Business Columns & Blogs

Stand for something, live up to that ideal

“To be, or not to be.”

It is one of the best-known lines in William Shakespeare’s writing. When I did a Google search, I found more than two million sites that discuss it, and many have debated the meaning of the opening phrase of a soliloquy in the Nunnery Scene of “Hamlet.”

To me, it means that “being” is much different than “doing.” The act of “being” means I am in touch with the deeper part of my soul. That is my interpretation, but there are many others, too.

Rabbi and social activist Abraham Joshua Heschel has taken this classic line and changed it to, “To be is to stand for,” which is an interpretation that had never occurred to me.

I also never thought it had relevance in business until I took time to consider what the Rabbi was saying. I think you could rephrase the Rabbi’s version as follows: To be is to have core values by which you live.

Just doing or being is fine, but you need to stand for something that matters. Making money is great, but there are so many other things of value for which your business can make a stand. This is what makes a business great.

A good friend of mine values every staff member who works for him. He espouses this philosophy in the things he says as well as in the way he runs his business. He pays for all of his staff’s medical and dental care, plus so much more. He does not do this to make his employees like him. (For the record, they love him). It is just a core value he stands on.

Another example is an entrepreneur who gives 50 percent of her profits to her staff to distribute throughout the community and help support causes that address critical issues like housing and food. The core value she has embraced is that she wants her company to play a role in making the community a better place to live. To her, this is what it means to “be.”

Finally, there is Jim Moran, who founded the Jim Moran Institute and so much more. He started the institute more than 20 years ago because he knew entrepreneurs needed help becoming more successful. He and his wife have given more than $100 million to Florida State University and the institute to help ensure entrepreneurs can be successful.

Moran understood that help was needed, and he wanted to stand on the notion that he could provide for those in need.

Now go out and ask yourself what you stand for. Then do what you can to live up to that ideal.

You can do this!

Jerry Osteryoung, a business consultant and Jim Moran professor of entrepreneurship (emeritus) and professor of finance (emeritus) at Florida State University, can be reached at