Is Business Greed?

The longer I work for myself, the longer I have to engage in… business practices. The mere thought of business used to revile me. Don’t even get me started on “Business Majors,” those scum-sucking penny-pinchers who suck the joy out of life by weighing everything with money. I couldn’t think of a less rewarding way to look at the world than through green-tinted glasses stained by imperial greed and materialism.

The older I got, the more people would say to me:

Once you get out of college, you’ll start worrying about money. It’ll become more important to you.

Some part of them was right — I do think about money more now that I have to do all my finances and, well, exist. And that requires business. But my definition of business has shifted from “the practice of making money” into something entirely different.

In fact, the more I think about business, the more I take money out of the equation. I think business is actually a good thing, once separated from the grasp of money. And, sure, there are some connotations and many kernels of truth that inextricably tie business with monetary greed. But business at its core is a good, desirable practice. Instead, I now define business as:

business, n
The act of mutual benefit between two or more parties (the “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” principle)

To this, you say, this is a little broad, isn’t it? Doesn’t this now include so many things where money isn’t involved?


Doesn’t that include family and relationships now? Well, if we limit it to non-friends and non-family, the definition holds true. There are many things that can be business, outside of its confluence with money, and there are many things involving money that aren’t business-like.

This places business on a continuum between benefits. In other words, if only one party benefits from a service or transaction, it is no longer business (I say so). In the act of taking without giving, that is called greed. The act of giving without taking is called charity. Business is then something that falls somewhere in the middle: giving while receiving something in turn.


Let it be noted that there are several perspectives in which this theory breaks. For example, I wouldn’t call the recipient of charity “greedy,” much like I wouldn’t consider giving to a greedy person “charity.” There are circumstances that fall outside of this. But when viewed from a purely business standpoint, this is honest, honorable business:

using your services to benefit someone else, while they provide for you in return.

Business is a Continuum

One last thing to note: business is a continuum.. That means that invariably, in most every transaction, one party will benefit more than the other. But the idea is to minimize that so that both parties are benefitting equally. It’s no mistake that the term “business relationship” exists.

This is important not for your own gain, but because the world is so much bigger than simply yourself, and the most good is done when more than one person benefits from someone’s actions. It should only be viewed as a means of doing more than you ever could without: I receive something for my gifts, so that I may give more in return. Business should always be a reflection of that: doing just as much (or more good) for others as you’re doing for yourself.

Drew Powers is a frontend developer at Envy.