Profit isn't a Right or a Privilege, it's a Responsibility!

November 29, 2018

Did you know? - The second-largest (behind NRA, duh) and fastest growing gun-rights organization in the US is based here in Northern Colorado. Located in Windsor, the National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR for short) was founded in 2000, and has grown to become a very prominent organization, with over 4.5 million members. One of my longtime friends used to work for them, and I’ve met the founder, Dudley Brown. For some reason I always remember one of their old T-shirt designs that proclaimed, “Gun ownership is a RIGHT, not a privilege”. So, as you might guess, their agenda is basically no compromise on individual gun ownership freedoms. It’s a complicated issue, and I’m not here to get myself a bunch of new haters - but I will say that I enjoy the simplicity of their message.  

The point I mean to address is that words have very precise meanings, and something small business owners can get confused about is profit. (As can their employees, and the community at large.) One harmful notion I’ve observed is profit-guilt, where the owner feels guilty about charging enough to earn a reasonable profit. That’s a whole future article - “How to diagnose profit guilt, and what to do about it!” I’ve also known small business operators that seem to think of profit as if it’s a right - they can sit back and work only as hard as they want to, not innovate or develop new services, and expect profit to come in year after year. Darwin’s law usually weeds these operators out pretty early in their journey.  

More common still is thinking of profit as a privilege - like it’s a sought-after goal, but only the privileged few can actually attain it.  It’s true that almost no long-term successful business earns a net profit right away - many take three years or more to earn their first net profits. Even after a business becomes well established, profits may decline or swing to losses at times - black ink may again be found after review of operating expenses or development of new revenue lines or other innovation. Markets change, competition comes into the market, cost estimates are missed, we’re slow to make reductions in staffing because we have such a great team...there’s lots of reasons that profit can sometimes go upside down for a company for a season.  

The idea I’m here to espouse however, is that profit is truly best looked at as a responsibility. You, Mr. or Mrs. Business Owner (or Mr. & Mrs.), have a responsibility to yourself, to your employees, to your customers, and to the community to operate a sustainable business enterprise - and that means operating a profitable enterprise! Where you find opportunity for profit, you also find risk. If you take risk without finding profit, you are a fool!  

Profit is the ONLY thing that pays debt. It is the only thing that creates wealth. It’s the only thing, really, that evidences that you’ve added value to the world. It’s challenging to build a machine that can consistently make profit - many businesses cease before they ever make one. But if you are going to have employees who depend on the wages you pay to feed their families, or lease space from property owners who have a mortgage to pay to the bank, or most any of the businessy things that businesses do - you’ve got to find a path to profitability. It might be hard to find, and you might fall off the path at times, but finding profit must be done - consider it a duty, a responsibility.  

- Curt Bear
Founder, LoCo Think Tank

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