How Lee Beaman Teaches Us Philanthropy and Business Go Together

Photo by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash

People have long ago learned to be wary of successful businessmen, as they have decided that every single move they make is designed to make them a huge profit. Is this really the case? Are all the philanthropic actions taken by certain businessmen only a marketing stunt created to make a particular person appealing to the public eye? If so, then is there really a way that philanthropy and business can ever go together?

The example of Lee Beaman, with his successful business and his contribution to the Nashville community, might be able to teach us differently. You will probably have two types of reactions whenever this name is mentioned. In other words, some people like Lee Beaman and everything that he represents, while others aren’t big fans. The “not-so-big-fans” usually hold one thing against him. “He’s in it for the money,” they will say, no matter what the “it” represents.

Power Makes a Difference

Guess what, people. When business is in question, everyone is in “it” for the money. You cannot be a successful entrepreneur if you don’t ensure that the decisions you make are good for your business. Does that automatically mean, though, that those decisions are bad for the community? Can these two interests ever intertwine—the money-making interests of a businessman and the well-being interests of a community? Isn’t it possible for a person to be successful at what he or she does without being labeled as someone who has only their own interests at heart?

Here’s another reality check: we all have our own interests at heart. No matter who you are, no matter what you do, you’ll always want to make sure that you are doing well before anyone else. Once you have gained a certain level of comfort in your life, regardless of what that level comprises in your own world and your own reality, you might start giving back to the community and thinking about other people’s interests as well.

That’s exactly where successful businessmen come into play. Unlike common citizens, they hold the power to really make a change, or act against changes that aren’t good for the community they live in. The beauty of being successful lies precisely in that ability to influence things in the place you love and try to act on behalf of the people you love. Add politics to this mix and you just might be able to make a real difference and finally bring philanthropy and business together without people smirking and giving you condescending looks just because you are successful.

Whether you like it or not, there’s one thing you need to admit: power is what makes a difference in the world and the people holding that power are the ones who choose our paths and influence our lives. You cannot expect those people to be saints, but you sure want to expect them to have a moral compass which will make them think about others and not only about themselves. That’s what philanthropy is all about, and one thing that we can learn from Lee Beaman is that power, business, and philanthropy can all go together, just as long as the person holding the power cares about other people as well.

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The Life of Lee Beaman

Let us use the Nashville businessman and philanthropist, Lee Beaman, to finally understand the connection between doing good for oneself and doing good for others. Before we go any further, though, and try to draw logical conclusions from the actions of this man, we need to do some digging about the life of this highly-influential person. It’s time to see exactly how Lee Beaman came to be the Lee Beaman that we know today.

With that in mind, you should take a look at this quick overview of his life:

It appears that Lee Beaman has business in his blood. His late father, Alvin Beaman, came to Nashville from Knoxville following an opportunity to start a distribution franchise of the drink that we have definitely all heard about, called 7 Up. When his brother-in-law and his co-investors offered Beaman this opportunity, they probably couldn’t even have dreamed about what was going to happen next.

Who would have expected that the person they were giving the chance to run their franchise in Nashville would eventually buy them all out and become one of the leading businessmen in the town? Yet, that’s exactly what happened. His cooperation with Pepsi only further accelerated his career. Before you knew it, Alvin Beaman became a founding investor in the CBS-affiliated television station in Nashville.

Why is this all important, though, for our story? Well, in order to really understand the philanthropic values that Lee Beaman holds, you will need to understand the environment he grew up in. Most often, we are all the products of our childhood and this might be a confirmation of that rule. The son of this successful entrepreneur could have gone in any different direction, but he chose to follow in his father’s footsteps instead.

That’s how a successful father shaped an even more successful son and influenced his future long after he passed away. Lee Beaman is still sentimental when speaking about his father and, as he said in an interview, in his eyes his father was “as fine a man as he had ever known”. As you can see, his father significantly influenced his career, but there is one significant difference between these two that is definitely worth mentioning.

While Alvin grew up during the Depression and he was very cautious about the moves he made because, well, his whole existence depended on those moves, Lee had never had to worry about where his next meal would come from. This gave him an opportunity to openly and without any hesitations stand up for the things he believes in. As it usually goes, the student eventually becomes better than the master and children turn out to be more successful than their parents. That’s exactly what happened to Lee Beaman, who wasn’t afraid to take risks and fight for the things he holds dear to his heart.

The Present

Today, he is the chairman of the board of directors, as well as a CEO of the car dealerships network in Nashville known as Beaman Automotive Group. This company made it on the list of the largest private companies in Nashville and Beaman was recognized as one of the most powerful people in the capital of Tennessee. If you ask the citizens about him, they might say a lot of things, but there is no doubt that they will all agree on one thing: he’s among the richest people in Nashville and he is using his money and his influence to fight for what he believes in.

Among other things that prove his influence and his power in a heartbeat, Beaman was named the Newsmaker of The Year in 2014 by the Nashville Business Journal, as you can read on this page. Unlike his father, he never hesitated to use that power to endorse the things he believed in. That brings us to our point of connecting business and philanthropy in a couple of different ways. Let’s check out a few of the things that Lee Beaman supported and which showed the philanthropic side of his character.

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The Library

Among other things, Beaman donated $10 million to the Lipscomb University, which was used to construct a library that was then named after this businessman. Investing in a library means investing in the education and the future of the next generations, which says a lot about the principles the person donating the money stands behind. Were it not for his successful business, Lee would never have been able to donate that kind of money to the construction of a library. In other words, business and philanthropy were carefully and perfectly mixed together in this case.

Student Life Center

When it comes to the next generations and the students that are taught to become the future leaders and future successful individuals, Beaman didn’t stop with the library. Belmont University received $9 million from him and directed it towards the construction of the Student Life Center. As the name says it, this place offers everything that you would need as a student at Belmont. I’m talking places to study, offices, meeting rooms, but also a convenience store and a large amount of recreational facilities. As a philanthropist, Beaman must have known that students need to rest and play hard after working hard, which is why he used his money to create a place where Belmont students can do it all.

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

It appears that this businessman is primarily concerned about our future generations. You could have seen that in the above two examples of his good deeds, and you can also see it whenever you visit the St. Thomas Midtown Hospital in Nashville. Lee and his family donated around $5 million to the construction of a new neonatal intensive care unit, which was then conveniently named after the lead donor. Not many things are as noble as taking care of newborn babies and their mothers who need help. This donation allowed the hospital to make sure that all the mothers and their babies are perfectly taken care of by increasing the number of staff focused on high-risk deliveries and, of course, by furnishing the place with high-end equipment.

Amp Project

How could we ever even speak of Lee Beaman without mentioning his political presence in Nashville and the influence he has over certain decisions? The story about the Amp project is definitely seen as philanthropic by some people, while being not so accepted by others. Be that as it may, it definitely shows the impact that great businessmen can have on politicians and that they aren’t afraid to use that influence when they feel that their cause is right. Here’s how the story goes.

In 2013, the Nashville Mayor Karl Dean had an interesting idea that he wanted to turn into reality. It wasn’t so well accepted by the general public, although it cannot be said that nobody actually liked the idea. In fact, a few Tennessee businesses endorsed and supported the project. The idea was to use the center lane of one of the busiest routes in the city only and exclusively for buses. The mere talk about this project split the community in two—the pro-Amp and the anti-Amp groups.

Despite everything, the plan was widely unpopular and people could do nothing meaningful about it. The project known as Amp is still talked about today, years after it has been defeated. What happened back then and what role did Beaman play in it? The answer is rather simple—he endorsed and funded the StopAmp campaign, which ultimately led to the whole project being shut down.

Once again, Lee used his power, his influence, and his money for that matter, to stand up for something that he believed in. Or, better yet, he used that power, influence, and money to stand up for what a large number of people believed in. He helped make their voice heard by the whole public and ultimately by the Mayor himself. You would think that going against the Mayor is not a good idea for a businessman, but that’s exactly what I have been trying to say all along. When the cause is greater than personal interests, Lea Beaman isn’t afraid to take the side of that specific cause and disregard his personal interests for a while.

This whole stunt and the Amp project story are exactly what led to him being named the Newsmaker of The Year, as I have previously mentioned. Along with certain other activities the man has engaged in, the ones I have mentioned give us hope that it’s not all about the money. Entrepreneurs like Beaman give us hope that philanthropy and business can go together and that all the power can be used or good purposes, unlike what people are used to thinking.


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