Why did you want to own a business? If you believe the textbook definition of an entrepreneur, it was to leverage capital and other resources to create wealth. That probably applies to about 5% of us.
Or, you might have started it to provide gainful employment in your community. That applies to even fewer business owners.
The reason, at least for most of us, is that you wanted to be more successful, provide a better living for your family, and have greater control over your future. In other words, you started or bought a business for your own selfish reasons. Since then, however, you’ve faced an unending flood of media and public opinion that says you should be doing it for other reasons. There seems to be a belief among the 97% of the population who work for someone else that your obligations begin with your customers, then your employees are next, then the community, then you.
Most owners I know won’t admit to running the company with themselves in mind first, because it is considered “selfish.” We’ve heard it since childhood. “Don’t be selfish.” “Share.” “Think first about those who have less than you.”
Ayn Rand said that “There is no higher morality than enlightened self-interest.” I agree, not because I’m totally self-absorbed (I actually do a substantial amount of community service work,) but because of the word “enlightened.”
Enlightened to me means that your success doesn’t come at the expense of others. Most of us don’t seek profits by selling shoddy goods, or by taking unfair advantage of employees. Those that do aren’t enlightened, and shouldn’t be in business. (Or be reading this column.) But if you are doing your best, standing behind your products, and paying employees wages that make them want to work for you, then you have the right to charge a price that maximizes your profits, and dispose of those profits as you see fit.
In my part of Texas there are lawn signs popping up that say “No Socialism.” In a few affluent areas, they are being countered by others that say “No Selfishness.” Who are you to tell me that I am being selfish? (Especially if you live in a house that costs 5 times what mine is worth.)
Am I being selfish when I’m the last one to go home from work? Am I being selfish when I’m the first to arrive in the morning? Am I being selfish when I sign a personal guarantee on my company’s debt? Am I being selfish when I miss a family event because I have a client with a problem? Am I being selfish when (at least in the early days) everyone but me got a check on payday?
No, when that happens I’m merely taking the risks of being an entrepreneur. It’s only when I start to see a return that I suddenly develop that selfish streak, simply because I wish to enjoy the fruits of my effort.
You own a business for selfish reasons. Don’t let anyone tell you that’s wrong.