Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What is the Business of Business?

Spending so much time in the studio with only the hum of the wheel (and a parade of cats) for company allows my mind to wander down various coves and alleys of thought. Such as: what makes a successful business? No, really think about it.

Many people would say that the purpose of a business is to make money, and if it is doing so, it is a successful business, period. Too broad for you? Let's stipulate legally; and even go a step further, and say ethically, within conventional standards. Is it enough that this so-stipulated business is making money, to make it successful?

At the risk of sounding like the ghost of Jacob Marley, I've concluded that, no. That's ass backwards. A business has to acquire money, of course, but that is a step in the process of its purpose. Like this: the purpose of a power plant is not to create steam; instead, power plants create steam as a necessary step to achieve the end result: electricity. It's not correct to say steam is a side effect or a by-product; the creation of steam is a key step, without which the plant would not function. Money, in business, is like that. You want some money, and you need some money - you have to live. You can't do your job unless you have enough money to live on. Your business can't function if the people within it - including you - can't. But it's among the means, not the ends.

So, if the goal isn't money, what is it? I submit that the purpose of your business - the true purpose of any business - is a dual: to provide the best product or service that it can in the process of realizing of human potential. There is great overlap between these goals. The realization of your potential, the entrepreneur, is the utilization of your skills and knowledge. The same goes for your staff, if you have staff. A successful business will provide an opportunity for both the owner and the employees to realize the promise of their aptitudes. To the extent that the aquisition of money interferes with the actualization of either owners or employees, it is over-emphaiszed. It has become an obstacle to the success of the business.

Maybe you're waiting for the twist, the part where I conclude that, if you do business in this fashion you will make even more money, in the end. Well, you probably won't. You tend to get what you prioritze, and if you prioritize money only as an avenue to personal growth, your business may well make less money, and that's okay. Because I am advocating for a different model of success. If you have enough that you and your family are comfortable and secure, consider that perhaps you have enough, period.

Yeah, I hear you, there in the back: I should stop smoking that stuff, it'll make my teeth all yellow. But as Marley discovered, you really can't take it with you, and a legacy of material things is an impoverished one indeed. I'll let ol' Jake have the last word:


Insieshi said...

WHen I was younger, and more naive, I believed that the purpose of a business was to provide the best goods or services of the highest quality achievable, and at a price fair to all, and done ina n honest manner.
Deep down I still believe that, but now see that most have or run a business to make money, at any and all costs, integrity, honesty, fair price, and quality are co-incidental if issues at all. This is unfortunate, and I may be cynical, but questionable practices are now so prevalent that I question my conviction even more. It seems that honest businesses used to be the norm, and disreputable ones the exception, but in the past ten years or so that idea seems to have reversed, and now dishonesty is the growing norm, and those that do things in an upright manner are "old -fashioned", "naive" or even "losers."
How unfortunate.
I applaud you for your honesty, and by the way, I will continue to read your blog, and all other pottery blogs, until one of us expires! Facebook be damned.

-Rob, Simple Circle Studios said...

Excellent post. And I very much like this model of a successful business. Unfortunately what Insieshi said appears to be true. The vast majority of businesses today seem to be focused solely on profits, not on producing a good product or service. Their goods could be shit, but as long as people are still buying them the companies don't care.
My question has always been, how much profit is enough for these companies? Do they really need a private jet and four different houses around the world? No, no they do not. As you said, all the profit you really need is enough to keep your business running and provide a comfortable life for you and your family. If only more people thought this way...
I am going to stop now as I could probably ramble on about this topic for quite some time. Again, excellent post.