Growth & Customers

5 business lessons entrepreneurs can learn from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Every January, we take time as a nation to remember the life and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

He was a leader in many respects of the word, and his passion and perseverance for fighting for what is right are an inspiration for anyone who is carving out their own path. And while the King Holiday is a day of service, inspiration, and personal reflection, Dr. King’s lessons also resonate professionally.

Here are five inspiring lessons by Dr. King to consider when thinking about growing your business:

1. Empower your followers

People derive inspiration from involvement.”

Most will remember Dr. King for his “I have a dream” speech, which was delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in August 1963. His dream included a vision for living in a country that included true racial equality and called on his fellow citizens as well as government leaders to do the same.

Your business is your Lincoln Memorial. You may not have the oratory skills of the great Dr. King, but sharing your own dream with just as much passion and vision can help you inspire others. With passion, you can inspire those around you to get on board with your dream and understand exactly what it is that you want to achieve.

2. Refuse to be satisfied

Refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.

Dr. King placed it upon himself to never accept anything less than total racial equality in his pursuit of civil rights. He continued to work diligently undeterred by the threats, arrests, and cursory negotiations of the state. While Dr. King continued to make small steps towards his dream, he would not stop until his goals were fulfilled.

While we’d hope that your business goals are unlikely to be met with threats and persecution – it’s important that you continue to aim toward your ultimate business goals, and not settle for less if things get too tough. By sticking to your strengths and determining the metrics of success, you too will make steps toward your dream.

3. Practice radical transparency

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

Dr. King may possibly be one of the most transparent figures in the history of American politics. He wasn’t afraid to be up front with his followers – consistently reminding them that their struggle was far from over. Using open, honest dialogue, Dr. King led the way to turning the tables on civil rights.

Be candid with your customers about the capabilities and limitations of your product or service – they will appreciate honesty and be less likely to jump ship if they’re kept aware of issues.

4. Strong partnerships lead to success

We must learn to live together as brothers or we will perish together as fools.

While spearheading the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King formed partnerships with influential citizens as well as local and national leaders. He was excellent at building mutually beneficial alliances with leaders who shared his vision.

Cooperation is an essential skill in today’s market. Look in your industry and your community for opportunities to similarly form strong alliances. They can help you grow your business, provide feedback, and create a sense of camaraderie as you walk your path as an entrepreneur.

5. Have total commitment

If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.

Even when we’re crawling, Dr. King taught us to keep moving forward to reach our goals. This was a man whose dreams were far bigger than the times in which he lived – dreams that were unpopular and put his life in danger. Though he was tragically assassinated in 1968, he died pursuing his dream and, despite everything he faced, never gave up on it.

What level of dedication and intensity are you bringing to your company? As an entrepreneur, the work involved in growing a business demands a new level grit and persistence. However you choose to reach your business goals, make sure you keep moving forward.

These are just a handful of the lessons offered to us by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Do you have a favorite lesson from Dr. King? Share it with us in the comments.

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