Almost 10 years ago Marnie and I started Evolve Systems. It has been a hard path, but one very familiar to every entrepreneur. Long days, much longer nights, and the joys and pains of seeing a concept take shape, then take form, and then take flight. It is as exhilarating as it is terrifying.
When we opened our doors we made a decision that this company was not going to be just about “us.” It was going to be about Us, All of Us – the community – the culture and the concept of doing more than just being another company here in Minnesota. It was important to Marnie and I that we not just give back “someday” but from day one. We knew in our souls that this was not just the right thing to do, it was the only way we would do it.
A start-up is a hard thing to do and requires a near manic devotion to the concept of creation and nurturing. This same focus gave Evolve Systems a way to be better than just sales numbers and quarterly goals. It gave the company a compass by which we could chart our course and measure our success in terms of impact not profits.
The concept was quite simple: Donate 5% of corporate profits via cash or in-kind services to local non-profits and 8 hours of community service per quarter. What this means is that we close our doors once a quarter and go out into the community and perform random acts of kindness. The concept of staying local was important to us. We did not want to do volunteer work for the “National This”, or the “International That” – large companies in our community can take on those roles far better than we.
What we did was found hyper local non-profits where our volunteer service would be felt and be most impactful. We worked with the Community Emergency Assistance Program (CEAP) and raked leaves for their elderly clients. We helped the Alexandra House organize their storage. We worked with the Ramsey County School Safety Patrol Foundation during their annual fundraiser. Hyper local, highly impactful. Since 2003 we have logged over 5000 hours of work with local charities.
Those hours started with the first event, raking leaves for the elderly. That cold October day in 2003 was eye-opening for more reasons than just the bluster of a late fall day in Minnesota. It brought us out into the community were we could make a difference. We had been open at that time for just 6 weeks. Taking a full day off of trying to make money so that we could volunteer was humbling. I still had to make payroll. I still had to meet my other obligations.
I can tell you, nearly 10 years later, it was and is worth it. It is not just about doing business; it is about leaving a legacy. I cannot remember what code I worked on last year, or some of the systems I built 5 years ago, but I still remember clearly the day I fixed a bird bath for a woman whose husband had died years earlier and she did not have the strength to lift the heavy bowl back into place. She looked at the simple act we performed, righting a bird bath that had tipped over, and told us that the last time she saw it like that was when her husband had made it so. It touched me deeply in ways that a paycheck or a promotion never will.
Every day we choose how we will impact those around us. We can nurture the spirit of volunteer service above self, or we can simply serve that same self. It is up to us to set that path. Evolve Systems has chosen to be more than about the bottom line. It is not an easy path, but it is the only one we will ever take.
Would you like to know more about our random act of kindness? Perhaps you’d like to join us for our next event – we’d love that! Visit the link shown above to find out more.