In this election cycle there has been much talk about socialism. Several of the candidates in one party seem to promote socialism as being preferred over capitalism. One candidate calls himself a Democratic Socialist. In recent years there has been a lot of negativity directed towards capitalism and business in general. People who have built great businesses, and become wealthy in the process, have especially been attacked as greedy, crooked, immoral and dishonest. The fact is…that is true for some, but for the vast majority it is not. The vast majority of people who have succeeded in building great businesses did so through hard work, years of sacrifice and honest dealings with their customers and suppliers. To own your own business has been part of the American dream for many years for a large number of people, and it is a worthy dream to pursue.
Rabbi Daniel Lapin wrote a wonderful book a few years ago that addresses this, and many more insights on how to succeed in business. The book is Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money In it he writes, “To really succeed in whatever is the business of your choice, you have to come to understand and utterly absorb into your being the fundamentally true idea that your activities in your business are virtuous and moral, providing of course that you conduct your business affairs honestly and honorably.” To succeed in anything we do it is necessary that we have respect for what we do. If that effort results in a person becoming wealthy that is a good thing.
I often tell people that I never had a poor person give me a job. The people for whom I worked always had the means to pay me. That is a good thing because it allowed me to provide for my family. They provided for me and my family, and in return, I made them more money through my labors. We mutually benefited from our relationship.
Wealthy people are often quite generous donors. They contribute large sums of money to universities, hospitals, religious organizations, disaster relief groups as well as to their local communities. Many have created foundations which provide resources to organizations that rely on such donations. Rather than sitting back waiting on the government to give them free health care, free college, free food and free child care, they are working hard to earn the money to assist others who are doing honorable work.
After Rabbi Lapin addresses the misconceptions about the dignity of business he shares what he calls 10 commandments for making money. He explores some of the principles the Jewish people have followed for generations to build wealth. One of my favorites is “If there is one lesson to be learned in Jewish business success, it is this: Find opportunities to become friendly with many people.” In a recent post I mentioned a business owner who told an employee to remember that people like to do business with people they like. I thought of that comment when I read Rabbi Lapin’s comment about becoming friendly with many people. The neat thing about this concept is how easy it is to do.
When we know people and serve them well they will want to continue to do business with us. They will tell their friends about how we operate our business, and some of them will want to do business with us as well. As that circle of relationships continues to grow, so does our business.
This book is filled with practical advice such as this. The concepts are valid regardless of your faith or even if you are a person who doesn’t ascribe to any faith. I’ve read the book twice and will probably read it again this year due to how content-rich it is. It’s a good reminder that we should not believe everything we hear in the media about the evils of capitalism. Our work has dignity and is honorable, and we never have to apologize to anyone for doing our work well.