1 "The business of America is business," said President Calvin Coolidge (1923—1929) and these words remain true today. The principal aim of business is to make financial profit.
2 There exist in the United States two main kinds of business institutions — private and governmental. Private businesses include large companies whose capital is represented in shares1 which are held by individual shareholders who earn dividends from their shares. In addition, there are non-profit institutions. These are called charitable organizations.2
3 Americans tend to have more respect for private businesses than for government agencies, which they consider more bureaucratic.
Don't undertake a project unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible. (Edwin H. Land)
4 Americans also believe that it is in private business that the American ideals of free competition, individual freedom, and equality of opportunity have their highest level of expression. Most Americans see competition as the major source of progress and prosperity. There has always been a belief that only fair competition based on hard work and a high level of competence ensures success; and vice versa, if a competitor does not play fair and takes unfair advantage of his customers, he will lose out in the long run.
Trust in God and do something. (Mary Lyon)
6 5 But these ideas are not always adhered to in the everyday conduct 130 of business. In the highly competitive world of American business it sometimes turns out that unfair practices violate lofty principles. There is one more problem in realizing the high ideals of fair business practice. This is that if at the time of the early settlements of America conditions for starting a business were, at least in theory, relatively equal for everyone, such may no longer be the case. It is obviously easier for someone who already possesses considerable capital to begin a business venture than it is for someone who does not.
7 Thus, though the majority of Americans believe that the ideals of free competition, equality of opportunity, hard work, and individual freedom are all exemplified throughout business, there are many who understand that very often American business does not live up to these principles.
I think hardship is necessary for life to be good, for you to enjoy it. If you don't know hardship, you don't know when you have it good. (Wallace Rassmussen, President, Beatrice Foods, Chicago)
8 Apart from these concepts, there exists in America a legend of the poor boy who rises "from rags to riches" and so realizes "the American Dream". Although Americans today are likely to be more skeptical about such stories, the image of the entrepreneur who "makes it on his own" still continues to inspire many.
The entrepreneur is the symbol of a hero businessman who succeeds in creating something out of nothing. The men who built the initial industrial riches of the nation, such as the railroads and oil refineries, were usually entrepreneurs. They often started with few resources and wound up as wealthy heads of huge companies. They were likened in the American mind to the frontier hero who turned the vast wilderness of the United States into farms and towns. The entrepreneur was seen on a par with the frontier hero who through his boundless energy, shrewdness, and diligence paves the way for the well-being of the nation while making his own fortune. Another characteristic that endeared Americans to the entrepreneur type was his love of individual freedom and complete independence from authority, a trait that has always been highly valued by Americans.
10 In the course of time as business matured, a new type of businessman appeared. This is the so-called "organization man" who works within an already established structure. The "organization man", however, does not enjoy the heroic status of the entrepreneur because he usually takes over something that was built by other people. The organization man lacks in romantic appeal by comparison with the entrepreneur, because even when he is at the top he is not seen as "his own boss", since with the advent of large corporations with boards of directors he or she shares responsibility with others.
Business is like riding a bicycle. Either you keep moving or you fall down. (John David Wright, President, Thompson Products, Inc., Cleveland, Ohio)
11 Though in America today the road to success often lies through established large businesses, the entrepreneurial ideal continues to inspire many. Perhaps partly because of this a great number of small and medium-sized businesses exist in the United States today. Often, when one fails, another comes to take its place. There are numerous companies with fewer than 20 employees. These companies account for about 60 percent of American business.
All people are ordinary. I learned that all men are created equal. The rich boy has money but no initiative. The poor boy has no money. Initiative will get money. This is the thing every kid should be told when he first comes to America. (S.B. Fuller, successful black businessman)
12 The image of the American businessman was seriously marred by the Great Depression of the 1930s. Before the 1930s businessmen had dominated the American economy. But during and after the 1930s they were forced to share power with the national government, particularly with federal regulatory agencies.3 Today most Americans, even with their ideals much shaken by the Depression and subsequent business scandals, still believe that the free-enterprise system of tough pragmatism based on profit-making is the one that best promotes the welfare of the nation.