“It’s Just Business” is a Fundamentally Flawed Statement

Take a moment before you judge. I believe in business, profits and making tough business decisions. I believe in rewarding entrepreneurial risk, shareholder investment, and taking good care of the leaders that do more than others are capable – or more likely, willing to do. These things drive our economy.

Here is what I am suggesting. “It’s just business” is flawed logic. It is flawed because in reality, business IS people. Business is the…

  • Entrepreneur that depends on the business to make a living
  • Employees that do the work to receive paychecks that support their families
  • Clients that have their own business demands and challenges
  • Customers that depend on your products and services
  • Shareholders that fund retirements with company profits

It all starts and ends with people. Each business adds to, or subtracts from, the life of many people.

Which people should be your highest priority? Richard Branson, founder of Virgin, in an Inc. titled Companies Should Put Employees First goes so far as to say that companies should put employees first, even before customers and investors, because this has benefits for both customers and investors.

With these things in mind, if you have the urge to make the statement “It’s just business,” I propose you look deeper. I invite you consider that people, relationships, loyalty, kindness and honesty matter. Character is what counts. In the longer term, business wins with this approach. There is plenty of research to back this pro-business = pro-people philosophy. Mashable’s article The Exponential Business Benefits of Putting People First offers insights on the benefits of this approach.

As a business leader, how do you set the tone? We all know the warm and fuzzy side — listen, acknowledge, appreciate, reward. What about the harder part?

In some cases, perhaps firing someone can be the most compassionate action. Many business experts suggest that 10 percent of your workforce is not trying or does not have the skills to ever be successful at your company. Every person loses in this case. The underperformers lose because they are in a position for which they can never be successful. Your top performers lose because they pick up the slack for the bottom 10 percent. Shareholders lose with a company that does not perform at its optimum potential. So in essence, everyone loses because you don’t have the guts, time or insight the make the decision that is in the best interest of all people – to fire the underperformers.

It is not just the senior leader or manager that has the opportunity to embody this value system.

  • If you work at a service firm, your clients are people with their own lives, stresses, goals, strengths and weaknesses. Do you maintain a human empathy for their challenges and support their personal goals?
  • If you work at any publicly held company, have you considered that many of the investors may be just like your parents or grandparents that may depend on that income to live?
  • If you report to someone, have you considered that your performance or bad attitude may impact your manager’s stress levels?
  • If you manage an underperformer, have you considered that they may be dealing with the death of a loved one, disease, divorce or serious personal problems?
  • When you quit a company, do you consider the colleagues that will be left carrying your weight? Do you leave with ample notice and do your best to leave your work in good condition?

So next time you are tempted to say, “It’s just business,” rethink your planned action.  When it is the right decision, you should be able to say with confidence, “I make this tough decision, or choice, because I value people.”