Remember when business was simple? Crazy-hard and risky, yes, but we all understood a few simple truths. Like the old-fashioned idea that Profit is a good thing and must be our primary business goal. Now we are told to embrace a more enlightened business model, one no longer beholden to the greedy owners. Hashtag-friendly messages like, you must put People Before Profit bombard us. Much of this comes, not from Wall Street Occupiers, but from some of our own business thought leaders, including several CEOs. Beware of these messages. Putting People Before Profit will kill your business. Even the most people-driven leader knows this intuitively. No money, no mission. No Profit, no people. It is not rocket science. However, that simple truth of no-profit-no-people is based on logic. Emotion often trumps logic.
These are the unwritten messages flying at us: Profit is bad. Shareholders (business owners) are too powerful. Companies should not be about the money. Employees are generally underpaid and abused. Most CEOs are criminals. We are not exempt from these stereotypes. You might not call yourself a CEO – that is just a title. You can call yourself Galactic Star Commander for all I care. But you have family members, customers, and employees who are drinking and sharing this profit-is-evil stuff. And, just a challenge: Are you sure this messaging has not seeped into some tiny, dark recess of your brain? Do you feel a touch of guilt for your success? Meeting with 20 business owners last week, several reported doing well during the lockdown. Some said it this way, I feel guilty – we are actually busy right now. You can feel awkward, maybe even guilty, saying it. But some seemed to feel guilty about doing well. That is a very different thing. That is a mindset thing.
Anne Frank had it right. Most people are basically good. Every CEO is a human being, and very few resemble the Monopoly® Man. Those who behave badly must be shown the error of their ways. But painting a group of people with a broad brush, based on the bad behavior of a few, is wrong. We all agreed on that a long time ago. Fair-game exceptions apparently include CEOs, the other guy’s political party, and the New England Patriots. But back to logic. There are over 30 million U.S. businesses. Are all, or most, run by evil, moustache-twisting CEOs, getting rich on the backs of labor? Just give me a number, your best guess, and we will divide by 30 million. Just to add a qualifer to generic CEO-bashing.
What the pundits say is out of my control. My job is the entrepreneur’s mindset. Profitability is not rocket science but it is often brain surgery, when limited by the owner’s mindset. Business is a game of inches. A batter has milliseconds to react on a fastball. The swing must be relaxed, automatic, systematic, and without conscious thought. The least bit of head trash will sit you down with a strikeout.
Don’t think. You’ll only hurt the ball club. Crash Davis, Bull Durham
If a fan, you will get that message and this one: Don’t let that profit-is-evil chin music in your kitchen. If you hate sports metaphors, try this: Profit is Air. We need idealists. entrepreneurs. Idealists can imagine a future without Air. That is what idealists do and we need them. We also need you, the American entrepreneur. Your profit is air. Take a deep breath and get back to work.