The Fervor of Enterprise0
By Frank J. Rich
Business and life have a tendency to confront us with the reality of our condition—good or bad. Ultimately, we are revealed for who we are no matter how hard we try to conceal it. The pattern of behavior that characterizes each of us is more often some part the person we don’t like and some part the one we do. Strangely, the objective view of oneself is lost in the mix.
The workaday world requires a heads-down approach at times. Much of what gets done is done by an individual in time he alone commands for its completion. That we are capable of processing (completely) only one thing at a time forms the biochemical predisposition of both our limitations and our opportunities. Objectivity, were it truly the vaunted mantle of more than our “ideal image,” would not so easily be sacrificed for our typical expressions of emotion and thought, the subjective view that produces most decisions.
Business leaders are most often viewed as those who see things clearly, with narrow focus, and who can do the things that deliver opportunity for stakeholders. The quality displayed is often portrayed as a “hard driving man.” Not coincidentally, a number of women CEOs I’ve worked with had the steel of nails in their approach that was easily a match for the Jack Welches of the world (former CEO of General Electric). The practice is to “mark and move on”; the tracking of a productive person.
Business owners and leaders are equals in their fervor over enterprise, a dyad matched by Adam Smith’s economic foundation stones, as told in the first pages of The Wealth of Nations.
The annual labour of every nation is the fund which originally supplies it with all the necessities and conveniences of life which it annually consumes, and which consists always either in the immediate produce of that labour, or what is purchased from that produce from other nations.
According therefore, as this produce, or what is purchased with it, bears a greater or smaller proportion to the number of those who are to consume it, the nation will be better or worse supplied with all the necessities and conveniences for which it has occasion.
But this proportion in every nation must be regulated by two different circumstances; first by the skill, dexterity, and judgment with which its labour is generally applied, and, secondly, by the proportion between the number of those who are employed in useful labour, and that of those who are not so employed. Whatever be the soil, climate, or extent of territory of any particular nation, the abundance or scantiness of its annual supply must, in that particular situation, depend on those circumstances.
The abundance or scantiness of this supply too seems to depend more upon the former of those two circumstances than upon the latter.
Few of that era, or this, considered economic pari passu with growth of the state, especially among the effulgent of the day, Karl Marx notwithstanding. By the mark of Smith’s pen commerce has gained the energy for an enterprise mindset, and no science or literature or math has equaled its effect on the world, no less capitalism. But Smith’s assertion that labor is the font of all that is produced rings true. We are people first, then the engineers of all else.