I accidentally watched a few minutes of a morning show today, something I try really hard to avoid. Matt whats-his-name was interviewing Richard Branson, and they were talking about the importance of corporations "doing good". Once startups get going, Branson said, they need to start doing good for people, meaning I guess that they buy carbon offsets or something.
Guess what? If my startup is succesful, I am already doing good. I can't make a dime unless I create value for people net of what they pay me. Every customer walks away from our interaction better off, or they would not have voluntarily elected to trade with me (and if they are not better off, I will never see them again and I will find lots of nasty stuff chasing future customers away on the Internet.) I am tired of this notion that a succesful business person's value can only be judged by what he or she does with their money and time outside of business. I understand the frustration with a few Wall Street and GE-type executives who are living like fat ticks on their connections with government, but most of us only are succesful if we do something useful.
This, from Carpe Diem, is along the same lines. He looks at an editorial from the DC paper about the entry of Walmart, which says among other things
Despite the peacocking by Gray and others after the agreement was signed, the District is receiving mostly crumbs. Walmart has committed to providing $21 million in charitable donations over the next seven years, an average of $3 million a year. That's a pittance."
Walmart does not have to do squat for the community beyond its core business, because selling a broad range of goods conviniently and at really low prices is enough. Or if it is not enough, they will not make money. The promise of $21 million to some boondoggle controlled by a few politician's friends is just a distraction, I wish they had not done it, but I understand that this is essentially a bribe to the officials of the DC banana republic to let them do business.
Postscript: I have no problem with doing charitable work outside of work. Both my company and I do, by choice, though unlike Richard Branson I don't need to have a crew of paid PR agents making sure everyone knows it.