From the time that goods and services began to be traded in early civilizations, people have been thinking about business. The emergence of specialized producers and the use of money as a means of exchange were methods by which individuals and societies could, in modern terms, gain a “business edge.” The ancient Egyptians, the Mayans, the Greeks, and the Romans all knew that wealth creation through the mechanism of commerce was fundamental to the acquisition of power, and formed the base on which civilization could prosper.
The lessons of the early traders resonate even today. Specialism revealed the benefits of economies of scale—that production costs fall as more items are produced. Money gave rise to the concept of “value added”—selling an item for more than it cost to produce. Even when barter was the norm, producers still knew it was advantageous to lower costs and raise the value of goods. Today’s companies may use different technologies and trade on a global scale, but the essence of business has changed little in millennia.