All business people are greedy and mean. They’re often overweight and sweaty, too. They wear pinstriped suits and they rub their hands together at the thought of money. Winning is the only thing that matters and they’ll do anything to make that happen. They trick innocent customers with their words and they are purely focused on sales, profit and power.
Or are they?
You will hopefully have met some brilliant, intelligent and compassionate business people who simply don’t fit the above description. You may know that all business people aren’t greedy and mean, but what if you asked a child about a business owner? What do you think their impression is?
From a very young age, we learn about the world from the people around us. We learn from television and from books, from our parents and teachers. The following characters are businesspeople from books, films and television shows. Decide for yourself what impression they give to children.
Lord Business, The Lego Movie
He normally wears a grey business suit. He has a yellow head with a large brown unibrow and an evil smirk. One of his personas wears a square brown hairpiece, and his other wears an elaborate headdress decorated with red coffee cups, a chest plate with a metal business tie as well as a long cape that also resembles a business tie and exaggeratedly large boots with sections that light up. The boots can also change their height to however Lord Business wants.
Lord Business is the alter ego of President Business, an uptight company president who wants to organize everything around him. As Lord Business, he commands a robot militia with plans to take over the world by gluing it together with a substance called Kragle which is actually a tube of Krazy Glue.
Mr Burns, The Simpsons
Burns is the evil owner of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant and is also Homer Simpson’s boss. He is a stereotype of corporate America in his unquenchable desire to increase his own wealth and power, inability to remember his employees’ names (including Homer’s) and lack of concern for their safety and well-being.
Burns’ trademark expression is the word “excellent”, muttered slowly in a low, sinister voice while steepling his fingertips. He Springfield’s richest and most powerful citizen. He uses his power and wealth to do whatever he wants, usually without regard for consequences and without interference from the authorities.
Harry Wormwood, Matilda
Mr Wormwood is depicted as being a loudmouthed, brash, and insulting man, but a wealthy automotive salesman whose manipulative business practices have earned great profits. Self-important but ignorant, Mr. Wormwood regards himself as sly, clever, and intelligent.
Surly and intensely offensive, when agitated or provoked in the slightest bit he possesses a tendency to lash out fiercely at the cause of his infuriation, resorting to extremely hurtful name-calling in times of irritation, even towards his little daughter Matilda. Despite his high opinion of himself, as mentioned previously, he is quite simple-minded and moronic, expressing a low opinion of the literary world and disapproving of Matilda’s passion for books, believing that television presents far more benefits than books, so therefore he, his wife, and son are constantly seen seated before their television. Despite his riches, Mr. Wormwood is also noted for his deception in the automotive industry, illegally selling repainted, disguised stolen cars to look new to unsuspecting customers.
Ebenezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol
Ebenezer Scrooge is the haunted protagonist in Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella A Christmas Carol, made ever infamous by a range of movie adaptations. Whilst by the end of the story, Scrooge is reborn as a seemingly generous philanthropist, it takes visits from four ghosts to change his ways.
For most viewers, he is remembered for his miserly ways as the owner of a small business, who has mistreated employees and colleagues for decades. Today, being “a Scrooge” is synonymous with being mean, miserly and a cheapskate – not the perfect business role model!
The Apprentice, Dragons’ Den and Shark Tank
These TV shows have become incredibly popular across the globe but what impression do they give to a child about what it takes to become successful? As adults, we know that the famous business people on these shows play up to the camera. They have a role to perform; to create tension, friction and be the ‘bad guys’. But without this context, a child will see mean and greedy businessmen and women talking down to other people.
The dramatisation of entrepreneurship has certainly created more awareness, but at what cost? We wrote a piece in more detail about how these shows aren’t helpful for kids’ ideas of what a business person or entrepreneur is.
There are a number of other examples you might have come across including Disney’s Scrooge McDuck and Cyril Sneer (The Racoons) amongst others. If we continue to portray business people so negatively, we are in danger of creating an expectation of people going into business; that they must be ruthless and profiteering. Changing this pattern is crucial to inspiring honest, innovative and hard-working people to start honest and innovative businesses.
So the question now is how do we put confidence back into children that business people aren’t all bad? How to we encourage them to want to grow up to own or run companies, to hire people and to develop new and innovate ways of solving problems? Where are the resourceful, hard-working and personable businesspeople in children’s storybooks and media?
This is why created a series of storybooks that introduce children to positive, entrepreneurial role models. Kids need role models that display characteristics like creativity, resourcefulness and resilience to emulate.
The Clever Tykes books are perfect for kids ages 6-9. Check them out in the store.