Thursday, January 30, 2014

Three Priorities For 2014: 2.5 - Why Build Businesses?

I promised to share some big-picture thinking about business. First, a little story:

One day back in the early 1980s, I visited a car dealership in Louisville to apply for a job there.

I don't remember the name of the dealership, or of the man who owned it. I do remember him standing before a group of prospective hires and talking about how much it meant to him to know that his business was helping his employees to put food on the table for their families.

When I left that meeting, I didn't have the job I had sought; but I did have something else:  the desire to own a business.

I think that's where it began for me, this quest to build an enterprise. So the first thing that I want to say about building businesses is that for me, building a business is not primarily about making money, for at least three reasons.

1) My wife and I don't need much income to live well. Our house, car and college educations are paid for, and we don't have kids. Beyond that, we don't have extravagant tastes. She is more frugal than I am, but even my wishlist doesn't go beyond a bodacious home theatre and a Tesla Model S.

I do NOT want a yacht. I DO want one of these. Truly.

2) Having piles of money sitting around has never appealed to me. I would rather have assets that generate income, than simply have a pile of money. And if I can create those assets without money, or acquire them at a discount for cash, or use my money to leverage other financing to acquire them - in other words if I can accumulate assets that have more value than the money I spend for them - so much the better.

3) Making money is at most one-third of the benefit of building a business. I consider the possibilities that a well-run business has for blessing the world to be downright magical. The magic of business is the potential for creating value for more and more people in more and more ways. Money (and other value) for the owner(s), money (and other value) for employees, money (and other value) for vendors whose goods and services the business uses...and on top of all that (or before all that), value for customers.

When I left the showroom of that car dealership, I was inspired by the possibility of helping people to put food on the tables for their families. I still find it inspiring to think of becoming a job creator (however much the term has fallen into disfavor), and of creating value for dozens, hundreds, or thousands of people beyond that.

Heck, make that, millions of people. Because a successful TV show, movie, or video game - or even a YouTube video - will in fact entertain and/or enlighten millions of people. Thus, Luminaria Productions.

And on a smaller scale, the rehabilitation and resale of 20 or 30 or 50 homes in Homewood will create value for dozens or hundreds of people. Thus, Homewood Capital Partners.

And helping people to gain affordable attorney access so that they receive full benefit from our legal system - well, that can be valuable to anybody I know or can talk to, who doesn't already have it. Thus, Legal Shield.

In sum, I see building a business as a way of giving more to more people than I could ever do otherwise, and thus a way of fulfilling Jesus' instruction and promise, "Give, and it shall be given unto you" - not to mention the cultural mandate of Gen. 1.28.

More briefly still: Why build businesses? Because business is holy.

That's my view. What's yours?

Three Priorities: The Complete Series
Three Priorities For 2014 - And Beyond
Three Priorities For 2014: 1 - Encouraging The Body Of Christ
Three Priorities For 2014: 2- Growing Businesses.
Three Priorities For 2014: 2.5 - Why Build Businesses?
Three Priorities For 2014: 2 - Growing Businesses - Legal Shield
Three Priorities For 2014: 2 - Growing Businesses - Homewood Capital Partners
Three Priorities For 2014: 2 - Growing Businesses - Luminaria Productions
Three Priorities For 2014: 3 - Redeveloping Race Street
Three Priorities For 2014: Closing Thoughts
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