The new business model – Baha’i style

Oh, if only it were that easy!   🙂

In my last blog, I explored the idea of service to the Faith within the structure of a for-profit business.  I tentatively concluded that yes, this was an acceptable thing.  But that’s not the end of it, is it?  Obviously, many traditional “old world” business practices would be inappropriate in an enterprise that endeavours to spread the word about Baha’u’llah. 

What would be appropriate?  Now that is an interesting puzzle indeed!

I have actually been working on a business plan for Verdanta, and in it I was asked to describe the corporate culture.  What would it be like to work there?  So this isn’t just a pie out of the clear blue sky question.  I really want to know, what makes a Baha’i business different?

Two things spring immediately to mind: the first is operating the business based on the writings of Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha.  The second is the spiritual consequences of doing it wrong.  I guess the place to start is exploring what they have to say that’s relevant to the situation. 

Well, Baha’u’llah told us that “Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues,” so that’s probably a good place to start.  A Baha’i business must be impeccably honest.  Dealing honestly with suppliers, customers and employees, paying bills on time, and following through on commitments all fall within that maxim.  But so do not fudging numbers, not lying by omission, and not taking questionable “gray area” tax deductions. 

Abdu’l-Baha has said that “With education [the inner reality of man] can achieve all excellence; devoid of education it will stay on, at the lowest point of imperfection,” so constant and continuous education must be built into the structure of a Baha’i business.  Everyone in the organization should be allowed – and encouraged – to learn about new things, to gain new skills, and develop latent talents.  Personally, I can say that starting a business is a completely new thing for me, and I learn so much every day that my head hurts from all the neural pathway construction!

Baha’u’llah has also stated that “Work done in the spirit of service is the highest form of worship.”  I don’t know about anyone else, but if the work I do is equivalent to worship, then I’m going to make darn sure I’m working to the absolute utmost of my ability.  Which means excellence and perfection must be the norm, not only for the members of the organization, but also for all products produced by them. 

And since unity is the central principle of the Baha’i Faith, unity must also be a primary goal within the organization.  Most companies today have no clue what that might look like, let alone harbor any realistic expectations of achieving it.  But if you can’t think it, you can’t achieve it.  Fortunately, “So powerful is the light of unity that it can illumine the whole earth.” And where unity is the expectation, it can be accomplished.   

Of course, backbiting would have no place within a healthy Baha’i business, because “backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul.” The company culture should be shaped such that everyone knows backbiting is unacceptable. 

I could go on and on, but what I notice in writing this is that a Baha’i business must strive for the same spiritual perfections that individual Baha’is strive for. 

Hmmm.  One last quote comes to mind, and that is “Bring thyself to account each day, ere thou art summoned to a reckoning.”  It seems that I must not only bring myself to account each day, I must also bring to account the dealings of my business, for they ultimately reflect back on me and my spiritual progress. 

Wow.  How different would the world be today if all our leaders felt that way?


  1. amzolt said,

    August 31, 2008 at 1:47 pm


    Good thoughts your burning your brain with…

    One question:

    Have you, or do you intend, to discuss your business plan with an Assembly (local or national)?

    ~ Alex from Our Evolution

  2. August 31, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    […] The new business model – Baha’i style […]

  3. unity said,

    August 31, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    very nice blog 🙂 i have added your blog to bahaihub Article section with link back to here, you can see it here if for any reason you want me to remove it, please let me know.

    warmest wishes

  4. Susan Gammage said,

    September 1, 2008 at 1:33 am

    Hi El,

    I really like what you have to say! I’m wondering if I can use it on my blog, and if so, how to do it and how to give you credit? I’m new to all this. Also, I’m putting together a Baha’i-inspired business plan too, so maybe we can help each other. I’d be happy to share my philosophy statement off the blog.


    Susan Gammage

  5. leleff said,

    September 1, 2008 at 5:43 am

    I have indeed spoken with my LSA about this, although not specifically about this particular topic. They were supportive, as have been all the other “official” Baha’i types I have spoken with. I haven’t yet connected with the NSA, but there is yet time…

  6. Sandy said,

    March 29, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    I am a Baha’i. I’ve had business dealings with other Baha’i’s, some of whom I’ve known a very long time. I hate to admit this but I’ve been burned by them.. 3 times in fact….. I’ve been cheated out of a lot of money over the years. Frankly, I would never get into any business venture with another Baha’i now because of it. Sad but true.

    There are three people in the world I’d engage in from a business standpoint: an atheist I’ve known for 30 years and has never cheated me out of one cent, a Christian whose superior morals ensure that all of us in our current venture are well protected, and a Buddhist, who I’d trust with my life and has never stolen from me, despite many opportunities and need to.

    The point of this is simply that just because someone calls themselves a Baha’i is NOT a reason to trust them impeccably. Look at everyone on an individual basis and practise safe business dealings. Don’t be fooled by the religion they wear.

  7. Leanne said,

    March 29, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    Sandy, what you say is true. Baha’is are not automatically more virtuous than other people, simply because they’ve signed a declaration card. We are all working on _becoming_ Baha’is.

    Two quotes come to mind:
    “They who dwell within the tabernacle of God, and are established upon the seats of everlasting glory, will refuse, though they be dying of hunger, to stretch their hands and seize unlawfully the property of their neighbor, however vile and worthless he may be.”

    This is the level of integrity for which we should all be striving. Unfortunately, many of us simply aren’t there yet, which is bad because:

    “Nothing whatever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than dessension and strife, contention, estrangement and apathy, among the loved ones of God.”

    This is clearly illustrated by your story.

    I guess all we can do is to carefully examine our own lives, to try to root out our own contributions to societies ills. As Ghandi said, we should be the change we want to see in the world.

  8. September 11, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    […] In preparing for the official launch of my life coaching practice, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a Baha’i-inspired business different and how can I implement it into my own business?  Recently I came across this blog posting, which answered a lot of questions, and I use it here, with permission.  You can see it at: […]

  9. Ellen Hakala said,

    November 28, 2011 at 4:21 am

    Hi, I saw your posting on linked in recommending two books:

    “Attracting Perfect Customers” by Stacey Hall and Jan Brogniez, is available on Amazon for about $15.

    “To Build Anew: Creating Baha’i-inspired enterprises” by Don Brown:
    has one copy available as a collectibe for $49 on Amazon. The Baha’i Publishing Trust doesn’t carry it. Do you know who published it? Is it available somewhere at a lower price?

    • Leanne said,

      November 28, 2011 at 5:24 pm

      It looks like Paragon Publications, the UK company who published Don Brown’s book, was dissolved in 2007. Unfortunately, it looks like used books is the only way to go for this book. Good luck. If you find a source, let me know!

    • Amelie Manshadi said,

      August 26, 2012 at 9:42 pm

      I think you’ll find this blog of interest. It talks mostly of why Abd’u’l-Baha was knighted, but if you read between the lines you will see he was a successful businessman, and how he related to his employees/farmers, and how it was different from the Norm.

      Great direction to go for business, thanks for bringing up the subject.

      • Leanne said,

        August 28, 2012 at 6:50 am

        What a wonderful blog! I’ve never come across anything so detailed in the minutiae of Abd’l-Baha’s business dealings. Thank you tor sharing it.

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