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The Founding Fathers – and Mothers – Offer Valuable Lessons on Business

The Founding Fathers – and Mothers – Offer Valuable Lessons on Business

It's important to take stock of what's around you, to make sure your perspective is appropriate and your gratitude is sufficient. Every year, July 4

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It’s important to take stock of what’s around you, to make sure your perspective is appropriate and your gratitude is sufficient. Every year, July 4 reminds me to be grateful for my country and its economy. America is certainly not without its flaws, economic or otherwise, but it has provided millions of people incredible opportunity to make a living and improve prospects for the next generation.

Business played an important role in the United States even long before the Revolution. Many arrived in the colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries seeking a better life than they were able to achieve elsewhere. Business also helped bring about independence in 1776 – those Stamp and Sugar Acts impacted colonial businesses, and merchants were influential in corralling support for the revolutionary movement. Many of the Founding Fathers were businessmen themselves, although some less successful than others. Thankfully, many of them were blessed with brilliant wives who more than made up the difference!

Here are tips from America’s Founding Fathers on what to do – and sometimes, what not to do – in business:

1.     Be Entrepreneurial

He may have a successful brewery named after him, but Samuel Adams wasn’t a successful businessman himself. Other Founding Fathers, however, had more luck. Benjamin Franklin was certainly America’s most entrepreneurial – and in my opinion, most fun – Founding Father. After running away from home, he owned a newspaper, founded Poor Richard’s Almanack, and would go on to invest a series of practical inventions that would save businesspeople tons of money – you know, like the lightening rod! And don’t forget about the ladies – during the Revolutionary War, Abigail Adams managed military supply manufacturing plants, on top of managing her estate and prolific letter-writing with her husband.

2.     Take Smart Risks

In a sense, every one of the Founding Fathers shares this trait. After all, fomenting revolution and founding a new country is about as big a risk as you can take! Robert Morris invested in America and helped finance the revolutionary war effort. George Washington took a risk when he abandoned tobacco to start growing wheat. Abigail Adams bought stacks of government bonds during the war, even though they were practically worthless at the time – an investment that paid off huge after the war and the new government paid them. Not all risks work out – Robert Morris ended up losing much of his fortune in unrelated investments, and spent time in debtors prison – but you can’t make an omelet without cracking a few eggs.

3.     Get an Education… or Don’t

Ben Franklin stopped attending school at age 10, yet went on to become a self-made millionaire. Thomas Jefferson, meanwhile, was born into a wealthy family and was highly educated. Ultimately, both became titans of their time, known for their writing, inventions, and statesmanship. These two made clear that while education can certainly help on the path towards success, a lack of it doesn’t have to hold you back. Also, don’t forget that few women of the era were educated beyond a basic level, yet plenty intellectually matched or exceeded their educated husbands. You don’t need an education to find success. Instead, you need drive and smarts, and the Founding Fathers and Mothers had it in spades.

4.     Think About the Big Picture

If the United States were a business, George Washington would have been America’s first CEO. He understood that actions taken today impact decisions in the future, so he worked hard to set appropriate precedents. You could even argue he demonstrated smart succession planning when he stepped down after two terms. During Washington’s presidency, Alexander Hamilton saw the economy of the country as a whole, and understood that it must work to the benefit of all the states. As a result, he championed a national bank and helped structure the economy that would generate so much wealth over the subsequent 250 years. After the War of 1812 (and personally saving precious items from the burning White House), Dolley Madison helped lead the effort to rebuild Washington, D.C. In both instances, she demonstrated her keen understanding of the importance of symbolism and the role in can play in group morale.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

This article is from Inc.com

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