This article is an extract from Transmission Private's monthly newsletter, The Lede, which tracks the world of reputation management for private clients. You can sign up for the newsletter on our website via the tab at the bottom of this article or by completing the form here.
How do you value wealth? This was a question I was thinking about over the weekend. A wealth calculator has been doing the rounds on Twitter, showing how long it takes a tech CEO—from Elon Musk to Jeff Bezos—to earn the salary of an average employee. As you might expect, it triggered a wave of scorn against entrepreneurs.
What were people saying? The criticisms have been twofold:
- Executive pay gap. Is it right for there to be individuals who are paid significant multiples of entry-level employees? This argument repeats itself with increasing regularity and is a question that many business owners will have their own personal answer to.
- Pushing for further growth. More interesting, though, was a different argument: given the wealth of these individuals, why were they so keen to get people back to work after coronavirus? Surely they could have forgone the extra money they would have earned and kept everyone at home? I think this criticism is conceptually confused and requires further discussion.
Why is it wrong? Fundamentally, there is a deep misunderstanding about most entrepreneurs' motivations. They do not go into the office to make as much money as possible but, instead, because they want to feel they are making a meaningful contribution to the world. The idea that Musk wanted to reopen his Tesla factory so that he could make a few extra bucks is ludicrous. He is trying to radically upend transport.
Why is this important? It reveals that the enmity towards enterprise and wealth creation often comes from a misunderstanding about the motivations behind business. It also shines a light on the importance of entrepreneurs and family offices giving more visibility to their purpose, mission and values—showing that making money is not the only goal.