work in a more "soulful" way. Are there any industries in your customer base that are more represented than others? Were there any companies whose request surprised you? If so, why?

Bricklayer: My customer base spans many industries. To be honest, this doesn't surprise me because the conception of my approach involves a fundamentally different orientation in companies that can be implemented in many industries. Rather, the central question is how open owners of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are to this. A major role here is how consciously the respective people recognize the signs of the times and are ready to actually answer the call of their soul and make a contribution to a better world.

The “Celebrate your Business” consulting concept developed by you is part of your coaching or consulting. What can that mean?

Bricklayer: My work aims to ensure that my customers can joyfully celebrate and appreciate what they create for themselves, for their employees and for all stakeholders in principle and every day: A meaningful company that preserves our livelihoods and in which those involved can fully develop their potential and be happy and fulfilled.

My consulting concept “Celebrate your Business” includes individualized offers to work with owners of SMEs to develop their personal vocation and the purpose of their company. It contains individualized offers on how companies can develop life-saving products and services and how entrepreneurial frugality (sufficiency) can be used for the success of the company. In addition, it includes individualized offers on how owners, as leaders, can become more crisis-resistant and lead the company in a more crisis-resilient manner.

This can mean, for example, that I work with an owner of an SME within three days:

  • What is your personal calling?
  • What is your vision
  • With which business idea would you like to implement your vision and how?

The objectives of the respective project and the procedure are coordinated in advance with my customers and designed in such a way that they have a lasting effect.

What made you decide to write a book on this topic and what criteria did you use to select the entrepreneurs who were interviewed in »Inspired Entrepreneurs«?

Bricklayer: The topic is close to my heart because in companies we are often so far removed from what would actually be possible: Blooming working environments in which we can fully develop our potential and in which full life pulsates. Fields of work that inspire us to such an extent that we would much rather focus on these activities than on the activities we normally do after work. It is important to me to show how this can work. I would like to make it clear what animated entrepreneurship is and use concrete examples to show how this approach is successfully implemented by company owners from very different industries. My aim is to encourage other entrepreneurs to take this path too.

I have portrayed entrepreneurial personalities and their companies who are known and also those who are not yet known. They are people of different ages, women and men, and all of them are people who run their company in an exemplary manner, in the sense that I call it inspired.

What advice would you give prospective entrepreneurs who want to set up a (social) startup?

Bricklayer: Before founding a company, it is very worthwhile to clarify what the entrepreneur feels personally called to do and to draw from internal sources in order to develop a unique, unconventional business idea. This lays the foundation for fulfillment and personal happiness, for special business success and for a contribution to a better world.

About Christel Maurer

Christel Maurer (MSc Organizational Development & Graduate Psychologist) is a consultant & coach, author, speaker & organizer who lives and works in Switzerland. Since 2011 she has been the owner of MCC Maurer Consulting & Coaching in Bern, Switzerland and was a board member of Spirit in Business Switzerland and a lecturer at various universities. In addition, she was a member of the executive board of a social profit organization with 70 employees and has been involved since 2019 as a co-initiator of the series of events "Part of the solution - people in motion" and has been on the advisory board of the Bio Foundation Switzerland since 2020.

Her publications include:

Inspired entrepreneurs, Basel, Zytglogge, 2017.

Entrepreneurial sufficiency, personal happiness and ecological responsibility, in: Buchenau, P. (ed.): Chefsache Zukunft, Wiesbaden, Springer Gabler, pp. 385-405.

Would you like to find out more? Click here to go to Christel Maurer's website.

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