Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Who really built the business?

President Obama's critics had a field day when he made a speech a couple of weeks ago with the admittedly ill-timed remark "You didn't build that."  Of course, he was specifically referring to infrastructure such as roads, sewer and water systems and bridges for which government maintained responsibility, but it sounded as though he was specifically referring to businesses.

But his ultimate point was correct -- in more ways than he knew.

A lot of business owners complained that the president was pooh-poohing their hard work with that clause, although if you heard the entire speech in context you would realize that he was doing nothing of the kind.  Rather, he was criticizing the sense of entitlement and freedom from responsibility that they seemed to embody.

The big issue, however, is that those who run businesses do not operate in a vacuum.

Say if you always wanted to own your own business, you put a plan into place and ultimately become successful.  Nothing wrong with that -- but here's where you do owe more to people than you may realize.

First, you had to get the education from somewhere, either in college (which someone had to pay for) or through direct mentoring, so someone had to show you the ropes.  Then, you needed to get capital for financing, mostly likely through a bank but also perhaps through some program, whether private or public.  Then, you had to deal with suppliers.

And -- more importantly -- you had to build a customer base, for without customers all your hard work would go for naught. (I'm probably missing some steps here, but you get my drift.)

Also, if you're a Christian you have to understand that God ultimately gave you these things and that your business, but not just that, exists ultimately to glorify Him.  He requires you to treat your customers and clients with equity and justice, giving them good value for what they're paying and give your employees a fair wage or salary.

One of the major dysfunctions in our economic culture is that too often we focus exclusively on the bottom line and cutting costs, forgetting that our "investments," whether in taxes or people, represent the lifeblood of our economy.  I sometimes think of Jesus' parable of the talents, his point being that we are but stewards of God's created order, and if we simply hold on to what we have because we're afraid of losing it, down we'll do so anyway.

Basically, being in business is not simply about making money, although that's certainly necessary.  Rather, it's part of a social contract for which we all need to take responsibility.


Mark said...

Your Comments on the Christian in Business are spot on target; so I will address my comments to the President Himself. "Yes, We did build that". I'll startoff with my "5 NOs". No Pioneers, No Government ; No Income , No Income Tax, No Government Spending. Yes, Mr. President we did build that.. Internet development; roads and infrastructure ; even the Gargantuan Welfare, and Entitlement System . It would not exist without Business and Individual Taxes paid in. With 4 Trillion dollars in new debt not attributable to previous Congresses or Presidents ; even my children built that. You Mr. President did not build that. in short , you can do nothing without us, either voluntary or by force.People on dirt roads PAY to build the roads infront of their houses , Then the State maintains them. Bootstrappers in business take nothing from the government. and Yes, Mr. President, we heard so say ' Because , I worked so hard," quoting and targeting the Businessman. We known this logic is backwards; we have stopped listening to fixed polls, and will start thinking for ourselves.

jim jones said...

(Rick ...Basically, being in business is not simply about making money, although that's certainly necessary. Rather, it's part of a social contract for which we all need to take responsibility.)

Right you are, Rick. In truth, the business that we so desperately clink to, in realty belongs to our loving God, we are just His humble managers. When we first began 9 year ago, I was excited when contemplating falsely that I had no earthly boss to report to. Over the years I have discovered that every one of our clients are who I report to. In more recent times, I am acutely aware that God is holding me accountable to each of the employees He graciously sent our way. When first employed with us, they need training to succeed and ultimately depend on my ability to find clients to sustain them. My focus in our business has shifted from being selfish and seeking my goals, to being more concerned with my staff and their needs and finally to doing my utmost to insure our clients are receiving good value for their hard earn money. God supplies our needs all along the way.