What good does business do? A local business here in Nampa, Idaho – POOP Natural Dairy Compost – provides a compelling answer to that question.
Before I explain, I want to point out why this question is important. For a variety of reasons, American society has entered a season of having difficulty being positive about the role of business. There is doubt and suspicion regarding the role of wealth, investment, and profit in our culture. Some of this suspicion is understandable – greed is real, destructive business practices are real, and exploitation is real. But these distortions of business are just that – distortions. They are a twisting and misuse of something that is otherwise good. At its heart, business is a means by which we do good for others. It is the application of effort and creativity, the ability to see and envision something that does not yet exist, all for the sake of providing something of value to someone else.
Perhaps most importantly, business creates. It sees something that does not exist, and brings it into existence. It sees something of apparent worthlessness and brings about something good, something valuable, something beautiful. To illustrate that fact, The Acton Institute’s excellent The Call of the Entrepreneur tells the story of three different businesses and the ways in which they have contributed to society by providing something of value to others. One of those entrepreneurs was a struggling Michigan dairymen who saw value in something others would consider worthless: cow manure.
A local business here in my own city of Nampa (located just outside of Boise in beautiful southern Idaho) has done something similar. As an inevitable by-product of thousands of cows, Idaho dairies have an abundance of manure. It gets in the way, it has to be shoveled around and managed, and most would view it as mere waste. But some local entrepreneurs saw potential value. By composting the manure, Nampa’s enterprising businessmen have created a valuable product: compost that can easily be placed on a lawn or garden.
Through creativity and effort, POOP Natural Dairy Compost processes the manure in such a way that the compost has no smell, spreads no seeds or weeds, and can easily be distributed through a broadcast spreader. They added a creative marketing campaign, and satisfied the additional desire of many in our area to fertilize their lawns and gardens using local sources. In fact, the company has attracted some national attention; they have made it to the final four in Intuit’s competition to run a small business advertisement in this year’s Super Bowl. (If you’re interested, you can vote for POOP to have an ad run in the Super Bowl.)
All of this serves as a beautiful example of what business does: it creates, and it does so in order to provide something of value to one’s neighbor. We are made in God’s image; that image is reflected in part in our ability – indeed, our calling – to create. When that image-of-God creativity is applied to the world, even something as seemingly worthless as dairy manure can be made into something useful, something beautiful, something that can be a blessing to others. So, let’s embrace with vigor and vision the calling, the God-given vocation, to be a blessing to others in all of life, including the vocation of business.