As I stated in my previous Blog entry about Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged is like Shakespeare for the businessperson. /1
I read Atlas Shrugged for the first time when I was 20 years old and a sophomore at Radford University. Professor Nick Pappas put that book in my hands, and I never saw business, or the way it impacted peoples lives the same. Dr. Pappas knew I was entrepreneurial. I had lost my Cross Country scholarship and was selling moonshine out of West Virginia to pay for school.
I was intrigued.
The book is long and epic. It took me over six months to read it – mostly because I was fascinated by how the characters viewed the world, business, and their roles in the fabric of the business community. They made me think in terms of why things happen, and how we can influence events in small ways with big outcomes. Shortly before graduation, I wrote Dr. Pappas a letter having decided that the book was a dissertation on “how smart people used uncommon fundamentals to shape successful business”. I relished every moment with each page. I am self-absorbed and a perfectionist. So, I saw myself in every word and changed by each paragraph. I started to envision what it would be like to run my own business. Atlas Shrugged made me want to create an organization that reflected my ideal; my self image; my perfectionism.
Every company I owned or operated focused on customer service. My father had been an officer in the Air Force, and we moved every two years. So, I understood the customer experience. I also “gave” 15% of the company to all of the employees. I sold that business for over five times what I paid for it.
I had decided that no matter what business I was involved with (operator, investor, etc.); I would give my clients the absolute best experience or result. I always offered my hand, and guaranteed the result.
To this day, most of my clients know that we guarantee our work. Some don’t think in those terms. But, even if they don’t know or care about my guarantee – that’s okay; because I know it.
I was also deeply influenced by how the “bosses” in the book treated their employees. This made me ask the question:
“Am I responsible for my people”?
I had the epiphany that each employee, if enabled (and, inspired), is responsible for generating superior product to keep a job at the company. The company does not exist to put food on their plates.
The objective it to SERVE, and be part of the solution. /2
I believe we have a moral obligation to pursue our own happiness and also help people. Maybe this is what Granddad meant, in part, when he taught me to:
“Follow dreams and stay true to friends”.
When you are happy and fulfilled, other people are drawn to you and inspired. This enables you to help them. I think this means, in part, invest in ways to help other people.
This set the stage for every business and enterprise that I have been involved with.
Isn’t it ironic that the law of natural selection is often based on what the market decides? That is pure Ayn Rand (and, I hope, Brian Cork).
A step in the path to being a “Love Kat”.
Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.
2/ These words; in this combination; with this context evolved after I became a Volunteer Fire Fighter. Battalion Chief Chuck Schmidt challenged us all to be “Part of the solution, not the problem”.