DIARY OF A MAD CEO

December 31, 2010

Hello, welcome to my blog, a.k.a., Diary of a Mad CEO.

I don’t mean “mad” in the sense of “angry”, as in I could go “postal” at any minute (and anyway, CEOs are always on the receiving end of workplace violence, if I’m not mistaken).  I refer to mad’s more benign cousin, that gentle neurosis, characterized by a more or less permanent paranoia that keeps the leader of a large organization at the top of his game, or close enough that his corporate masters don’t put the headhunter on speed dial.

If I seem more agitated than usual, maybe it’s because a mere 105 days from now my book, The Social Entrepreneur’s Handbook:  How to Start, Build and Run a Business that Improves the World, published by McGraw Hill, will be released to what Edward Gibbons, author of Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, optimistically called “a curious public”.

Another source of my anxiety could be the fact that I’ve never written a blog before, and I basically don’t know what the hell I’m doing.

Finally, there is what banks and Facebook laughingly call the “privacy” issue.

Privacy?   You do have the right century, don’t you?

Diaries used to be very secret, the ancient equivalent of the psychiatrist’s couch.   The things you confessed to them were never meant to see the light of day.   Perhaps the most famous diary in the world, that of Samuel Pepys, didn’t get published until 100 years after the author was safely dead.

Of course, I have already burned that bridge across the Rubicon, through the painfully honest recordation of the feats and follies my colleagues and I engineered in the course of building our social enterprise, FINCA International, a microfinance network currently serving over 750,000 low income entrepreneurs in 21 countries of Latin America, Africa, Eurasia and the Middle East.   Or, as one of my employees, having read an early draft of Handbook, tactfully put it:  “Don’t people usually write this kind of book after they’ve left the organization?”

A good question, and one deserving of an answer.

But first, let’s answer the more obvious question:  what prompted me to write this book in the first place?

Certainly one motive was to answer the question I get, in one form or another, from friends or people referred by friends, on a daily basis:   “How did you do it?”   These come mostly from recently graduated college students, pondering their career choices, but also with surprising frequency from mid or even late career professionals looking to “give back” or find something more satisfying to do with their lives.

But there are hundreds of thousands – maybe millions — of other answers to that question.   They are the names of the clients FINCA serves, heroic people whose stories could fill 1,000 books, only a handful of which I was able to include in The Handbook, but hopefully more of whom I can honor in this blog.   While with time their names may have been erased from my memory, their courage, determination and creativity have not.

Like a retired school teacher in Managua, Nicaragua, who set up a tutoring service to help children who needed extra help after school.

Like a machinist in Prizren, Kosovo, who rebuilds power tools, better than new, who was accused by the Serbs during the invasion of using his skills to help the Albanian rebels, and threatened with death every day until the NATO troops liberated the country.

Like a Uganda woman who, starting with a small tea shop in a marketplace in Kampala, gradually built up a thriving restaurant, with which she supports her own family plus a half dozen AIDS orphans.

Like a woman from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, who had her home and business wiped out by Hurricane Mitch, and who began selling fruits and vegetables on the street the day after the flood waters receded.

Other inspiring client stories – over 20 in all, from each of the countries we work in — can be found on FINCA’s website at finca.org.

Listen, I’m supposed to be on Christmas break, so going to do some family things now.  Catch up with you tomorrow, or maybe the day after.

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