Recently I’ve been exploring new business concepts that revolve around the main purpose of business and the idea that business is intrinsically good. The crux of the matter has been that the purpose of business is not to make a profit but to serve others (the community, individuals etc.). Profit is a means to that end. In other words, it’s not that service is the means to profit, it’s actually the other way around. This is quite counter-cultural when you think about how we’re typically told to think about business.
Perhaps it’s good to define “service” a little bit. Basically, what I’m referring to is anything that enriches people’s lives in some way. So, when you think about that, it all comes down to people, which leads me to my next conclusion: the overall goal in business is to cultivate relationships.
While the purpose of a business is to serve the community, it’s within this framework that people have the opportunity to inspire, encourage, serve and enrich each other. This is done not just through the product or service the business is selling, which is in itself a good thing (which should lead to us to asking serious questions about the quality of our product or service) but through the relationships that are formed during the whole process of buying and selling.
At the end of the day, what matters above all is people. This is why a corrupt business can carry so much power – it not only has the power to break the people that work for the business, but people can abuse the relationships formed through the act of doing business. Corrupt, criminal relationships can form. Business carries a huge amount of power.
It’s not what you know…
We’ve all heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” This is usually said in a negative light, or in the light of finding a way to network for the purpose of profit. (It’s not that everyone sees it that way, but I’m sure you see my point.) Once again, if this is how we think about it, we have it backwards. The fact that my neighbour will sooner give me his business than the guy in the Yellow Pages because he knows me is actually a good thing, because the relationship is the key thing here. The business serves the relationship – the relationship does not serve the business. If it does, we miss the point and run into the risk of creating some kind of abusive or corrupt relationship.
As an interesting side point that shows my point of reference, this is why the concept of tentmaking excites me. If you don’t know what that means, let me explain.
Paul in the Bible used to often make tents as a way to earn a living, instead of asking for donations. In this way he was able to much more easily enrich his relationships – people didn’t have to suspect him for another religious charlatan. He was the real deal. Plus, he could minister without needing to worry about money, which is often a burden for pastors (and a temptation, because if pastors get desperate, they can easily find ways to abuse others to give money. We all know that story!) Tentmaking gave Paul an opportunity to foster relationships with people.
In other words, it was all about people. His business served the relationships, not the other way around. Paul saw this as part of his ministry, not just some way to make money so he could carry on with the ‘real stuff’ of ministry. This was all part and parcel of the ‘real stuff’.
Networking and business
So, while it’s true that the best way for me to build my ghostwriting business, as an example, is through networking (this is usually the best way to build any business), the fact is that in my networking I am looking (or should be looking) to have my business serve those people I network with, not to have those people serve my business. I think the point is clear.
I find this a liberating concept. It means the pressure to impress is actually off. But the pressure to be real and, well, myself, is on. It means that I need to genuinely care about people, not pretend to care and build the right image so I can make some bucks off them.
But I also think that if you look at it this way, business becomes exciting and much more fun!