Who’s on your side?

television on landThe United States is said to be a capitalist society. Given such a notion, it would be expected that free-market capitalism is championed throughout the system. Unfortunately, the system is not on your side. We are presented a warped view of the entrepreneurial struggle and trans-generational family enterprises.

  • Government tells you that you did not build your business; rather, government allowed you a path to success. While the case can be made that government provides an infrastructure of commerce and education (as well as related impediments – even in relation to infrastructure and education), the implication of such comments are that business success is allowed by government, not achieved by ventures in capitalism.
  • Even though government paved your way to riches, it also seeks to take it all away. Rules, regulations, and taxation are the norm.
  • Popular media present successful businesses as overnight success stories, presenting the business owner in their riches while glossing over the sweat.
  • Hollywood portrays the business owner as the villain. Seriously, when was the last movie/show you have seen where the business owner is the hero? Who is the hero? Often a “lowly” public servant.
  • Family businesses are explained through a nepotist framework, where unworthy family members grow ever-increasingly wealthy without merit.
  • Speaking of family wealth, extra emphasis is placed in politics and populist narrative on removing that wealth from people who have it. Somehow, the rich only get richer. See this Money article for a less ideological review.

I am a supporter of family businesses and enterprises. My wife and I are a family business conducting research on and working with family enterprises. We believe that family businesses offer values and impact beyond what can be created by large publicly owned institutions. Family businesses present an even greater complex environment, adding family influence on the business.

We need to change the narrative about business ownership. We need to celebrate business owners, the risks that they take, the impact on their family, and how the businesses impact their environment (as well as how they are impacted by the environment). Rather than making the economic system more difficult and constraining, we should find ways to encourage free-market activities and their related impact and profit. We should encourage and celebrate Impact Capitalists in all their forms.*

* for the record, the author really dislikes words such as “should”, “need” and such. Writers should refrain from the need to make use of such words. But the context sort of screamed for their use. So, there. 

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