How Entrepreneurs Can Handle Success- The Importance Of Paying It Forward

We’ve seen corporate fame and fortune derail CEOs for everything from creating a toxic company culture to shifting blame for major mistakes to lower-level employees. Holding an executive role requires leaders to set an example for their employees and customers. While we hear about failures in this department, we also often see executives paying their success forward, acting as role models and encouraging others to follow suit.

As Maya Angelou put it, “You shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back.” Whether you’ve made billions and donated your fortune to charity or used your company as a platform to help others with issues you’ve experienced yourself, paying it forward should be a core pillar for companies of all shapes and sizes.

Big Players Give Back in a Big Way

Bill and Melinda Gates, as well as their good friend Warren Buffett, are shining examples of self-made billionaires who prioritize giving back a significant portion of the fortunes they’ve built. Earlier this month, Buffett announced he would donate $3.6 billion of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. stock to five charities, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

While this isn’t the first notable donation we’ve seen from Buffett, it is the largest. This brings the total amount Buffett has donated to more than $34.5 billion since he pledged to give his fortune away in 2006. 

Joining Buffett and the Gates family on the list of billionaires who donate a large percentage of their fortunes are Michael Dell, the chairman and CEO of Dell Technologies; Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google and president of Alphabet; and Larry Page, the co-founder of Google and CEO of Alphabet. All have used enormous success as fuel to lift others up.

Helping Others with the Problems You’ve Overcome

Billionaires aren’t the only ones paying it forward in meaningful ways. Many of the most compelling startup founders created their businesses based on the tough times they experienced prior to achieving success. 


Recently, in my rental business, I encountered a situation with a single mother of five who was struggling to pay rent. After listening to her story, the challenges this woman faced—a relocation, family tragedies, and care for both parents and children—left me wanting to help. I hoped there were organizations helping strong single moms like her. That’s how Dylan Lenz, the founder of Naborly, a credit bureau for the rental industry, got on my radar. His company provides financial support to renters who are temporarily unable to pay rent in light of life’s unforeseen events. 

Lenz, his sister, and their mother were living on welfare and moved from their home 23 times before Lenz turned 20. Lenz set out to help fix the problem of home evictions and is now used by more than 850,000 rental units in the U.S. and Canada. I connected with his story after seeing my tenant struggle as a single mom with few resources; I was inspired to see a fellow entrepreneur—who lived this challenge firsthand—doing something about it once he was able.

He’s not the only one: Meena Sankaran grew up in Mumbai, where her family members were granted access to water for no more than an hour per day via a water tank. Her family couldn’t afford a filtration system, so the group would boil the same water over and over again for drinking and cooking. Meena created KETOS, a smart water analytics company, as a result of the challenges she faced growing up in India.

Even more established companies, like Airbnb, were built on a similar foundation. The certified vacation rental company came about after two of its co-founders, Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky, struggled to pay their rent. They decided to rent out air mattresses in their living room during a big conference in San Francisco; they cooked their guests breakfast and treated them as guests at their home-based hotel. They later built their business in an effort to help people in a similar situation generate another source of revenue.

These examples are just a few to show that the best companies are founded by people who have faced the issues the company itself sets out to solve. Paying their success forward enables even more success, not just for them but also for the people around them. We should all live by these words from teacher Jackie Mutcheson: “It takes each of us to make a difference for all of us.”


Written by nigeriahow

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