Martin Luther King Jr. was many things, including:
- A renowned orator
- A civil rights activist
- A Nobel laureate
However, he was not an entrepreneur.
Yet, his life example offers many inspiring lessons that can be applied to the business world. After all, successful entrepreneurs are those who use limited resources to solve problems and overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
This is precisely what Dr. King did throughout his incredible life.
If you’re trying to launch or grow your business, what kinds of lessons can you draw from Dr. King?
1. Dream Big
Human nature is tricky:
- If you scan for reasons why something won’t work, you’ll find them.
- If you scan for reasons why something will work, you’ll find those as well.
Having a clearly defined mission forces you to focus more on solutions and less on obstacles. This is true even when your goal is seemingly unrealistic — like fighting to end decades of legalized segregation.
Dr. King even codified this mission in his “I Have a Dream” speech — which is the epitome of big and lofty thinking.
The benefits of goal-setting are equally relevant when trying to launch an untested idea in today’s competitive marketplace.
2. Reject the Status Quo
Freethinkers and entrepreneurs are both driven by a desire to improve the world. They realize the status quo isn’t working. Fixing this often requires going against conventional wisdom, so don’t be afraid to take chances.
3. Build a Coalition
Many entrepreneurs start with:
- A shoestring budget
- A home office
- Zero employees
In the early days, it often feels like it’s you against the world, but take it from the “King” of grassroots activism. Even with limited resources, you’re never truly alone. Dr. King reached out to students, parents, law enforcement, politicians and religious leaders to build a diverse coalition.
You can do the same by:
- Developing strategic partnerships with others in your field
- Working with freelancers scattered around the globe
- Reaching out to community stakeholders and volunteers
4. Get Your Hands Dirty
Becoming your own boss is every entrepreneur’s dream. You get to sit back, relax and delegate.
However, if you truly want to inspire others, you should lead by example. Dr. King didn’t delegate from the sidelines. Instead, he marched hand in hand with his followers — often at great personal risk to himself.
Although delegating is an essential aspect of business (and time management), you should never ask others to do something you aren’t prepared to do yourself.
One Final Business Lesson from Dr. King
Just got rejected for a bank loan? Has a new rival muscled in on your turf? Did your IT expert simply walk off?
Setbacks like these aren’t just a part of business.
They’re a part of life.
Few understood this better than Dr. King, whose peaceful demonstrations were constantly shut down and even violently attacked.
Any one of these countless setbacks could have sidelined his progress.
Yet, Dr. King soldiered on, constantly looking for a better way. This unwavering perseverance allowed him to take a local movement to the national stage.
As you try to grow your own business, you’ll face constant setbacks as well — guaranteed. Though as long as you don’t quit, you can overcome any challenge.