Economy of Communion Part IV: The Crucible of EoC Enterpreneurship

John Gallagher

Summary

Businesses are there to serve people and not only the  share holders or stakeholders. And rather than spirituality serving the business, the business must serve spirituality.

The Economy of Communion entrepreneur has a unique social role. He carries in his shoulders the problems of his own family, those of his friends and neighbors and also those of his community. He is therefore immersed in the challenges of everyday life…” This entrepreneur intentionally takes on a “layer” of responsibility that a non-entrepreneur does not.

This is not to elevate the entrepreneur in any way or to privilege entrepreneurial responsibilities over any other responsibilities. It is simply to note that the entrepreneur, in the very act of starting a business and sustaining a business, also takes on a very real responsibility for a particular set of relationships that are now governed by the business. And, the entrepreneur takes on a responsibility for the business itself.  To my mind, this places the entrepreneur in a crucible of formation that is a different from other life and livelihood choices and vocations.

As mentioned, these relationships include employees, customers, competitors, creditors, investors, advisers, family, friends, the local community, the wider community, and the state.  He takes on the responsibility for the company itself as well and so decisions must be taken that consider the future and sustainability of the company itself.

This is true of all entrepreneurial ventures – that there is a set of responsibilities assumed.  There are two important implications for the EoC entrepreneur in this argument.  First, there is long tradition of received wisdom and practical experience about how to be a successful businessperson.  We know much about the mechanics of business – operations and finance so to speak, and indeed in our global economic system business practices are similar and widespread.  But there is a very real problem at the heart of our best business and management thinking, and this is the question of instrumentality which in turn is a question about the fundamental purpose of business.  One dominant view is that the purpose of business is to satisfy shareholders.  This has the effect of instrumentalizing every aspect of the business, including most of its persons, to the interests of a much smaller group of persons, the shareholders.  Everything about the business including, employees, customers, suppliers, competitors, become a means to the shareholder’s ends, which is generally characterized as profit maximization.

This shareholder view of business is somewhat countermanded by a stakeholder view of business whereby, the purpose of business extends beyond the narrow interests of shareholders to include the interests of a wide range of possible constituents; namely, anyone with a “stake” in the enterprise.  This view at least opens the possibility for considering the legitimate needs and aspirations of all persons associated with the enterprise.  But in the end, this view of business also takes an instrumental view.  Persons are still the means to other ends.

The second implication is that in addition to the received wisdom of management theory, there is currently a great deal of interest in ideas about faith and spirituality in the work place.  This interest might be in issues related to “religious freedom” in the workplace; namely the extent to which a business should make allowances for various religious practices and traditions of employees, or in issues related to the imposition of particular “religious values” among employees.  Some argue that the workplace should be strictly secular, while others argue that tangible benefits arise from explicitly faith-based values in the workplace.  The problem with this strain of thinking, however, is that in almost all cases, religious freedom, religious values, faith, and spirituality are all viewed as instrumental to the demands of the business.  That is, more often than not, the central question revolves around whether or not spirituality can make the business more successful and more profitable.

So, for the Economy of Communion entrepreneur, not only have they taken on a particular set of responsibilities to a broader and wider group of persons, but they also take on these challenges of instrumentality.  For an EOC entrepreneur, rather than persons serving the business, the business must serve persons.  And rather than the spirituality serving the business, the business must serve the spirituality. These challenges form the crucible of EOC entrepreneurship. For many EOC entrepreneurs, their business practices, decisions, policies, are formed in this very crucible; formed in the day-to-day experience.  The EOC entrepreneur may very well grapple with questions, problems, difficulties, situations, where answers are not readily available.  The formation of EOC entrepreneurs then is a challenge for the EOC in the future, for it is not enough to simply encourage people to become entrepreneurs.  We must learn to live in the crucible.

Paul Kisolo: Executive Consultant KARDS

Milicent Agutu: Administrator KARDS

Francis Owino: Administrator REG

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