I went to a Coenie de Villiers show once and somewhere along the evening, he shared with us how he frequently gets asked by young musicians for advice on how to build a successful career in the music industry. Coenie’s answer: “Go study business, because your passion and talent can only take you so far.”

I have never forgotten that and now that I am working at a Zoo (which is actually a sanctuary for unwanted pets) the question of heart vs business is a real one. The big tug is probably, “Should a Zoo be run as a business aiming to profit, or as a bleeding heart, with the core purpose of providing a much needed, affordable service to animals and the public?”

It’s as if the decision to choose between profit and welfare is a daily one. Someone brings a badly injured male Marmoset monkey in. You know the vet bill to have him treated and spayed is going to look like a telephone number, but the little guy has no-where else to go…literally… On the same day a well known charity requests a time slot in the edu-centre, but they are unable to pay even the discounted group rate. They will take the place of about 70 other paying youngsters. Staff uniform is urgently needed and Eskom is eagerly knocking on the door…after all it is them that keep the reptiles warm. Pete the parrot’s owners had no idea that cockatoos are that noisy, so he has to go…to the Zoo. In the visitor’s book someone suggests that you rent a snow-making machine for the Artic Fox, and someone else feels that the entrance fee is a little steep.

Somewhere you have to choose, prioritize, switch some lights off, say no to an intake or “Sorry, but…” to a charity. I agree with Coenie. Passion and talent will only take you so far in business. The rest is up to clever, sometimes harsh decision-making for the sake of the company. Dear reader, I hope you are a young person who would like to, one day, own an animal shelter, or a Zoo, or for that matter, any other business that will make the world a better place, as this blog is aimed at you. I won’t mind if others read it…like the previously mentioned member of the public who finds the entrance fee a little steep. Or maybe you have visited a Zoo on a busy Sunday, multiplied the vast number of visitors in the place by the entrance fee and then wondered if it’s really ethical to make so much money off the misfortune of the animals in enclosures. Whoever you are, I’d like to say to you that helping others (animals, people, the it) in a sustainable manner is an expensive business! And to spend money, you have to make money.

That brings me to Compassionate Capitalism. Cool phrase hey? It was coined by American journalist, Marc Gunther in his book: Faith and Fortune: How Compassionate Capitalism is Transforming Corporate America.

I came across it in my search to investigate good profit margins of businesses that harness environmental issues and turn it into profit. In his book Gunther tells the stories of extraordinary people who are leading the way in business by following their faith. Without exception, these people are spearheading highly successful businesses, proving that the century-old approach of elbowing your way to the top, to the detriment of the employees, suppliers and environment is, well…out dated. In a way business has softened up. Less brawn, more brain.

Empowerment and sustainable networks are trending in the world of business and so is the environment. Saving the planet has indeed become big business. Built on sound business principles, companies with the environment at heart are turning big profits. These profits can be ploughed back, enabling the company to grow and choose its own path, thus following the heart in a sustainable way.

Without the proverbial green, the future could become pretty grey. The most dangerous thing you can do is bury your head in the sand and hope your good cause will catch someone’s attention and donations will come to the rescue. It has happened for some organisations, but you are gambling with your dream if you do that. A bleeding heart will bleed your company. Smart business decisions make it possible to save animals, help charities, support the children of your staff, grow your business and increase your impact in the world.

So, young lady, or young man, you rescue animals and nurse them back to life. You speak out against animal cruelty, the exotic pet trade and are becoming someone others notice at school because of your passion. You have the talent and the drive. You are going to study wildlife when you leave school and you are going to own your own Zoo one day. Just remember… your passion will only take you so far. Make it last… take a business course and find a business mentor. Even if you have no interest in money or building an empire… do it. It will turn your dream into something much bigger than you can ever imagine! And it will ensure that you can keep changing the world and influencing people for a long, long time.

Well-known American business magazine, Forbes, came up with 9 tips for the entrepreneur. Pick three to begin with and start building.

1. Research And Understand Your Market

2. Put In The Hard Work

3. Play The Long Game

4. Really Listen To Your Clients

5. Learn With A Team

6. Focus On What Makes You Thrive

7. Mould The Life You Want For Yourself

8. Focus On the Rewards

9. Network With Experienced Execs

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