By Chuck Violand
July 7, 2014
238 years ago, a group of 56 men who were gathered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors in the pursuit of fundamental concepts that, today, much of the world takes for granted. These men were the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Tom, John, Ben, Robert, and Roger were tasked with drafting the original version of the document before these 56 men then spent days poring over and carefully choosing each word that wound up in its final version. They understood the significance of words and the impact they can have on the lives of everyday people. Two words stood out among all the others as being critically important: Freedom and Liberty.
According to many respected experts, freedom is a state of being capable of making decisions without external control, and liberty is the freedom that has been granted to a people by an external control.
While people on both sides of the political spectrum will debate these definitions and the legitimacy of these terms as they apply to governments, I think they have an application in business that is often overlooked. Let’s start with the word freedom.
In the United States, Canada, Australia, England, and the other countries where the overwhelming majority of readers of my Monday Morning Notes live, we are blessed with the freedom to launch a business with relative ease.
Even better, we have the freedom to choose the type of businesses we want to launch. We can choose the customers with whom we want to work, the employees we want to hire, and how large we want our companies to grow.
If you’re like many business owners, you might be saying, “Well, of course I’m free to do these things. I’m the owner.” But that is not a given in every country. It is a freedom we enjoy as a result of the system of laws that exist within our governments that either encourage or suppress private ownership of business.
Liberty would be the freedoms we extend to the people who work in our companies. Do they have a voice in how things are done, in the direction the company is headed, and in how to improve the things that can be improved? Are they at liberty to disagree with us without fear of punishment or to offer suggestions for improving the performance of the company?
There may be nothing in this commentary that will change the way you conduct your businesses. No miracle marketing strategy that will put all your competitors out of business. No secret formula for doubling your profits overnight. Building a successful business still requires hard work, time, and a lot of luck. And a big part of that luck is living in a place where the mere thought of starting a business is a possibility and a privilege, and having the freedom to choose a business we enjoy is part of the air we breathe.
I thought this might be a good time to take a moment out of our harried schedules, tune out all the complaining we hear about how tough it is owning a business, and reflect on the freedoms we actually enjoy as business owners but too often take for granted. I think it’s a good idea to do this occasionally because all truths may not be self-evident.