Author: Steve Coburn, Project Five, TAB Member since 2014
There’s a fable doing the rounds on Social Media at the moment. I don’t know if you’ve seen it? It goes along the lines of…
There was a businessman sat by the beach in a small Brazilian village watching a local fisherman row a small boat towards the shore, having caught quite few big fish.
The businessman was impressed and asked the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?”
The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.”
“Then why don’t you stay longer at sea and catch even more?” The businessman asked.
“This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman said.
The businessman then asked, “So, what do you do for the rest of the day?”
The fisherman replied, “Well, I’ll go back and play with my kids. Then in the afternoon, I chill out with my wife, and this evening I’ll join my buddies in the village for a drink — we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”
The businessman offered a suggestion to the fisherman.
“I could help you to become a more successful person. You should try to catch as many fish as possible and then sell the extras. When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food and distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village and to Sao Paulo, where you can set up HQ to manage your other branches.”
The fisherman continues, “And after that?”
The businessman laughs heartily, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house, you can go public and float your shares in the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.”
The fisherman asks, “And after that?”
The businessman says, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by the sea, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with kids, chill out with your wife, hang out with your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night!”
The fisherman was puzzled, “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”
The inference behind the story is ‘what’s the point of business?’. It’s a sentiment I pick up a lot at the moment. There are plenty of ‘anti-business’ comments in today’s society. Although, those are often aimed at large global businesses, I do find that no business is immune from the abuse.
Looking at our fisherman from the fable. What’s the point of putting himself through all that effort and stress, to eventually retire and do exactly what he’s doing today?
Well, I think the fable is missing the point. Yes, the fisherman can catch enough fish to feed his family, and then goof off for the rest of the day. But, who else gets fed? Not everyone is capable of catching fish – we all have different skills.
When I look at our business, we directly employ more than 50 people. Add in the families and that’s 150+ people receiving an income from our business activities. Then, look at our suppliers and partners (there’s lots of other firms that exist to support businesses like ours – from the accountants, insurance, solicitors, banks, IT, couriers, recruitment and HR, right through to the Surrey Chambers team). How many families in Surrey are supported because firms like ours need those services?
And then there’s the local businesses where all of these families spend their wages. From the cafes and sandwich shops where we eat lunch, the pubs where we grab a drink after work, and the sports centres where we stay fit. And, don’t even get me started on all the places where we spend money on our kids!
Every morning, each and every one of us could choose to ‘catch just enough fish to feed our own families’.
But, instead, we choose to do something less selfish. We choose to run a business, that employs our neighbours, so that they can ‘buy fish to feed their own families’.
I think it’s time someone wrote a new fable.
Steve Coburn | Project Five | TAB Member since 2014
Like Steve, TAB has helped many business owners take their businesses’ to the next level through: advisory boards, one-to-one business coaching and a suite of business tools. Get in touch to find out more about TAB Membership.