Sunday, May 15, 2005


I recently returned from a three-day trip to Texas to attend a training program sponsored by my company. I must admit that I had not been looking forward to this venture. For one, I am not super comfortable these days getting on an airplane.

The last time I flew (pre-9/11), my head and ears were held hostage for several days, recovering from the air pressure adjustment. Secondly, with increased security measures at airports spurned by the threat of terrorism, I wasn't sure what to expect, but was not looking forward to long lines and the increased scrutiny.

Neither concern materialized. But the real reason, the primary reason that I did not desire this trip, is because over the last few years, the joy of going to work every morning has slowly diminished. And this is because in the late 1990's my company put a business philosophy into play that runs counter to my core values. So, for the last few years, work has become increasingly difficult for me.

I am pleased to report that I have returned from Texas with a renewed hope that perhaps things are changing. The most significant indicator was an intimate, interactive meeting with our company's recently installed CEO. But I will leave that discussion for later. First I want to explore business philosophy.

What is Business?
Before I launch into an explanation of my understanding of business, let me preface my comments with the words of a manager at my company. He said, "The purpose of business is profit."

I disagree.

If we look at the etymology of the word "business," we discover that business is the state of being busy, or "busy-ness." Work and productivity are part of the very essence of our humanity. With our minds and hands, we produce what is good, and through our production, enhance not only our own lives, but the lives of others. Busy-ness is the essence of business.

While good business practice can produce wealth, wealth is not the goal, but rather the by-product of productive busy-ness. Joy and satisfaction are found, not in the wealth gained from busy-ness, but from the work itself. Wealth is the offspring of productivity. The purpose of business is the plying of our trade, the exercise of our skills and abilities, the fine tuning of our craft. It is using what we are given to create goods and services that benefit others. Only when this is the goal, do we find find satisfaction in our work.

But when money becomes the only purpose, or the chief purpose, we find that a company's most important assets, its people, become discouraged and their productivity suffers.

Rediscovering our Purpose.
For a number of years now, my company has been guided by an errant philosophy. Run primarily by accountants, our organization has suffered under the tyranny of the bottom line. While every business needs to be profitable, profit must not be the only factor in the decision making process. When profit becomes the sole criteria in decision making, the soul of the company is compromised. Customers are taken for granted. Employees are reduced to numbers on a spreadsheet. Pride of workmanship disappears. Customer service vanishes.

As I noted above, I was greatly encouraged to hear from our company CEO. I want to believe that he understands the imperative of employee morale, the importance of pride of workmanship, and the essentiality of customer satisfaction.

Even though these last few years have seen the departure of many good people, I believe that our organization still has many good people left. I only hope that it is not too late. I trust we can still recover from the damage done by a business philosophy that elevated profit above people.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Reagan Quote

"We are in a battle for the minds and souls of men."
Ronald Reagan