Although often overlooked, especially in current events and social media, Native Americans have been silently working on their success in the business world for some time now. From fulfilling behind-the-scenes duties in large corporations to creating and leading some of the most successful restaurant chains and casinos in the country, Native Americans rely on their core values and cultural traditions. These are the same core values and cultural traditions that are learned from an early age.
An interesting opinion piece was published in Fox News this past Fall: “What can entrepreneurs learn from Native American tribes? Everything.” This article helps to showcase that there really is much that can be learned from the Native Americans and how they approach life, personal relationships, and business.
David Anderson, Successful Businessman (Ojibwe Tribe)
One of these successful business people is David Anderson, a native of the Minnesota Ojibwe tribe. (Sometimes the Ojibwe tribe has been referenced as Ojibwa or Chippewa.) From his childhood growing up both on and off official reservations, Anderson learned many of the Native American values that helped him to excel throughout life. Some of those values are listed here:
- Honesty and integrity – This view of honesty and integrity helps to direct the actions of life and business. This can range from making fair deals to fulfilling promises. This is a part of the core value of the Native Americans.
- Doing what is best for everyone – Native American tribes are built on a foundation of making decisions that will benefit the majority of the people. Choosing paths that are self-serving are frowned upon, and many Native Americans measure their success based on their achievements for others rather than on personal wealth. This can sound “foreign” when faced with stories of people doing something only for their own success and that is why the self-focus is not generally seen in the Native American culture.
- Appreciation for women – With a basis on the influence of the original clan mothers and life-givers of the tribes, Native American businessmen have long held women in esteem. From a psychological aspect, when looking at the culture as a whole (multi-cultural diversity), it is clear to see that this builds a balance.
- Kinship between people – Like the respect for women, Native Americans also feel that building relationships between employers and employees are one of the best ways to achieve business success.
- Praising life – Whether it is praising a god or thanking the earth for human life, Native Americans recognize that they simply hold a place in the world; they do not control everything.
- Generosity – As they begin to have some success, many Native Americans take the time to be generous with what they have, paying back their thanks into the community.
With these important tenets in mind, David Anderson grew up to attend Harvard University, earning a Master’s in Public Administration. He helped to create and develop the nationwide Rainforest Café restaurant chain, and he was eventually able to achieve his ultimate dream. That dream was to open “Famous Dave’s Barbeque” restaurants across the country.
Anderson’s success in the restaurant industry has allowed him to pay back the community that taught him so well, becoming Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs (2004-2005). With the ability to help more Native Americans throughout the nation, Anderson also developed his non-profit organization LifeSkills Center for Leadership, to help at-risk youth of all backgrounds to maximize their life potential.
David Anderson is an excellent example of how cultural values play into the ultimate success in life and business. However, the Native American culture is not the only one that seems to have a handle on some of these core values. For a look at some other cultures, reference Neil Patel’s article on “Why Immigrants Are More Successful than You!.” It is an older article, but it highlights some interesting points when looking at how culture affects business success.
This story has been the story of one successful man. However, with the basis of the Native American culture, it is easy to see that the culture itself breeds the values necessary. It is as if the Native American culture acts as the fertile ground out of which individuals like David Anderson are born. It also appears that the success is almost inevitable when there is a balance and an attitude of giving back to the community.