What’s more important–the dollar value that a customer brings in or the integrity of your business? The answer is to this question is ambiguous. If you’re a new business owner with limited resources, you may choose to lean towards the money–but I’ve been in this game long enough to tell you that you shouldn’t.
You can have little integrity regardless of how much is sitting in your bank account or how many assets there are on your balance sheet. Does it always have to be a choice between compromising the values you hold dear and doing what it takes to pay the bills? Once again, I’ve been in this game long enough to tell you that this quite simply isn’t the case.
A business, as an entity, is created by its owners–yet exists independently of its owners. Profitability is a goal of every business. But it is a marathon and not a sprint. If you compromise your values every time someone throws a tantrum, you are, in fact, enabling and impeding the very thing that will help your business to grow over the long run.
Regardless of whether it is an employee or a customer; or whether the money is coming in or going out–the demands of the modern consumerism culture are endless. We have a policy, but we’ll bend it since the customer is kicking up a fuss. We have a select set of criteria for our employees, but we’ll give our friends some leeway.
How is a business ever going to have a solid foundation if the very structure and system that it is built on is one where anything and everything goes? One of my business partners is an educator and she always tells me that it’s important to set the ground rules in the classroom from Day 1. And it’s not enough to set them–the rules must also be enforced.
We humans have never been any good at listening to the well-meaning advice of those who know better–and it all started in the story of Genesis. We were specifically told not to do something, but we did it anyway. And we had no choice but to face the consequences that sent their ripple through time and space. Despite all the choices that we did have, we chose to do the one thing we were told not to do. And then we blamed other people for it.
Regardless of which creed, faith or ideology you subscribe to–that humans don’t follow rules is a fact of human nature. The real question a business owner needs to ask him or herself is: who or what is going to bear the brunt of bad behaviour?
It really depends. Were the expectations clear? Were they communicated to the other party? Did both parties attempt to reach a point of clarity? Was there an actual meeting of the minds? When there is an issue or a dispute; are both perspectives respected or is the scale tipped to one side? If it is tipped to one-side, who has the upper hand?
As humans, we strive to have the upper hand because that enables us to feel more secure. Customer is King, Customer is God, Customer is always right… These are all sayings drummed into us as both customers and business owners. Nowadays, entrepreneurs also have to deal with the disease of entitlement that plagues our modern society.
But perhaps, just perhaps, we are neither customers nor business owners–but simply humans exchanging energy for the benefit of both parties. If that is the case (which I assure you that it is–like I said, I’ve been in the business world long enough), then how can we do great work, give and take and benefit society as a whole as we move forward?
This may sound highly idealistic to many of us–myself included. But there is a reason why when you read most manifestos, ethos and mission statements–they are sugarcoated in ideals that may perhaps never be actualised. We even get tired of hearing them. We see ‘it’ as a business and as a conduit with which to earn a living and we forget why we started them in the first place. If you’re working in an established organisation, we even forget the people who started them or why they started them.
Don’t tell me you gave up the security of a cushy day job to start a business so that your clients, customers and employees can treat you like crap. The visionaries amongst us had a dream. And it was a big dream. Our business can and should be an expression of ourselves and the values that we hold dear. Values that our employees and customers should share. If they don’t, then there are many alternative options in the marketplace for them to choose from.
When it comes down to a choice between our integrity and our livelihood, we have to ask ourselves–what are we committed to and what are we invested in? The answer will vary from person to person.
In either case, I am of the opinion that the first person you need to commit to is yourself. If you don’t commit to yourself, no one else will. If you’re committed to making tons of money regardless of what it means for the values your business represents–then so be it.
But the businesses that last and the ones that stand the tests of time are committed to ideals–ideals that can only be actualised if we are willing to stand in our truth and fight for it. If you think money can solve all your problems, think again. When money comes in, there will be new problems to deal with.
Pick your battles wisely and remember–the only person who can hold you accountable is yourself.
We are neither customers nor business owners–but simply humans exchanging energy for the benefit of both parties.