Full disclosure, I am Catholic, but this will not be a sermon or call to convert. I have the greatest respect for all religions that have a strong ethical and principled basis. Being involved in the business world I have come across many situations that were difficult for me personally as well as spiritually. I often had to carry out restructuring initiatives and projects that would “make us more competitive” only to see the lasting and damaging impacts on the communities and families in the area. When I first started out, I did not question or dig into the rationale or true cost of many of these decisions. Whether it was my naïve mindset at the time, or just my desire to drink the cool-aid and not rock the boat to keep my job, I wasn’t sure.
With age comes wisdom and the confidence to start asking questions. My Brother-in-Law was studying philosophy at the time when we were discussing the turmoil in Europe and America. He pointed out that no country or business is an island. What we do for the “good” of the business impacts everyone and has a profound impact on the rest of society. This is especially true today in the interconnected world we live in. Greed and the ever mounting pressure on companies to grow their businesses at any cost and at unreasonable and unsustainable metrics, has led to the turmoil we see today. The great surge in outsourcing in the 90’s has led the U.S Economy to be primarily a buyer of goods, rather than a maker. The enormous displacement of workers has left cities, people and countries reeling in the aftermath. Those very companies became hated, former employees and vendors negatively impacted the very brand image and products that were being made by them. Some were vilified to the point of closing and never opening again. The “smart guys” are not always so smart.
What is the real cost of saving 50 cents per piece or increasing your margins by 5%, when the outcome could be unsafe product or terrible customer service that will impact the very people you displaced? I am not suggesting that we all become tree-hugging socialists and don’t make any money or reward ourselves for the risks we take. I am simply advocating that we take into account all parties including employees, customers and our communities at large when we make business decisions. These qualitative numbers are often the most overlooked numbers when analyzing business decisions. Great accountants take these into consideration as well.
Remember, what goes around comes around!