Premise No. 3: Business is a mechanism for social change—for good and ill. If you build a great enterprise, it will have an impact—on its people, on its customers, on the communities it touches. The question is: will that impact be positive? How will the world be better off, beyond wealth creation?
You know the old fable about the goose who laid the golden egg, his owner thinking the product beautiful took them to market day after day and became wealthy. He was thinking that he could fast-forward his enterprise, he cut the goose open hoping to find a bounty of gold where he could build an empire. Sadly he discovered no golden eggs, yet he killed his economic engine in the process. The bird and the eggs were no more! The little proverb is indeed powerful because it teaches us some true principles.
I love profitable enterprise because as such they change people, communities and nations; look at America during the nineteenth and twentieth century, and look at China today. Seldom could anyone argue how much free capital economies have radically changed these nations. So what about the social aspects of free enterprise? Many have awakened to the reinvestment of profit back into our culture. Look at the Tom’s Shoes business model; for every pair of shoes the company sells, it distributes a pair to a child around the world who has a dire need. Such ethos in action is beginning to be modeled by thousands of burgeoning businesses; call it ethical capitalism, social entrepreneurism but it is waving across the globe.
Some small business people are conflicted by such action; they are trying to be profitable; after all it takes years for a business to be on a solid foundation. Others believe that to labor and be destitute is the only way to be spiritual, and that being poor is noble. Their thought is that you can only help others when you are destitute; this is a fallacious philosophy. To adopt such a model is functionally equivalent to killing the goose! When your business is profitable and flourishing, you are in the strongest position to help those in need. It is healthy and balanced to remember your whole context. Remember the services and goods you are providing; if you are bringing value, jobs, high quality service, then you are bringing ethical good to your community. When you create jobs, economy, tax revenue, then these should be viewed as bringing quality investment and ethical responsibility to the world. When you create strong profits, you create the stable platform that you need to help others around the world.
How is your philosophy about such matters? Do you need to change your thinking about all of the value in making a profit? Do you struggle with guilt over making a profit? If you do then you have the wrong view of money. Do you want to give everything away? If so, remember, don’t kill the goose. What is your view about the value to investing around the world to advance spiritual or social good?