Having worked in government and a couple of its special operating agency incarnations, having been a director on seven non-profits boards, and having helped form two political organizations, I came to the realization that business is business no matter if it is done for profit, not-for-profit, or for principle.
The business of business is the need to make difficult decisions regardless of the industry you are in or who your customer is.
Difficult decisions need to be made because even if money is not a consideration, time and personal energy availability is. It is simply not possible to be everything to everyone. Somebody needs to decide who gets what health care dollars, who gets the most attention, and who gets exposure to an ad campaign. Business decision making is all about strategy.
With this realization, I then asked myself. “Self, if this is the true reality about the working world, would you rather make difficult decisions to quandaries that others put in front of you, or would you rather make difficult decisions about quandaries that you choose to take on?”
Being both ambitious and imaginative, I definitely was interested in the latter choice. But also being a realist and the main income earner for my family, I decided to do both. I would carry on my full-time employment in health care but use my limited free time to start a part-time business since I thought that doing something is better than doing nothing. The pull was so strong to me, I started businesses in 1999, 2003, 2004, and 2005. So far two of my four businesses are still running.
What I appreciated immediately about the business world was its openness. Success in business in the past thirty years has been about thinking and being open to new ways to do things. One of my favorite examples being the technology industry which not only started out small, but has been the engine of job creation and a major driver of new ideas. To be in business is about action and strategy not idleness and planning. It is about creativity and evolution not institutionalization and revolution.
Yet, the world of business is not for the weak of heart. There are scoundrels, greedy cheats, and incompetent twits. But I would say that it is one of the greatest adventures I have ever undertaken, more so because of its drive to be open, something I have found lacking during my experience in government, non-profit, and politics.
Openness. A state of mind that is a major business competitive advantage. A state of mind that to my knowledge is only shared by scientists and mystics.