Don’t always think about the money.
When defining yourself, which hopefully is aligned to your company, be honest about the real purpose of your endeavours.
Yes, we all need to make a profit to remain in business, pay salaries, and invest further into the company – in our case – exploring new technologies.
The bottom line is:
- are we in a business to make money or
- is making money the result of what we do?
What happens when we’re in it for the money?
For those who choose to adopt the former strategy, retrenchments are high on the list of things to do when faced with financial difficulties. The result of this is people adopting a defensive, me-first approach to their jobs. What we really want is a team focused on a common purpose with the credo “if the team wins, we all win” and vice versa.
Helping those less fortunate than ourselves is not high on the agenda when profit is the overriding intent. We recently dealt with a company that incorporates a 1:1:1 philosophy to helping others. They spend 1% of their time, and 1% of their profit on 1% of “not for profit” organizations i.e. they select the most worthy causes that meet set criteria for them to support – admirable, indeed!
Make your purpose greater than the obvious
Clem Sunter is one of the architects of the “High Road, Low Road” for South Africa’s future and author of many books. Several years ago we had the privilege of having Clem run a strategic planning session for us using the Socratic method outlined in his latest book, at the time, “Socrates and the Fox”. At the outset he asked for our purpose for being in business. When we told him profit was not our primary purpose he shook our tree vigorously but to no avail (and he made us think very seriously). He said that if only he had met us before launching his book he would have cited us as an example of a company whose purpose is clear and inculcated in the company ethos. The fact that, after just over 20 years, we are still in business and growing would have given credence to his mention of us.
There are too many qualified people out of work today. When asked why their applications have not resulted in a job, the dominant reason given is the lack of experience. Companies that are run with profit as a purpose would not provide people with the requisite experience to find a job. After all, it is easier to hire someone with some experience at another company’s expense. What if we all adopted that approach? Every year we have hired around 10% of our team with little to no experience in addition to those that we assist when they choose to study further. By and
Every year we have hired around 10% of our team with little to no experience in addition to those that we assist when they choose to study further. By and large, this has proven to be successful knowing that as a first employer is highly unlikely that we will be the last employer. After all one of our core values is Lifetime Learning”.
We feel that if we all do the right things, take some risks on people without a track record, and help address our unemployment crisis then the South African community will be better off as a whole.
Sitting back and waiting to pounce on the skills related investments made by others is profit driven and predatory. Let’s all play our part in growing our own skills.
Two asides in closing:
- I am moved by the concept of creating a surplus. In other words, giving more than we take. Being in business for the right reason, avoiding the exploitation of our people for, in most cases, the benefit of the few, generates a spirit of teamwork. If we extend this concept to the world we live in we may just leave mother earth a better place than it is today. Plant the tree for each tree felled.
- A business philosophy outlined by Ricardo Semler, in his book Maverick, is that the wage gap between the lowest and highest paid employee will be no more than a multiple of 8 regardless of their station. The philosophy is that even the person in the most junior position in the company helps make the company great.
There are many companies today refocusing on the importance of motivating the knowledge worker. A shift back to the importance of two-way loyalty which was prevalent prior to the 1980s when there was a balance between satisfying shareholders and employees.
To those who exploit their people to their profit ends, think again as it’s not a sustainable business model – your people will know they are being exploited and will be retrenched without a second thought. Those people that are very marketable will most likely leave and for those that stay you will not have won their hearts and minds.
10 Lessons on becoming a business that will survive the Internet Age:
Published courtesy of Future World and because these lessons resonate with us.