Please choose the response you feel is most accurate.
Business is _______________.
E. All of the Above
F. None of the Above
Try not to read ahead.
Take your time.
Got your answer?
“Not fair”, you say, “any of these answers could be right depending on the context”.
Fine, but is it possible that one of these answers is more right than the others?
Here’s my take.
No people, no products.
No people, no profit.
No people, no production.
No people, no business.
People make the strategy.
People create the culture.
People design the products.
People build the products.
People buy the products.
People provide the capital
People produce the profit.
The answer is, A.
Business is people.
You feel I’m oversimplifying?
I’m sure there are much more authoritative and complex explanations.
But I like simple.
Now, if we run with this idea, just for fun, what are the implications?
Or perhaps what is the implication?
Every important business decision starts and ends with people.
I know, we’ll call this hot, new trend “BIG PEOPLE”. It’ll be all the rage.
Oh, wait, yeah that won’t work.
Anyway, the general idea is that sustainable growth and profit is correlated to balancing the well-being of people, be they employees, customers, investors or external stakeholders, including the community-at-large.
If that modifier is missing from your definition of profit then you should probably stop reading now.
And clearly, there are cases of companies who are quite profitable, at least for the present, because they have found ways to shortcut this principle by other means. The condition of many of our workplaces, our society, and our planet is a testament to this fact.
For those who do agree on some level, let’s press on.
This means we actively seek the well-being of all the people who make our business possible and consider the greater good, not just short-term financial benefits.
It shapes our decisions and our priorities and creates a system that benefits all players. This is also known as a virtuous cycle. It starts with taking care of employees and investing in their growth and potential.
It’s good for people.
So it’s good for your products.
It’s even good for your profits.
And good for your planet.
But it’s not easy.
Because people are messy and complicated.
So it requires the best of our creativity and innovation.
With incredible patience.
And a lot of learning and mistakes.
Which is why we like to take shortcuts.
There are many pressures on businesses, (and even non-profits), that can skew the picture and screw up the priorities. Many leaders get sidetracked. This concept may be obvious but it’s not necessarily intuitive or easy to stick with, especially when the going gets tough.
From a pure numbers point of view, one could argue that the fastest route to profit is a minimal investment in people and maximum focus on productivity. The economics discussion could take many paths. But I said I like to keep it simple, so I’ll get back to the point.
Right now you might be wondering if this makes sense for your business.
The answer is A = YES.
Let this be the takeaway. Rather than discuss all the possible options and outcomes, what if you just declare an orientation.
Orient your business around people.
People are the hub (center) of your business wheel that allows it to turn. Products, plans, processes, etc. are the spokes. Profit is the outer rim that keeps the wheel rolling. Everything connects to the hub.
Trust that this orientation will guide you to better choices about your products, your plans, and your processes. Profit is necessary for survival but it’s not the orientation, it’s an outcome.
Please don’t read too much into this idea. It isn’t a recommendation to buy a trampoline for the break room or start serving gourmet lunches. All I’m suggesting here is a paradigm. A way of seeing your business.
If you don’t think this makes sense then please, by all means, carry on as you were. But if it does strike a chord, why not give it a try? Especially if what you’re doing isn’t working.
Just keep it simple.