Reading List: Business Ownership and Your Paycheck

Here’s a must-read article for would-be small business owners, “When the Boss Is Last In Line For A Paycheck” .

This article offers several stories that track with my own experience of small business ownership. When you’re a business owner, first and foremost, you’re an investor in your own business. It is unlikely that you’ll find other investors unless you’re putting your own cash in…but even beyond your cash, you are investing your time.

Some of the business owners in the story acknowledge that they could make more money working for someone else, but that they love what they are doing.

I’ve been there; building something is exhilarating. For now, I have a corporate job. Less exhilarating, but the (relative) financial security is great.

It is all a balancing act — and like learning how to do something as unlikely as a one-armed handstand, while others can coach you, you ultimately have to figure it out on your own.

(And now that the Times finally allows permalinks, this nice “case study” article will apparently be available long beyond the old 7 day or so timeframe! I wrote about Nina Garduno’s Free City Supershop months ago, and I still see hits to my blog using her name as a search term…they land on my blog post, but if they want to see the Times article, they get a request to pay $4.95 to read the article. So thank you, NY Times, for getting up to speed on the permalink!)

Nobel Peace Price

Take notice: this year’s Nobel Peace Price was awarded to a for-profit business and its founder.

Grameen Bank started with one small act: university economics professor Muhammed Yunus lent $27 to some poor women in a neighboring town. He did not intend to start a business, or to get his money back. When the villagers surprised him by paying him back on time, he started to make more of these loans.

Grameen’s customers borrow money to start extremely small businesses, essentially creating their own jobs. These businesses have become an engine of economic development. The Grameen Bank now contributes to more than 1% of the GDP of Bangladesh, and it is owned by the poor women it serves. Women who now support themselves and their families.

And BTW, Grameen’s loan repayment rate is over 98%. (I think that this exceeds the rate of a Citibank or Chase; this is a bit of data I’ll have to look for.)

Google to learn more from your info source of choice — my point is that business is creative, transformative.

What’s the “so what” for comparably wealthy western business owners?

  • Yunnus started small, and learned by doing. He risked his own money, rather than selling his idea to investors.
  • Yunnus took the long view. 8 years passed between his initial loan and formation of Grameen in 1983, and the business model emerged and evolved during that time.
  • Yunnus acted from deep personal values. Raised in a wealthy family, he credits his mother with teaching him compassion for the poor, and a sense of duty.

One small act, with intention, can initiate world-changing results.