BUSINESS DONE BETTER
Todd Dewett | July 7, 2020
There is a growing movement of people who are anti-business. They dwell on the damage, both real and perceived, done by businesses to individuals, communities, and the planet. They are wrong. Well, kinda. They make many immensely important observations about less than productive behaviors. It’s their conclusion that is wrong.
Business is the only real engine ever created that produces wealth for the masses. Business isn’t good or bad per se. It’s a tool. Like any tool, it can be in need of adjustment and it can be misused. I am a strong advocate for business. What we need is business done better. For me, that means admitting its imperfections and honestly talking about the downsides that must be addressed. It’s about starting a new movement defined by doing the right thing.
Part of the problem is our fixation on negative examples. Sadly, I fear this is explained, at least part, by the sheer number of examples. Thus the stories of difficult layoffs coupled with extraordinary executive pay, pollution, harassment, and a long list of well-known behaviors that are questionable, unethical, or illegal. We are all sadly too familiar with the list. Clamping down on these issues will be required if we’re ever to restore faith in business.
It’s also true that we have many positive examples that deserve far more attention. Examples of what it means to do business better. Consider, for example, Edward St. John, the founder of St. John Properties who famously surprised his nearly 200 employees with a $10 million bonus at a company holiday party. Recall that Steve Jobs of Apple accepted only $1 in salary for years (similar gestures have been made by many). Dan Price, the credit card processing entrepreneur who raised minimum employee pay to $70,000, thus changing many lives, while sacrificing much of his riches to do so. There are so many great stories: LEGO Group’s efforts for sustainable business practices, Accenture’s inclusion practices, Dropbox’s amazing array of employee benefits that address education, wellness, healthcare, etc. That’s business done better.
The point is that business is amazing. It’s power to create is fascinating and magical. It’s also just a tool. We can improve how it’s used. We choose what it creates. That starts by moving past simple labels such as “good” or “bad.” Business is what we make it. So, let’s talk about what it means to do business better.