How To Build a Purpose-Driven Business That Serves You

Ramon’s Humble Beginnings | Enduring Challenges | What is Building a Business About? | Key Resources | How To Earn the Right To Charge a Premium In Your Business

Starting a business is hard work, and not many entrepreneurs would argue that point. So, if you’re going to start a business, why not build one that serves you — and not just the customer?

In an interview with New York Public Library’s Entrepreneur in Residence, Helena Escalante, Ramon Ray breaks down this concept. For anyone working on starting or growing a business, getting this point straight will help you establish a mindset for success.

Humble Beginnings – From a UN Office to Being a Serial Entrepreneur

Ramon Ray is a five-time serial entrepreneur who has launched and sold multiple businesses. He’s a motivational speaker and event host who describes himself as “unapologetically positive.” Yet he had every reason to be negative early on in his career.

Ray worked for the United Nations out of high school. “I happened to work for an office that had some challenges and issues,” he says. Bottom line? “I was fired.”

An entrepreneur at heart, Ray had gone through the proper channels to request permission to start a business while working at the UN. Meanwhile, a jealous staff member was making his life miserable. Things escalated to the point where that permission got revoked, and Ray’s contract wasn’t renewed.

On Enduring Challenges

As is often the case for entrepreneurs who face adversity, Ray persevered. Following his experience at the UN, Ramon went on to start several successful businesses. He now speaks in front of audiences around the world. He hosts large events and works with some of the biggest tech brands.

His secret to success is one that many entrepreneurs overlook. “Here’s the tough love. I think one of the biggest challenges I see with the small businesses is they’re starting their business, but they don’t know what they’re doing,” says Ray. 

Meanwhile, they’re not taking advantage of the free and low-cost resources available to them — things that can help them wrap their head around balance sheets, profit and loss, pricing, customers, and more. 

Escalante, for one, notes that the New York Public Library’s Business Center is a wealth of small-business information:

  1. NYPL offers a business plan competition with a chance to win cash prizes. This is a great incentive to create a business plan; check for local opportunities to do the same.
  2. NYPL librarians are eager to sit down with entrepreneurs one-on-one and share the information that is available for your type of business. This includes video consultations as well as on-site resources.
  3. You can access this fantastic service if you live abroad or anywhere in the country.

What is Building a Business About? Hustle? Or Not??

Much of the advice about starting a business revolves around the 24/7, 365 hustle. Ray thinks there’s a better way, and as a married man with grown children, he’s proof that it works.

Everybody needs to make money to survive in business. “But the point we’re trying to drive home today is your entire business experience should not be the hard work, the hard work, the hard work, the hustle, the hustle,” says Ray. “That’s not what business is about. It’s about building the business, so the business serves you.”

Sure, there’s a bit of hustle and grind to building a business right. But that period should not last forever. It’s about building a purpose-driven business and being intentional about how you do it. 

In addition to the free resources available at NYPL and elsewhere, there are many excellent books available on entrepreneurship, leadership, and living life fulfilled. Here are some that Ray recommends: 

  • Turning the Flywheel by Jim Collins. How does your business work? Nike is a great example of a simple concept: Engineer a very expensive shoe, and work with athletes to get the word out about it. The price drops, and we do it again. What is your flywheel?
  • Profit First by Mike Michalowicz. “Read it, put it aside, and read it two or three more times, because it’s a lot to digest,” says Ray.
  • The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. This is a bestseller that dispels common myths about starting a business.
  • This Is Marketing by Seth Godin. Learn the tactics of business success, including pricing your product in a way that best serves you and your life.
  • The Celebrity CEO by Ramon Ray. Enough said.

>>> Check out Ramon’s recommended list of books for small business owners here.

How To Earn the Right To Charge a Premium in Your Business

Building a purpose-driven business is what earns you the right to charge a premium, says Ray. And even if you’re a solo graphic designer or a micro-business, there are ways to create demand for your service or product at a higher price point. Here’s how: 

  1. Innovate. You’re not a graphic designer, you’re a “visual identity curator.” You create the narrative about who you are. 
  2. Network harder and differently. Yes, there’s some hustle here.
  3. Change the script. For instance, Ray made up the Survive and Thrive Summit when COVID-19 hit.
  4. Create an irresistible offer. “Stop being cheap and find ways to sell premium,” Ray says.

If you can do all that, you can build the business you want to live life fulfilled on your terms. 

To find out more about building a purpose-driven business, developing leadership skills, and living life fulfilled, go to

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