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Company Giving to Entrepreneurship Receives Community-Wide Recognition

Joan Carter, President, Right Management Consultants Inc.
Stephen Carter, CEO/Regional managing principal, Right Management Consultants Inc.

"We have received lots of honors and had some wonderful achievements," says Joan Strewler-Carter, president of Right Management Consultants Inc.'s Heartland Region in Overland Park, Kan. "But being recognized by the Council on Philanthropy as Business Philanthropist of the Year, is the most meaningful because this is where our heart is."

The Council on Philanthropy is a 1,000 member association of nonprofit professionals, volunteers and funders in Greater Kansas City. Every year since 1985, the Council has honored individuals and businesses for their roles in philanthropy at an event that draws more than 1,200 guests. Of the more than 60 honorees the Council has so recognized, the Carters are the first whose generosity falls primarily in the category of entrepreneurship.

"When people think about opportunities for giving back, they tend to focus on traditional areas, such as health care, education, arts and social services," said Michelle Davis, executive director of the Council. "Obviously, these are critical, but we also believe it's important to recognize what individuals and companies are doing to help the next generation of entrepreneurs. After all, they're the ones we will look to build the wealth that supports our hospitals, schools, museums and agencies."

The Carters' firm, Right Management Consultants, provides corporate outplacement services, organizational consulting and executive management training. Steve, CEO/regional managing principal, bought the Heartland Region franchise in 1990 after 20 years in human resources with Hallmark Cards. Joan manages operations and organizational consulting. Prior to their marriage in 1999, she ran and sold three businesses.

Employees Embrace Junior Achievement

Steve traces his interest in giving to entrepreneurship to a conversation some ten years ago with a new executive in his company who had been active in Junior Achievement (JA) on the East Coast. Since then, giving and volunteering for Junior Achievement of Middle America – which provides economic and entrepreneurial education to more than 40,000 elementary, middle and high school students throughout Greater Kansas City – has been a Right Management tradition.

Steve joined the JA board in 1994 and has served as chair and national liaison. Both Steve and Joan volunteer as classroom instructors, as do nearly two thirds of their 60-plus full-time employees. Typically, this involves each volunteer teaching five weekly 50-minute classes in the spring and/or fall.

"Junior Achievement trains volunteers and has a wonderful curriculum," says Steve, who specializes in teaching world economics to sixth graders. Right Management Consultants has an especially close relationship with an "adopted" elementary school where, in addition to teaching the JA curriculum, the company covers the approximately $10,000 a year cost to deliver the program in that school.

"There are nearly 400 firms in Greater Kansas City that support employee volunteerism for Junior Achievement, including many of the largest employers in our community," says Matthew J. Dillane Jr., former JA board president. "Despite its smaller size, Right Management is one of the top five firms to volunteer for our organization."

Examples and Incentives

How do the Carters motivate their employees to give so much?

"Culture really starts at the top of the house," says Steve. "We participate in United Way and make other cash donations, and our employees are involved in that. But I believe giving of one's time is the most cherished of all gifts and that corporations need to do more than just say they're good citizens. They need to demonstrate it."

In addition to encouraging staff to volunteer by their own example, Right employees receive paid time off and bonus vacation days for their efforts. The return seems obvious to the Carters.

"Sometimes people will say they don’t want staff leaving during office hours," says Steve. "The fascinating thing is that when people leave during office hours to get involved as good citizens, they come back more productive than ever."

In a general sense, the Carters give back to entrepreneurship and provide incentives for their employees to do likewise because they see entrepreneurship as the root of American success and security. As Joan put it, "An economy that’s ticking can take care of all the people. It can give back."

Beyond that, with their own core business focused on career transition and corporate-sponsored outplacement, the Carters frequently encounter clients interested in starting businesses. In addition to coaching and counseling, Right offers FastTrac, a Kauffman Foundation program that provides practical, hands-on training to help entrepreneurs hone the skills needed to create, manage and grow a successful business. Since 2001, Steve estimates his company has graduated more than 800 people from the program, with more than 400 companies developing as a result.

Count Them In

The Greater Kansas City business community knows that when it comes to promoting entrepreneurship, it can call on the Carters for help. When the Enterprise Center of Johnson County wanted to start the Kansas Women's Business Center (KWBC) in January 2000, Sandy Licata called her friend Joan. Joan said, "Count me in," bringing Steve and Right Management along with her.

In addition to financial giving, the Carters have served as mentors in KWBC's AthenaPower Link program, hosted fundraisers in their home, connected the center to resources in the community, served on development and advisory committees, and involved their employees in pro bono consulting on strategic planning, customer surveys and staff development.

"Today, KWBC is serving more than 1,500 business women with comprehensive programming," says Licata, KWBC co-founder and director. "Right Management and the Carters can take a full measure of credit for our success and, more importantly, for the success of our clients as they generate wealth, create jobs and strengthen our economy."

The Carters also donate funds and share their time as mentors and advisors to other groups whose missions strengthen entrepreneurship:

  • The Central Exchange – The Central Exchange provides programming to develop leadership skills, foster professional and personal development and encourage community involvement.
  • CORO Kansas City – CORO provides internships in business, government, labor, nonprofit and media to develop future community leaders.
  • Students in Free Enterprise – SIFE is a global nonprofit organization that offers student teams on more than 1,800 university campuses in more than 40 countries the opportunity to practice and learn the principles of free enterprise.
  • Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program - HEMP matches successful entrepreneur mentors with less-experienced entrepreneur mentees and provide

Looking to the future, the Carters have also taken steps to perpetuate their philanthropic values by donating 10 percent of their company to the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and creating several funds that will one day be advised by their children. An experienced pilot, Steve has flown more than 150 life-saving medical missions for Angel Flight Central and other nonprofit agencies.

"At the end of the day," he says, "the measure of success is not going to be an entrepreneur who has the largest bank account. It’s the individual who's able to look back and say, 'We were able to make a difference. We were able to impact lives.'"

© 2006 Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. All rights reserved.

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