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It’s your Business so do what you want to-Part One

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=business+graphs&iid=6752210″ src=”9/8/3/5/GM_CEO_Fritz_1d7c.jpg?adImageId=9360485&imageId=6752210″ width=”234″ height=”152″ /]*This is Part One of a 2-part post: It’s your Business so do what you want to.

PART ONE: It IS your Business so do what YOU want to.

Sometimes when people are asked to choose between two kinds of news, good and bad, they will take the bad first, to get it over with so they can end the conversation on a more pleasant note.  That’s what we’ll do here.  To that end, here’s the bad part of the conversation for those with tiny businesses, the very small business owner and the home-based business owner – if you happen to have a truly large business or you influence great chunks of our global commerce, well this is the bad news for you too.  If you do what YOU want to with your business at the expense of your integrity, your ethics, your clients and customers, your friends and family and your industry…then you ought not to be in business at all.

That’s a pretty bold statement.  I’ve actually heard a person or two say, ‘it’s MY business so I’ll do whatever I want to do with it.’  I wonder if that was the sentiments of those bullies on Wall Street who claimed recently before the U.S. congress that they were ever so sorry for “…severity of the 2008 financial crisis and apologized for risky behavior and poor decisions….”  I pulled this from the Associated Press story as it appears online at Tampa Bay Online.  Of the quotes that appear in the article that continue to raise my blood pressure:

  • “…Americans are furious and “have a right to be” about the hefty bonuses banks paid out after getting billions of dollars in federal help,….”
  • “…’Over the course of the crisis, we as an industry caused a lot of damage,’ Moynihan said….”
  • “…Like the other witnesses, Blankfein acknowledged lapses in judgment in some practices leading up to the crisis….”
  • “…Dimon said a crucial blunder was ‘how we just missed that housing prices don’t go up forever…..'”

Let’s talk for a moment about lapses of judgment as Mr. Blankfein of Goldman Sachs said in the quote above.  I would ask: lapses of judgment?  How could these people have such huge lapses of judgment as to cause the near collapse of an entire economic structure?  As a home business owner I have to watch very carefully every business judgment I make because I can see instantly what the ramifications of my decisions will be.  Is it that these institutions are so huge that the people who make the decisions and carry the influence can no longer see anything beyond their pen to paper?

Shoshana Zuboff, the author of The Support Economy: Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism,  said in a BusinessWeek article :

  • “…The economic crisis is not the Holocaust but, I would argue, it derives from a business model that routinely produced a similar kind of remoteness and thoughtlessness, compounded by a widespread abrogation of individual moral judgment. As we learn more about the behavior within our financial institutions, we see that just about everyone accepted a reckless system that rewards transactions but rejects responsibility for the consequences of those transactions. Bankers, brokers, and financial specialists were all willing participants in a self-centered business model that celebrates what’s good for organization insiders while dehumanizing and distancing everyone else—the outsiders…..”

Don’t you think this hints at an erosion of personal business integrity and an erosion of personal business ethics?  I’m not so naive as to think that money and power won’t always be addictive aphrodisiacs for some people and that the siren call of more zeroes on the check can blind some people as to what cost those zeroes were arrived at?  [clumsy sentence but asks my question]  But what about the folks around those people?  Wasn’t there someone in those overpriced offices who thought, just for a moment, that perhaps this was a bit too good to be true and whenever this question arises it means that someone somewhere down the line is being hurt?

Ms. Zuboff’s references in her article another she had read about the Nazi war trials and the conclusions of “…Hannah Arendt’s ruminations on Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann as she reported on his trial in Jerusalem for The New Yorker 45 years ago….”  What at first might seem an unfair comparison, I find not so and agree as Ms. Zuboff says:

  • “…This message is not restricted to the unspeakable horrors of mass murder. It is relevant to the relationship between individual judgment and institutional processes in any situation. It’s a message that says: you can’t just blame the system for the bad things you’ve done. Yet to the world’s dismay, thousands of men and women entrusted with our economic well being systematically failed to meet this minimum standard of civilized behavior. They did not capably discern right and wrong. They either did not judge, or they did not act on their judgment….”

I guess what I want to say is that just because it is YOUR business doesn’t mean that you get to do what you WANT to do at the expense of other people. Ms. Zuboff says, “…The economic crisis has demonstrated that the banality of evil concealed within a widely accepted business model can put the entire world and its peoples at risk….” Then she asks, “… Shouldn’t those businesses be held accountable to agreed international standards of rights, obligations, and conduct? Shouldn’t the individuals whose actions unleashed such devastating consequences be held accountable to these moral standards?….”

Then she says, “…I believe the answer is yes….”  And so do I.

And why not?  Small business owners are expected to pay their taxes, not cheat their customers, have truth in advertising,  make their prices competitive [not gouging the customer or stealing market share from competitors], recall products that don’t work, offer replacements and a host of other ethical practices…as well as giving to their communities and being good citizens.  So how are small business owners any different from the “big guys?”

I think it’s a matter of personal integrity.  I think a person has to choose to be ethical and to do so it requires that he or she begin with personal integrity.  In an article at Columbus Business First, John Maxwell, author of  The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, said: “…In the midst of an ever-changing and uncertain environment, there is one thing over which you have absolute control – your integrity….When it comes to being principled and ethical, you are the master of your destiny. Other people and external forces might test it in various ways, but ultimately you alone control your integrity….”

Mr. Maxwell continues in the article with, “…This is a good way to think of us as leaders when it comes to integrity. People of integrity don’t live divided lives; their morals, ethics and treatment of others are the same wherever they are and whatever they’re doing….”

Yesterday Arianna Huffington wrote about renewing the hope of Dr. Martin Luther King, ‘…What we need is Hope 2.0: the realization that our system is too broken to be fixed by politicians, however well intentioned — that change is going to have to come from outside Washington…This realization is especially resonant as we celebrate Dr. King, whose life and work demonstrate the vital importance of social movements in bringing about change. Indeed, King showed that no real change can be accomplished without a movement demanding it….”

Maybe what’s needed is a movement from all of “us” – the individual citizens of the world [is that too broad a movement?] or to start local, the individual citizens of the U.S. – to ask that the leaders of policies [government] and industry [commerce] rediscover the meaning of personal integrity and business ethics and apply those meanings to themselves and to their business and political practices.

Is this a naive thing to ask?  No, I think it’s necessary.  The small business sector needs a healthy economy within which to prosper.  Home business owners need homes from which to conduct their business.  Everyone needs customers who have spendable income.  Can we expect a utopia?  Goodness, no…never happen because human beings are involved.  We’re fallible, but we’re also educate-able.  We can learn and grow and improve.  So let’s do so.

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