Providing for Customers
By David Henderson
Q: You embody a form of capitalism and entrepreneurship without romance. Where does that come from?
A: I believe that the DNA of a business is to provide to its constituents. Customers come No. 1; No. 2 are employees; and somewhere in there are the shareholders. You who started it, you’re last.
When you try and shift a business’s true purpose and say that it’s going to save society, you will fail. Not some of the time—100 percent of the time. Saving baby whales is not what businesses do. I teach a lot of graduating cohorts of engineers and business students, and this is the primary debate we have. When you go out into the world, if you think your job is to solve all of society’s problems, you will get fired.
This is from Nick Gillespie, “Kevin O’Leary Puts His Money Where the Profits Are,” Reason, January 2020.
I posted on this interview back in August.
This reminded me of a small way I learned the O’Leary lesson when I was about 10. My brother, Paul, who was about 13, had bought some golf clubs and decided to play at the 9-hole golf course near our summer cottage. He hired me as his caddy. In retrospect, I’m guessing that he did it to help me out and have a companion as he golfed. On one of the holes, we saw a golfer looking for his ball and I wanted to help him find it. So I put the clubs down and walked around in the rough, feeling for the ball with my feet. Paul got upset and told me that I was working for him and he wanted to continue playing. But I looked a little longer before going back to caddying for Paul.
When we came home, Paul complained to our mom (“mum” in Canada) and I thought she would take my side because we had been taught to be considerate of others. She surprised me. She said that because I was working for Paul, I didn’t have the right to help someone else when Paul wanted me to continue caddying for him. That was a hard lesson, but I got it.