I like to ponder this question because PCO Associates is meant to build better businesses with a focus on people. In fact, I ponder the question often. Here’s what all this pondering is boiling down to:
A long time ago someone taught me about setting BHAGs, Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Well here’s one for ya’, let’s build a better world. Whoa! Too big! I can’t even get my head around that one, much less my arms! But there are a lot of very altruistic people in this world who want to do exactly that. Put in more colloquial terms, they want to make a difference, they want to leave a legacy, and they want to be remembered for making something better than it was.
Hey, I want to do that too, or I wouldn’t be in the business of helping people improve their businesses and organizations. But it’s the rare individual that can accomplish that on his or her own. Even Mother Teresa had help! We can do it if we band together with common purposes or missions. And that’s what organizations and businesses do. Put a couple of guys with an idea in a garage and you end up with Apple Computers. A few people and some wire and you end up with AT&T. Well there’s way more to it than that, but you get the general idea; there’s power in numbers and in unity of purpose.
What’s my point? Obviously building a better world is way too big a job to tackle without breaking it down a little; well maybe a lot! Let’s drill down to something we can tackle. We can build a better world by building better nations and we need to start that process at home by building better communities. We can build better communities through individual effort, but as we just said there is power in numbers, so it makes sense to me that we can build better communities by building better businesses and other organizations.
So what is “a better business”, the question I posed in the title? A better business is one that effectively satisfies an individual or collective need. A better business is one that ministers to the needs of and builds on the performance of its people. A better business is one that takes responsibility for its activities, and is a good steward of its surrounding environment and all of the resources it employs in meeting the need it is designed to satisfy. A better business is one that makes a meaningful contribution to the community or communities where it functions.
I hear you, “C’mon Terry, get your head out of the clouds. We’re talking business here.” Well forgive me for thinking there is more to a business than banking some bucks. I prefer to believe that profit is not the fundamental or sole purpose of a business, but a measure of the success of the business in meeting its true purpose.
If a business is meeting an individual or collective need and edifying people in the process, it stands a much greater chance of success. That success is measured not only by what it earns for its owners but also by how much it gives back to its home community. What we’re talking about here is “need-based” capitalism as opposed to the “greed-based” capitalism that gave us Enron, Worldcom, the banking collapse, the stock market collapse, the housing market collapse, the recession of 2007-2009, and the measly, mired in the goo recovery we’ve had for the last three painful years. Capitalism works folks, if we give it half a chance and shift its focus a bit.
I submit that if an organization is engaged in becoming a better business it is becoming a people-centered, servant-led, principle-focused, purpose-driven, community-friendly, environmentally responsible organization. If a whole lot of businesses and organizations start operating this way, what a powerful effect that would have on a community, or a state, or a nation, or maybe even the whole world.
If all that sounds a little odd coming from a trained bean counter like me, then I’m doing my job. I’m dumping the apple cart; I’m shaking things up; I’m getting you to think differently about your business and its purpose. If you get this “building a better business” thing right, you’ll be doing way more than making a little money. You’ll be building a better world – from the ground up!
Altruistically yours …