One thing I wish more people would do is to run a small business at lest once in their lives. Not just a hobby that makes a little bit of money, but a real business that brings in a few thousand dollars every month.
People these days don’t understand business, so they look down on it, and vilify it. They imagine that the corporations are all bad guys out to rule the world, controlled by vicious, greedy monsters of human beings who care only about making profit. This simply isn’t true, but it is easy to be afraid of what you don’t understand.
A real business is created as an act of service. It comes about when an entrepreneur sees something that his community, his loved ones, or people in general need. He starts the business to give them that thing. Businesses that do not come from a desire to serve other people don’t succeed.
Wise entrepreneurs star businesses that already take advantage of their strengths, so that they are using their natural gifts in a way that helps others,
Making money makes sure that you can serve people well. The entrepreneur has to run the business in a way that makes a little money so that he and his family won’t go hungry while he gives people that service., and so that he will have a little extra to make the business bigger and better, so he can serve more people, and do a better job of it, and he makes sure it makes a little profit besides that so that f someone else wants to help out with a loan or donation, they will know that they will get their money back plus a little more. And of course, he needs money to make sure his own life outside the business is happy and fulfilling.
Business is highly creative, especially in the early days. After all, the person who created the business had to see a problem, and either invent a tool to help other people solve the problem, find a way to make money solving it for other people and yet still make it affordable enough that people are willing to buy it, or they need to look at someone else’s service and come up with a smarter more affordable way to provide that service.
Business is a respectful way to help your community. An honest businessperson doesn’t wait for other people to solve a problem, and it doesn’t use the government to bully other people into solving a problem that they want to see solved. They go out and they create a good or a service that solves it, and give other people the choice as to whether they want your help, and if so, how much it is worth to them. Businesses that do something people don’t want don’t make any money and disappear.
Over time as a business grows, one entrepreneur is often not enough to meet the demands of the customer. When that happens, the entrepreneur needs to hire more people to run that business. He hires more people, creating jobs that give honest work to other people in his community. That can be an incredible help.
Corporations are businesses that have created a popular service that so many people want that they had to grow and expand into something that hires hundreds of people. They need factories of their own, accountants, secretaries, lawyers, and more on hand because they serve so many people.
Unfortunately, corporations often get so big and so full of people who are just there to have a job and don’t care about being of service the way the founder of the company does that they can lose sight of the idea that they are servants. When their leaders get that way, because the original entrepreneur retires or sells off the business, then corporations can become obsessed only with making money for the people who have invested in it. And when that happens, yes, the corporation really can become corrupt and manipulative.
It certainly doesn’t help that in the 1980s and 1990s we created new kinds of companies that didn’t need to provide services to succeed, only to buy and sell bonds, or provide services that governments tell people they have to buy, but that no one really wants. Only a particularly shady person wants to start a business selling something that other people have no choice but to buy from them.
And no human being is perfect, either. Sometimes people with poor character can become successful businesspeople, and as they make more money, they might use that to serve their own personal agenda. But it is not the business that made that person bad, they were a bad person, and as their business grew they had more money to bad deeds with. In fact, the service that their business provides may be one of the best and kindest things they have ever done.
It is easy for someone who has only ever worked for a government, only been a student, or only worked for a big company to look at the examples of old, corrupt corporations, or bad people who got rich in business and they used their power over their employees or their money to indulge their worst impulses, and conclude that all business and business people are bad.
When you think business is bad, then it is also easy to want to punish businesspeople with excessive tax, bullying laws, angry protests, or vandalism. It is easy to think of a system that supports business as being corrupt, too, and want to even change to a system that robs businesspeople of their property and money, but this is just as selfish, forceful, and dishonest as the “evil corporations” the person is protesting – and ignorant, too.
Running a business can let you really understand what a business takes. It can teach you that you need to have a servant mentality to be successful. It teaches you how important freedom to associate, trade, and create really is. It teaches you how to be compassionate and assertive at the same time. I find that businesspeople are more likely than most to have a sense of respect for the personal choices of others. And small businesspeople, the kind running the one-man operations, mom-and-pop shops, restaurants, and consultant businesses in particular are motivated to succeed on their own: they can’t afford to play the victim.
We also seem to forget that every musician, every artist, every writer, poet, and journalist is a small business owner. Their creations are the service they are offering to the world- they sell the beauty of their minds.
I don’t expect you to become an entrepreneur, or to take over my business as I grow old. You are your own man. Nor will I tell you that I think that you should go into business. But I do want you to know that running business has valuable lessons to teach you. And if there is a change you want to make in the world, it may be the best way to make it happen.