For many successful CEOs, professional goals and financial security have been all but attained. And for most, those corporate achievements notwithstanding, their success has had little positive effect on the greater public. As such, what comes next? Shouldn’t there be more to your story? Charitable contributions aside, now is the time for CEOs and C-Suite execs to give back professionally.
I started AUL Corp. out of a spare bedroom in April of 1990, recognizing a niche that had yet to be fulfilled in the automotive market: Selling extended auto warranties through used car dealers. Admittedly, it is not very glamorous, but point in fact, used car dealers sell twice as many cars annually than new car dealers. And despite this enormous potential, there wasn’t a reputable auto warranty on the market. More importantly, I’m a big believer in insurance and warranties, as my father passed away unexpectedly when I was young and my mother was left to raise three children on her own with no financial support. So it became a passion. That passion has now grown into AUL Corp., the nation’s leading service contract administrator. We’ve since expanded and recently launched Trustmark Warranty, a company that sells used car warranties directly to the more than 11 million consumers who purchase their vehicles in private transactions every year.
But what can be done on a non-sales level? What can a CEO do that leverages his or her professional expertise into a public benefit?
Given my background, I became ‘The Consumer Auto Advocate’ and have launched a national blog site that provides consumers with salient advice on anything and everything to do with their vehicles. The Consumer Auto Advocate has a global platform to dispense that knowledge to the benefit of all. Whether it’s how to find the best auto repair shop; what to do when you receive a recall notice; what to keep in your car for emergencies; along with general operating and maintenance best practices. Over the past year this blog has fostered a huge following and receives a constant flow of positive feedback on how useful the information is for students, families, and professionals alike. As aside from rent or a mortgage payment, people’s vehicles are generally the second highest monthly expense.
It has been immensely gratifying to share the practical knowledge gained in the growth of my company with the public at large. And, I believe it is the responsibility of all CEOs to find a way to impart the wisdom they’ve gained in their professions to the general public. Without compensation. Just as a way to pay it forward.
We all participate in charities in some form or fashion. We’re on boards, we’re fundraisers, we’re donors. But this sharing of knowledge is a unique opportunity available to us all to give back in a way that benefits the greater good and imparts a level of knowledge that otherwise is not easily found.
Where to start? Self-reflection. Identify what you have learned that could be of great value to the public at large. And if you are in a very specific or technical industry that may have limited consumer benefit, look for someone to mentor; someone not unlike yourself when you were young and give them an ear and an opportunity.
But for many of us who are in industries where our knowledge has value to consumers, look for ways to share. With the internet and social media, the possibilities are endless. And often easy to impart. If you own a company that sells organic produce, let’s say, perhaps share in online forums, blogs, interviews or articles on how to determine the freshest produce and fruits. How to ensure they’re not genetically modified, if that’s of primary focus. And for small business owners, how to source local providers.
Or, if you are the CEO of a healthcare company, a complicated field right now that many are having difficulty navigating, perhaps become a consumer advocate and develop a web presence where consumers can go for advice. There you can share a top ten list of what to look for in the fine print of a health care policy. Or put together a list of recommendations based upon need, age, income and location. Perhaps make it a consumer’s guide to healthcare: Should they go through an agent or direct? Should they access their state’s programs or is it better to comparative shop on their own? Should one turn over their Medicare benefits to the healthcare company, or if priorities are such and such, would it be better to shop for a supplemental plan? This and more can be a gold mine of information for a broad swath of our population. Once established, spread the word via social media and watch your audience grow and respond. And while it’s important to say who you are and what your background is as a qualifier for the expertise you’re dispensing, it’s best to refrain from aggressively promoting your organization.
If you have made your mark in technology, perhaps create a platform that shares best practices, without giving away patented or copyrighted property. Or host a no-cost seminar or online forum for how to start a career in technology; tips to secure VC funding; what you look for in employees and how they can best prepare themselves and move to the top of the hiring list. The majority of CEOs make a concerted effort to give back to their communities through charitable foundations and grants, but giving of your experience and your knowledge is also incredibly valuable on an entirely different level.
Last but not least, if you’re the CEO of a financial planning or accounting firm, consider offering an opportunity for non-profits or charitable organizations to submit to an online forum as to why they should receive the benefits of your firm’s services for one year at no cost. Depending upon where you’re located, you could offer this opportunity to companies in various regions. And publicize the ‘contest’ per se. It will not only encourage more submissions, it will encourage other companies in the profession to be like-minded and perhaps offer a similar opportunity.
These are only a couple of ideas on how we can give back to others. Regardless of your industry, there are endless opportunities for CEOs to benefit the public good – with minimal or no cost to themselves or their companies. We just need to be creative and look for how we can apply our expertise to a need. And there is absolutely no doubt you will receive more back for reaching out to others than you will ever have anticipated.
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