Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Is it respectable to pursue business in Britain? Or in the United States?

While reading about the late Princess Diana, I encountered a list, compiled by the British Broadcasting Corporation from viewer input, of the 100 Greatest Britons.

The list consisted of royalty (Diana was number 3), politicians (Winston Churchill was number 1), musicians (3 of the 4 Beatles are on the list), and others.

But where were the people who were primarily known as business owners?

Certainly many of the people on the list (Paul McCartney, for example) were successful in business, but they were known for other reasons. McCartney, for example, is a successful musician who invested in music-related properties.

So how far down the list do we have to go to find someone specifically identified as a business leader?

All the way down to number 85.

85. Sir Richard Branson (1950-) - Businessman.

At about the same time that the BBC created the list above, it ranked the top professions in Britain. All of the top professions - doctors, nurses, teachers, firefighters, and paramedics - were outside of the scope of business and commerce.

A 2006 United States survey cited by Forbes actually had similar results (although firefighters were at the top after my country's 9/11 experience).

An interesting twist in the survey's results are that none of the top-ten most admired jobs can be accurately described as being driven by the profit motive--quite a contradiction in a country that was built on it. The A-list is comprised of those who serve others, including engineers (they build things) and farmers (who "feed the world").

Forbes, which of course is a business-oriented publication, wondered about the negative perception of business. And remember that this was written BEFORE the 2008 recession.

Why? It may be that those who seek fortune are to seem crass by appearing to support professions that support their own interests.

But others say there's more to it than that. "As people gain economically, they develop more of an appreciation for those who take care of them, who make their own gains possible," says Robert Billingham, a professor of human development at Indiana University.
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