Although I have focused my academic career within the larger liberal arts curriculum, I do appreciate the private-sector world of business. Without this facet of the economy, life as we know it would cease to exist. Having said that, I also understand and appreciate the need for government-run institutions and I recognize their place within the larger economic and social context. The readings for this week reminded me that there is a very fine line between the private and public sector, however, more importantly I found myself questioning the role that history plays in terms of bridging this gap.
While most people assume that I am pursuing a degree in history in order to teach high school or in an effort to better prepare myself to fight for one of the very few history-related government positions, I am beginning to open my eyes to the possibilities of using historical methods and my own knowledge to meet the needs of small and large businesses alike. I believe that I can apply my skills as a historian (research, organization, communication, editing) to help businesses, regardless of their field or clientele, succeed. I believe that my interest in business, although limited, stemmed from my experience as a child. Growing up, my parents owned and operated their own insurance brokerage agency. My dad received his bachelor degree in business and my mom was a trained paralegal. They both put lots of time and energy into their business and enjoyed the flexibility associated with this lifestyle. Although the insurance and financial planning industry has the potential to be very lucrative, I never remember my parents talking about their business practices in those terms. My mom always said that “life insurance is about keeping promises.” It was always about the services she could provide to her clients to help them keep their promises to their business partners, friends and family. As I read The $100 Dollar Startup I realized that this people/relationship oriented approach was a central facet of Guillebeau’s argument, and one that I whole heartedly agree with.
Guillebeau described microbusiness as a “way of earning a good living while crafting a life of independence and purpose” (xiv). However, he also argues that the freedom (what we are looking for) and value (the way to achieve freedom) are key themes to successful microbusiness ventures. Within this context, value equates to “helping people.” So often the general public is quick to dismiss business ventures because of the stereotypical “money hungry” persona of big business. What Guillebeau reminds us, however, is that not all business ventures meet this stereotype, and that more importantly, successful businesses do not focus all of their energies on this money making aspect. As Guillebeau’s research suggests, many microbusinesses do not follow this model and instead fall in line with a “follow-your-passion” model. However, despite the external differences between the microbusiness industry and the field of history, it is obvious that the key to being successful in either requires a sincere understanding and appreciation of people and an ability to foster lasting relationships.