Why do business?

Why do business? It's worth thinking about. We spend a lot of time working.

Sure, as George Bush put it, you need to 'put food on your family'.
But beyond this?

Here's two reasons:
1) business can be an agent of civility, cooperation and trust
2) business can be art

Business as an agent of civility, cooperation and trust...
On a recent visit to Belfast, a city once plagued by sectarian violence, I learned something remarkable. On its darkest days, after a bomb explosion or a riot or abduction had left the high street ashen, small business owners would signal they were open by displaying signs reading 'Business As Usual'.  Business as usual.

It's a hell of a gesture. With shards of glass on the ground, armed soldiers on patrol and civility flagging. Business as usual. It means means something like...we're not having that. Its a community's refusal to be be capsized by frenzied radicals. A resolve to show up and transact. We aspire to civility and trust. Business can be an agent of these things in our exchange of...whatever, coffee or plumbing services or software or piano lessons. And that's something worth contributing to!

And so you are part of something very fundamental. Doing business is not just exchange between people. It is simultaneously taking a stand against the awful opposite of that.

Business as art...
This is a Seth Godin argument, brilliantly made in his book Linchpin. Godin argued that the materials by which we create art matter little. Rather it is the connection you make with someone as a result of your work. You might surprise them. Give them a new perspective. A big idea. Perhaps they are shocked or amused. Provoked. Called to act. There is an artfulness to this, whether you produce it with oil and canvas or by way of enchanting customer service.

Irrespective of your working domain, these things can be true. That's something to get you up in the morning. That's something to keep you coming back long after you secure your financial future. That's something to aspire to beyond mere personal gain and paying the rent.


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