Why start a business? There are risks, long hours and no guarantee that a particular vision will come true. Despite these potential pitfalls, entrepreneurs in unprecedented numbers are taking what Robert Frost called "the road less traveled." Two books explore this road. One follows the journey of a payments industry leader and serial entrepreneur. The other traces the origins of an innovator who created the foundation for double-entry accounting during the Middle Ages.
In setting the stage for Size Doesn't Matter: Why Small Business is Big Business – Profit Now From the Small Business Boom!, author Jeff Shavitz shares his goal of providing readers with "the 10 and 10": 10 action points readers will "be able to jump on within ten days of reading this book." What readers won't find are suggestions on how to write a business plan, use social media or find the right funding source and legal structure for a business. Having determined that others have already covered these topics sufficiently, Shavitz chose to offer a different kind of contribution to business lore. In a down-to-earth style, his self-help memoir sets out to provide lessons learned from multiple adventures in entrepreneurship.
While the book is geared toward small business owners from all backgrounds and industries, merchant level salespeople will identify with insights gained from the author's years of experience in payments. Current Street SmartsSM columnist and a long-time member of The Green Sheet Advisory Board, Shavitz was attracted to the payments industry for five reasons:
Did you know the origins of merchant services can be traced to fifteenth century Venice? This is one insight gleaned from Australian author Jane Gleeson-White's Double Entry: How the Merchants of Venice Created Modern Finance. Gleeson-White became interested in accounting history during an internship at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice. She discovered that the earliest known printed books on mathematics were written for merchants, not scholars. "Commercial imperatives and practical necessity drove the early printers' decisions about which books to publish," she wrote. The same can be said for today's publishing conglomerates, as well as companies in all fields of endeavor.
Gleeson-White described 1469 Venice as the "Silicon Valley of the Renaissance." The city's large labor pool, low printing costs and business-friendly environment attracted printers from Germany and France. She detailed Franciscan monk Luca Pacioli's publication of Summa in 1494. A mathematical treatise, it included the first printed record of Venetian double entry accounting. Double-entry accounting places debits and credits into separate columns. In the fifteenth century, it enabled merchants to view transactions at a glance for the first time and led to a framework for standardized international accounting practices that remains in place today.
The book also challenged traditional views of science and mathematics and is credited with moving mathematicians from the use of Roman numerals to Hindu-Arabic numerals, as well as introducing linear perspective to leading artists of the day, all of which profoundly affected Western culture.
Centuries later, the payments industry is undergoing a renaissance, influenced by long-time industry leaders and entrepreneurs with fresh perspectives from the tech sector. Who knows what impact new payment forms will have, and what good might come from this disruption beyond more efficient, secure payments. Gleeson-White advocates for greener, sustainable accounting methods that balance voracious consumerism with finite natural resources. Payment pros inspired by this could advocate for equally sane visions of the future.
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