Saturday, February 27, 2016

The business of business is PEOPLE

At the first hint of questioning the idea that "profit" should be the goal of doing business, even liberal, progressive people tend to do a double take.  It's as if you had walked into a medieval cathedral in the middle of Sunday mass and questioned the authority of the pope.  Profit is something we just don't question; so we have been dutifully conditioned.

Yet profit is not essential, at least as a primary end goal, to creating and sustaining a healthy business.  Profit is simply the surplus income after expenses are met.  And guess what?  The wages and salaries of employees are considered an "expense" in the reckoning of company finances.

That means that the money you are paid to make your living is not, traditionally, a reward for your talents, time, and skills.  It is an expense to be minimized, while maximizing the amount of work you produce, in order to maximize profits--financial surplus--for the corporate shareholders.

You are an expense to be minimized.  That is the bottom-line perspective of the traditional profit-driven model of business, even if most businesses are smart enough to avoid stating it in so many words.

Many of the issues people have with their workplaces, the way employees are treated and the way business is done, are rooted in this fundamental idea that profits, not people, are the purpose for doing business.

To shift this reality, we need to address and shift the ideas that support it.  We need to question, challenge, and change the beliefs, the values, the principles upon which business is built in our culture.

We need to envision a model of business that centers upon meeting the needs of people, focused upon providing as good a living as possible to ALL of the people working in the business, and upon providing goods and services to the community that enrich the community.

We need to envision a model of business that moves beyond the old "capitalism or communism" dichotomy.  We need to move beyond the false choice between corporate oligarchy and government oligarchy, and envision ways to create a system that is human-centered and market-based with a solid safety net undergirding it.

Most important, we we need to envision and create checks and balances that prevent any few individuals from hoarding the majority of power and resources, be it governing power or economic power.  We have enough to meet everyone's needs; it is possible to create a more balanced economy, built on healthy, respectful, mutual workplace dynamics.

What's NOT possible, under such a model, is for a few people to maintain control over the lives and livelihoods of many.

The business of business is PEOPLE.

Let this be our guiding principle, our vision, our statement of purpose.

And so it is.