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Yesterday, I noted the difference in one comparable experience between United Parcel Service (UPS), a private delivery service, and the United States Postal Service (USPS), the government mail delivery service. An interesting debate followed concerning the value and need for certain government functions. Certainly a key difference between Republicans and Democrats, is the question of just how much of our lives and power we should hand over to government. And that brings me to the place of business in the American mind and heart.
I don’t want to sound like I am trivializing the matter, but in many ways the American Revolution was a Businessman’s War. The beginning of troubles came not so much from King George III as from Parliament, whose heavy regulations and protectionist tariffs angered the American colonists; basically all they wanted was a level field for marketing and delivering their goods. But the New World was richer than England could pay for, and Parliament compensated by discounting American goods and giving preferences to British companies, in punitive practices which damaged colonists’ finances and outraged the colonial Congress. Rather than compromise to reach an amicable agreement, Parliament instead added to the tax burden, and began to send troops to occupy suspected trouble spots. In an obvious case of the self-fulfilling prophecy, people forced to house and feed troops send to punish their towns were indeed angry, to the point of rebellion, and by the time anyone in Parliament began to reconsider their actions, violence had begun and spread.
The connection between Business and Politics is long-standing, and has often been contentious. While there have been clashes, and some corrections took too long to happen, America has thrived in large part because the American Dream is real, and it allows someone to succeed on the strength of their own work. Nobody owes you a fortune, but anybody can make one. You have to know the Immutable Laws of Business, though, the ones that don’t change no matter where you are or what you are doing.
1. To succeed in Business, you have to either make or do something people need, something people want, or provide something which makes people’s lives better. There is no right to succeed; if you want to survive, you have to be about the customer.
2. Bad consequences are far more permanent than good consequences. So you’d better be able to address complaints and correct mistakes.
3. Nothing made by man is a necessity. Even if you make a great product, someone will try to make it cheaper, better, or more convenient.
4. Honesty matters. You will screw up sometimes, and things will go wrong. What happens next depends on whether you’re up to be accountable.
5. A business is only as good as its people. Especially the ones the customer sees everyday.
6. Listen to the customer.
7. No one owes you anything.
By the way, that USPS package is apparently still sitting in a Washington State airport, and no one at the USPS has any intention of looking for it anytime soon. That tells a lesson all its own.