Business: The Heart of the Matter – An Inquiry Into Purpose and Principle.
by Tom Veblen
Think about ‘Business: The Heart of the Matter’ as a business catechism. A timely inquiry into the nature and essence of business, the book characterizes how business persons need to think about making business in America better, individually and institutionally. Tackling this issue in a world going “digital and global” is a challenge for even the supplest of business minds. ‘The Heart of the Matter’ is, simply, ‘business from the inside out,” the insights gained by successful practitioners in their day-in, day-out search for improvement. Rarely if ever articulated, these principles are derived from practice and observation, not imposed by stricture. The book takes the reader on a journey through American business history like no other, for even in the midst of mundane investment decisions, the Founders of the American business republic, and their philosophical sources, are ever present.
Frankly acknowledging the unique nature of the American experience, Tom Veblen, convener of The Superior Business Firm Roundtable, interweaves vignettes of his growing up on the northern prairie, and his apprenticeship as a commodity merchant, with those practices and principles that cause all business firms to grow and prosper. In this account, family history, the progress of business stewardship, and national destiny merge into one over-arching endeavor. The American business endeavor is overwhelmingly important to the welfare of all. ‘The Heart of the Matter’ comes at it from the basic organic unit of well-being, the business firm. From this perspective, multiply the business firms that figure out ”how to make things work better around here,” and you get an outpouring of products and services finely attuned to the evolving preferences of consumers—with workers’ livelihoods ensured, and investors confident. It is neither coincidental nor surprising that voluntary cooperation working through millions of free transactions produces results superior to those wrought by coercion. Prosperity is made, not from the lofty precipices of policy prescription, but from the day-to-day gritty work of business survival.
Around the Roundtable, and throughout modern society, “the wealth of nations” is debated as vigorously as it was in Adam Smith’s day. What is wealth? How can it be created? What is a fair distribution of it? These are issues of enormous contemporary as well as historical concern. This book puts the business firm at the center of this concern, as it seeks to refocus public interest on where effort can be most profitably directed. Wealth is surely more than numbers on a financial statement. However much we may echo the sentiment expressed by the philosopher Sophie Tucker, “I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich, and Honey, rich is better,” wealth is still only a resource. Its only value is value-in-use. For every business firm, then, as for every individual, the question of the day is not how rich, but what for? The skill of the business practitioner is really in organizing wealth and putting it to its best use. Business practitioners must constantly think “why this and not something else” about what they do with all the resources entrusted to them—labor, money, physical assets, goodwill, trust, social capital, and all the resources they bring to bear on producing and distributing the goods and services they offer. This book doesn’t tell us what to think, rather it reveals the essence of the thought process itself, as it shapes day-to-day decisions and adapts to the changing business and social environment. At once intuitive and philosophical, ‘Business: The Heart of the Matter’ conveys what is required for enterprises large and small to survive and prosper in a turbulent world.