Mind Your Own Beeswax!

 This week’s blog is from David Arnal, a Low Country entrepreneur, business owner, environmentalist, and really nice guy.  Read on as David pollinates traditional mindsets with a new way of thinking about education, careers and the future. FYI – – The Creative Coast’s blogspot is Savannah’s sounding board for local thinkers, innovators, wanderers and wonderers. Guest bloggers share their thoughts, opinions and creative noodling from all over the map… .


. I am a professional beekeeper. By default, I run my own business. As you can probably imagine, there are very few job listings for beekeepers, and there are no beekeeping franchises out there. I started keeping honey bees in 1988, which many people at that time considered to be a strange and obscure hobby. Fast forward in time to the mid-2000’s when Jerry Seinfeld’s Bee Movie and media reports on the collapse of honey bee colonies suddenly made me a hero who was “saving the bees.” Over that same period of time my business has grown and changed from being a small-scale honey retailer to developing a large-scale wholesale business with distributors into what is today a mission driven business called Bees Across AmericaTM that is seeking to repopulate honey bees and other pollinators in North America. Owning my own business over this time period has provided me with valuable insights into the multi-faceted art of running a business. This fact is lost on many of my peers who have followed a professional track in their careers. When I ask them, “What is your business?” they will often answer, “Oh, I am a banker, or I am a doctor.” Then I ask them if they own the bank or the hospital, and they usually respond with the answer, “No, I just work there.” Our current educational system in America focuses on preparing today’s students to get good jobs by developing scholastic skills. Upon graduation from high school they go on to higher levels of schooling to develop their professional capabilities. They study to become architects, engineers, scientists, chefs, artists, and writers. These professional skills allow them to enter the workforce and hopefully get a job with higher pay. The problem with this one-dimensional approach to education is that most of our students today become what they study. For instance, if you study cooking you become a chef. If you study medicine you become a doctor, and so on. The mistake most people make in becoming what they study is that they spend their lives minding someone else’s business and making that business owner wealthy. There is a big difference between your profession and your business. Billionaire investor Warren Buffett has put it this way, “Can you really explain to a fish what it’s like to walk on land? One day on land is worth a thousand years of talking about it, and one day running a business has exactly the same kind of value.” Best-selling author Robert Kiyosaki lays out this disparity in his bestselling book Rich Dad, Poor Dad. He shares an anecdote about Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s, who was asked to speak to an MBA class at the University of Texas in 1974. After his inspiring lecture the MBA class invited Ray out for a beer at their favorite hangout. “What business am I in?” Ray asked. Everyone laughed. No one answered, so Ray asked the question again. “What business do you think I’m in?” The students laughed again, and finally one brave soul yelled out, “Ray, who in the world does not know that you’re in the hamburger business.” Ray chuckled. “That is what I thought you would say.” He paused then quickly said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m not in the hamburger business. My business is real estate.” Ray Kroc then unpacked for the students that his primary business focus was to sell hamburger franchises, but that he never lost sight of the location of each franchise. His profession was sales but his business was owning real estate. Today, McDonald’s is the largest single owner of real estate in the world, owning even more real estate than the Catholic Church. Kiyosaki goes on to point out that “financial struggle is often directly the result of people working all their life for someone else.” If all you have is earned income without any assets, you may end up with nothing at the end of your working days. Many people simply never take the time to become more financially secure by using their additional income to purchase income-generating assets. This fact is shown clearly in survey after survey of baby boomers who never see themselves retiring because all they have to rely on is earned income. So what assets do you own today? I own a farm. I own livestock (bees). And I own bee hives. I generate income from all these assets. I also get paid to do public speaking about the demise of the honey bee and its effect on the environment and our nation’s food security. So when people assume that I am somewhere on the lower end of the bell curve of intelligence because I have chosen “farming” for my profession, I laugh and remember that I have my assets working for me — more than 4 million honey bees pollinating and producing honey, making me the largest “employer” on Hilton Head Island. My best advice to students, entrepreneurs and well-seasoned professionals is very simple: begin acquiring assets that you are passionate about. If you love the assets that you purchase, you will take care of them. And, over time, they will take care of you. David]]>

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