I’ve had a hard time figuring out how to find my way into this blog, but I want to write about business. I’m still in my own business now, small, but my own. I can really work when I want, charge what I want, have coffee when I want, all within what limits the market will bear.
Not a bad thing.
I had some of that when I owned Silver Hammer Construction, but with having employees and a payroll, several jobs going on at once, the parameters change, but it was still my own business. Not a bad thing.
And I’m trying to figure out what it is that bothers me about much of the business I see and read about. And I have to confess that it’s mostly the big businesses with which I have a problem.
Then again, not all of them.
I ran my business to make money, of course, but more so to provide for my family and to find fulfillment in that pursuit. None of that is unsullied by dozens of other factors, but as an ideal I think it runs pretty close to a truth. And most of the businesses I enjoy interacting with seem to ascribe to a similar philosophy.
I learned it from my grampa and my dad as they ran German’s Grocery in Pierce, Nebraska. Grampa and dad knew their customers, their customer’s kids, knew what was going on in their lives. They shared time in community groups and/or church, the volunteer fire department, football games on Friday nights at the high school.
The business was woven into the fabric of the community and the community was woven into the fabric of the business.
It wasn’t so much a business as an extension of self as a way to earn a living. Much like the farmers in the rolling landscape of Northeast Nebraska. A business, true, but more so, a life.
Then some businesses grow large. Larger than the towns from which they spring. Larger than the original owner. They become organized and efficient and cut costs and increase profits, and incorporate and hire a board of directors, and CEO and fire the owner or buy him/her out, and make more and more money, and isn’t that a good thing?
I don’t know. But there is a subtle shift in philosophy. The corporation begins to disengage from any kind of production or service. It hires MBAs by the dozen.
It buys more businesses to hang under their nameplate; it builds a home office and another office to run overseas operations and another office in NYC because that’s where the power is, and one in London. It becomes an it.
And all those offices and officers and cars and boardrooms are furnished from money gleaned from businesses that actually engage with a consumer at some level. It's business doing business for business sake. The point being to make money.
But that’s really all it’s about.
And is that so wrong?
It’s just a different business model from the one that I grew up with and respect. I do think it makes a difference that a business knows something more about its customers than just what the marketing department discovers in order to sell more goods or services.
It really is about personal relationships when I work on someone’s job down here in Florida. I get to know them, they get to know me, I do the best work I can and it’s important to me that I do. Not because I’m making money off them but because I usually make them friends and I care about them and I care about my work. Again, it was the business model I learned growing up.
But there are layers of businesses thriving today whose only purpose is to make money. Those business people don’t really care what it is the businesses do that their corporations own. And if those businesses pull some shady deals, or damage the environment, or even kill a few people through mistakes or neglect, it’s really no big deal. As long as the fine doesn’t affect the bottom line too much, it’s just the price of doing business. And there’s really no one to hold responsible, just some vague board of directors and a CEO well protected by a phalanx of attorneys well-versed in laws designed to guard corporate profits.
Is that the American dream?
Not to me.
In America the Bible has been re-written to show Jesus embracing the moneychangers because his Father owns the mall.