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A Better Way to Do Business

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There is a better way to do business that makes more money and gives a better life for everyone involved. Business is the creative and economic engine of the world.  There is great virtue in small and large business; in goods and services, satisfaction in employment, personal relationships, in the quality of self expression, and an ever present opportunity to be of service to customers. Being in a business allows anyone to continuously challenge their own limitations and integrity. In this world of polarity and paradox, business works.

I’ve made a career out of promising people what they want and helping them get it. Variously, executives have wanted to make $18 million extra in six months, to save manufacturing plants from being closed and moved it to other countries, to combine four diverse companies into one coherent entity, and to avoid bankruptcy. Money, or some equivalent, is always the way it starts. Money is the interest of business, but, it doesn’t stop there. What guides executives actions is always embedded in, personal  values, problems in relationships, fears, the inability to connect, and the desire to hold onto power and position;  to avoid losing. The sum of this appears in the culture, the way people say that’s the way it “is” around here”. I’ve observed is that whether a culture is effective and energizing, or limiting and suppressive, it keeps itself going. I think of culture as a machine, somehow designed to assure its own persistence. Like the Energizer Bunny, a culture keeps chugging along, whether it helps or hinders, gives life to a company’s purposes, or drains life away.

I grew up in the experience of the family business from hell. My grandfather played his sons off against one another. My father worked himself to death. I don’t think, in 20 years, I ever saw anyone smile or say a kind word. They all made a nice living, like squeezing blood out of stone. The business itself didn’t grow, even during  World War II. As a result, one of my life goals  has been to find a way to do business that makes money,  has people get along well, be creative, and feel like they are at home.

My purpose is to bring uncharacteristic values into the corporate world. No one argues these values don’t make sense, nor that they are largely missing in the environment of large businesses. Decision makers always agree on their importance, but at the same time, find it difficult to act upon them. Given their everyday realities, while they say they believe in these, they do not truly see them as possible, as a way of life in business. I sometimes meet ambitious leaders, men and women, themselves frustrated with corporate rules, who recognize that they need help to get what they want. They admit that they don’t already know what to do, and since that makes two of us, a great partnership begins for a time. What typically happens is that they embrace the values as a condition of participation, make more money and a caring environment emerges as well. However, as the original business goal is achieved the attention given to these new values diminishes as well as their presence and impact. This is because they were only as attractive means to an end rather than embraced as fundamental and enduring values.

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