Not all businesspeople are greedy. We’ve heard the Bernie Madoff investment stories, heard about banks that lend to unqualified candidates, and have seen the get-rich-quick promises on late night TV. It’s easy to quickly classify all businesspeople or for-profit companies as greedy. And I agree, greed is typically a short-sighted model for taking advantage of others.
But on the other side of greed is the fear of money. Too many people shun the idea of making money as evil and believe good can only be done by non-profits. These individuals then spend 80% of their precious time begging for money in lieu of working on the cause about which they are passionate. Don’t get caught in the delusion that being destitute is a necessary situation for helping the world. In fact, it will cripple your ability to do so. Money is like fire – it can burn you and leave you disfigured, or it can keep you warm and safe.
Since Adam Smith, economists have understood that “self-love” leads to quality products and social benefits. If a baker makes wonderful bread, he/she brings nutrition and pleasure to the community as well as financial rewards for himself and his family. It is not his “benevolence” but self-interest that provides the most benefits for everyone involved. And there can be true authentic “benevolence” as well.
Good intentions and a pure and giving heart are not enough. Economic accountability is a good thing. If an organization’s efforts are secured by God, the government or the heartstrings of generous individuals, it can be run inefficiently with little measurement of accomplishment. The businessman has no such cushion. Either something of value and fair exchange is produced and delivered or the business will not survive. In that sense, the business model requires more honesty and transparency than the non-profit.
I love running a business. I love not being handcuffed by a publicly traded board of directors or by the required board for a non-profit organization. We can make decisions quickly about giving and blessing – and about sound financial opportunities. I am deeply grateful and feel privileged to be able to have a “not-only-for-profit” company.
How would you categorize your work or business?