I received a call the other day from a young college student, asking if she could interview me, because she was writing a paper for her entrepreneur class, and her father suggested that she call me. He knew that I had been involved in a dozen different businesses over the course of my lifetime, and thought that I could explain to her my thinking, as I considered various opportunities.
I, of course, welcomed the interview; it’s always a great pleasure to talk to young people who are in the process of formulating their approach to their lives, because I have been so blessed in life and desire to share why I think that has been the case.
Naturally, people who own their own businesses are entrepreneurs, because they saw an opportunity to offer something to the public and said to themselves, I can do that, and I can make a profit.
Well, what about the people who work for the business owners; are they entrepreneurs? My answer is, yes. They, likewise, learn a skill in school or on the job, and offer their services in exchange for compensation. Like an entrepreneur, they perceive and pursue an opportunity to perform a service and derive economic benefit. But, that’s not the end of it.
The business owner knows that the product he's offering, in most cases, must change with the times; the business must adapt or the customers move on. This pressure to change also extends to the employees, as the value they bring to the business is dependent on their ability to create the new products or services the customers now demand. If they don’t adapt, they lose their job.
Note, we don’t drive the same cars we drove decades ago; we don’t speak on the same types of telephones. Same in the newspaper business; years ago we sold a paper consisting of news article printed in black ink on newsprint. To keep the price of that newspaper down, and increase the value of the product, we started to sell ads on the pages. Further, to be competitive, we added color to the pages. To build greater readership, some of us decided to give away the papers free, and rely solely on the ad revenue.
Competition for ad revenue is keen – especially with the proliferation of digital media. All of this competition requires business owners and staffs to reimagine their products and learn new skills. If a business doesn’t adjust, it goes out of business; if the employees don’t learn the requisite skills, they lose their employment.
Now back to the young lady and her paper on entrepreneurship: During the interview, she highlighted the key role of motivation in making things happen.
In our economic system, entrepreneurs are rewarded for their initiative, if they have good ideas and apply themselves. Our economic system, accompanied by limited government interference, rewards entrepreneurship to such a degree that America has been a magnet for immigrants for centuries. America enterprise motivates entrepreneurial owners and employees.
Our nation is currently entertaining throwing off the motivating force of entrepreneurship by going to a socialist model of government. The problem with that model of government is that it fails to sufficiently motivate people to push themselves, which I think is the reason it has failed everywhere it has been tried.
My father encouraged me to work hard and save my money. As a little boy delivering my newspapers, he'd check in with me to see how well I'd done that month and how much I'd saved. The reward of seeing my accomplishments motivated me to look for added opportunities, and that hasn’t changed throughout my life. I've observed that same quest everywhere that I've lived in America. Would that have been the case in a government-run socialist system? As I said, history has already answered that question in the negative.