UD Students and Alumni Discuss Social Entrepreneurship and Responsibility

UD Students and Alumni Discuss Social Entrepreneurship and Responsibility

Although many business leaders focus solely on the bottom line, those who understand and embrace the social implications of starting and growing an ethical company often have the greatest impact on their communities while still creating jobs and realizing profits. A group of local entrepreneurs with ties to the University of Dallas participated in an Entrepreneurship and Social Responsibility panel event on October 6 to discuss these issues. The event was co-sponsored by the Entrepreneurship Society and Market Share Marketing Club and moderated by Dr. Laura Munoz.

Rachel Sullivan, President UD Entrepreneurship Society   Photo by Anthony Garnier
Rachel Sullivan, President UD Entrepreneurship Society
Photo by Anthony Garnier

In making the connection between business and social responsibility, Michael Hasson (Politics ‘08), a digital campaign strategist and executive at Red Metrics LLC, said that entrepreneurs have responsibilities to various constituent groups. “First, you owe your funders integrity and responsibility,” he said. “You also owe your customers your focus, you owe your employees your loyalty, and you owe society the value of creating jobs.”

Simone Meskelis, a student in UD’s Doctor of Business Administration program and Regional Sales Analyst at Essilor, shared a personal story from her native Brazil about the important role entrepreneurs play in the community. “My father traveled the country trying to find a city where he could start a business,” she said. “And our entire family lived and breathed that business. But in 1995 when the Brazilian economy collapsed and he lost his job, his biggest concern was having to let 50 people go. Those 50 families depended on my father’s business.”

(L to R) Michael Hasson, Simone Meskelis, Kyle Callahan Photo by Anthony Garnier
(L to R) Michael Hasson, Simone Meskelis, Kyle Callahan
Photo by Anthony Garnier

Kyle Callahan (Economics ‘10), Client Success Executive for Care Continuity, pointed out the challenging relationship between social responsibility and business profitability. “In our business, 30% of our clients are complex cases because they don’t have health insurance,” he said. “And our caseworkers sometimes spend a disproportionate amount of time coordinating their care. But they still need our help.”

Beyond the mechanics of business itself, the panelists also discussed how companies can publicly demonstrate a commitment to social responsibility. “Spending all day with your employees doing something like building a house–think about the lessons that can teach,” Hassan said. “And it can make a real difference in the company as well. You want employees to grow and you hope that they eventually outgrow you.”

Photo by Anthony Garnier
Photo by Anthony Garnier

Meskelis explained that increasing employee engagement can result in a win-win for both the company and the employee. “When employees receive meaning from what they do, it helps them connect their work to making the world a better place,” she said. “Work becomes more than just a paycheck.”

Callahan added that simply treating everyone well and with respect also makes employees feel connected to the company. “Understanding things like family emergencies is important,” he said.

The panel also discussed how a company might market or promote their commitment to social responsibility. “Unfortunately, hacks take what sounds best at the moment,” said Hassan. “But obligations to society have been around forever. Trying to just look social responsible doesn’t work.”

Meskelis agreed. “Social media is every liar’s worst nightmare,” she said. “If you’re not going to do the right thing in your core business, it will come out sooner or later. It doesn’t matter what foundation you serve or which cause you support.”

The University of Dallas Executives on Campus program was founded to further the University’s mission of providing practice-based education, by inviting successful business leaders to share their experience with graduate and undergraduate students in the classroom. Through this program, alumni, business leaders, and their companies are invited to partner with the University in our shared pursuit of management excellence. For more information click here.

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