Defending and promoting the role of the company and the business owner

Today and more than ever, it is increasingly urgent to place the Company at the epicentre of the model of regional economic and social development; and if any organisation is to play an active role in that development, it is the Company. It is the natural place for wealth creation: it promotes most R&D; it’s the right setting for the professional and personal development of a significant number of individuals in a Region; and it generates useful goods and services in order to meet human needs, amongst others.

In recent times, though, we have been witnessing a steady decline in the popular opinion of the company and the businessperson. Moreover, many social groups have stigmatised both companies and business owners in reaction to unfavourable media attention, with negative aspects being attached to both which include: environmental destruction; worker exploitation; manufacturing somewhat ‘unethical’ products; ‘evil’ business owners, etc.

Furthermore, and without falling into semantic traps, since we seem to dislike the term ‘businessperson’, we have come up with ‘entrepreneur’ to replace it, while conferring all the virtues upon the latter which we deny the former. As a result, entrepreneurs who are successful beware! Should they manage to find a good business model, attract clients or consumers around them, create jobs and wealth, etc., they instantly turn into ‘diabolical’ business owners! Thus is the hypocrisy of our day. In my opinion, we must work towards turning this situation around 180° so that the true contribution of business owners and that of companies as vehicles of sustainable human development is valued.

Allow me to illustrate with a case in point: last season’s signing of Asier Illarramendi by Real Madrid. The very same critics, who decry business owners for their wealth, think nothing of a young lad of 23 clearing a cool 3 million euros a year in a five-year contract (as reported in the sports press). And, of course, aside from additional bonuses, and image and media rights, it’s considered absolutely normal to come out the other side of the contract having grossed €30 million. Why wouldn’t he sign if football players have such a short career!?

Now I ask you, how many business owners do you know, who are actually creating jobs and wealth in your region, and who are capable of earning €30 million over the course of their business career? I certainly don’t know many. However, many of those who defend Illarramendi’s good fortune consistently attack people in business for their perceived greediness and apparent disregard of social issues.

From the education system, through to the media, politics, and social movements, we desperately need to educate society about the role being played by the company and the business owner. Together, and through this collective effort to raise awareness, we need to place the company squarely at the heart of the process of wealth creation while reducing social inequality.

What we truly need are companies and business owners who are committed to creating long-term and sustainable business plans, who are generating ─ as fair as humanly possible ─ channels of income distribution, and which are closely tied to the region’s development, while remaining ever-competitive in the face of growing international complexity. Under no circumstances can we afford to limit, let alone, do away with, the business development potential of our country.

Personally, I believe in and support the concept of the company as a community of people. This idea is best expressed by Manu Robles Arangiz, the founder and President of, the 100,000 strong, Basque Workers' Solidarity Trade Union (ELA-STV): “Companies are communities of people integrated into another community. Each one of its members contributes to a common project according to their individual capacities. The main obligation of our community is to structure a forward-looking project able to compete while creating wealth in every sphere in which it is involved.”

Sabin Azua

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