Gordon Gecko was wrong.

Yesterday, I was reading an article about a positive entrepreneur documentary in the Wichita Business Journal. Now there’s an odd thing.

No, not me reading a local business publication from the Midwest, but a positive movie about entrepreneurs.

Is that a fairy tale or what? If you believe some in the media and even in politics, business people are evil. They steal from the poor, avoid taxes and never put in an honest day’s work in their life. They don’t “deserve”  their wealth and probably got it all from mommy and daddy, or something like that, right?

If you believe that “never put in an honest day’s work in their life” thing, take a look at the Trump books where he gives his complete work schedule for a week (Trump 101 and Think like a billionaire). Most people never work that hard. Sure, maybe the work they do is hard, but take the time to read it, if nothing else, just to get a taste of the schedule someone like that has to maintain. What people like him do, day in and day out, is not easy.

Gordon Gecko was a character in the movie “Wall Street”, a ruthless Wall Street businessman played by Michael Douglas. One of the references in the article refers to the infamous Gordon Gecko quote saying “Greed is good.” Gecko also said that business is a zero-sum game, as the article notes, meaning that the only way I can get success is at the expense of someone else.

Bull biscuits.

First of all, Gordon Gecko was a character in a movie. He isn’t real.

Second, I seriously doubt anyone at that level of accomplishment is foolish enough to think that business is a zero-sum game. Maybe that’s the message Hollywood wants you to believe, who knows.

Successful business people know better. The best business people invent new ways to generate revenue, by thinking harder and doing things that everyone else is too lazy to do. They don’t have to stick a thumb in someone else’s pie. That leads me to something I was reading about Trump this morning.

I was reading a note from Dan that mentioned that Donald Trump once bought a house from a former billionaire who was down on his luck. He bought the house out of foreclosure so it was clearly his, but rather than have the sheriff go to the house and boot the owner out, he wrote him a check for $100,000 – on the condition that he leave the house immediately.

Why did Trump do this? He didn’t have to.

Trump is smart enough to know that anyone who got to be a billionaire one time is awfully likely to repeat their success. He knew that some day, he might sit across the table from this same guy, or need a favor. And of course, he knows that the law favors the squatter, even in a mansion. If the guy really wanted to be a pain in the rear, he could trash the place, and force Trump to go to court and wait months to get the guy kicked out of the house by the sheriff. That’s too much like work, plus it wastes the asset that Trump has just purchased.

Most importantly, there is no point in stepping in the middle of the guy’s back as he’s face down in the mud. Someday, Trump might slip up and need someone’s help. People remember getting stepped on. They also remember when you don’t and knew that you could.

It’s better to have a pocket full of favors owed to you than not, even if you never cash ’em in, and it’s OK to be a successful business owner. Really.