This year marked the 300th anniversary of the
birth of Benjamin Franklin, known as one of
our most storied founding fathers, an inventor
and a diplomat. Few, however, think of him in
the role assigned to him by Blaine McCormick,
associate dean of Baylor University’s Hankamer School of
Business and author of Ben Franklin: America’s Original Entrepreneur (Entrepreneur Press, 2005). In honor of Franklin’s
tricentennial, we got down to business with McCormick and
learned why Franklin’s first name has become synonymous
with the coveted greenback.
Why do you consider Benjamin Franklin America’s founding
father of business?
Because he, more than any other of the founding patriots,
sowed seeds of business culture in America. He understood
free-market capitalism. He was a small-business owner. He
started in the printing trade—most people know that.
He went to London in his late teen years, which was
So, he was the first American franchisor?
then the technological center of the world. He worked
in a printing shop in London that was more advanced
than anything you’d find in the States. He came
back and set up his own shop, purchased a news-
paper and started franchising his print shops
through the colonies.
People, myself included, attribute that to
him. Franklin’s concept was clearly
not nearly as advanced
as what you’d find at a
today. But he did pick his
own people and he structured contracts.
These were not indentured contracts; they were gain-
sharing contracts. He helped them set up. He helped them
learn how to manage their books. He helped them succeed,
and then he would keep a percentage of the profits. He had
those print shops scattered from as far north as New Jersey
and as far south as the Carolinas, and if memory serves me
correctly, he even had one in the Bahamas.
Why else does he merit the title of America’s founding
father of business?
I point to his Poor Richard’s Almanac. It was the best-selling
reference work in the colonies and one of his main cash cows