What follows (over a total of three parts) is part business philosophy & part business manifesto. It is a deliberately high-altitude view on transforming business as usual to at its best. Subsequent articles will bring things to a lower practical implementation altitude. The nuts and bolts, the practicalities. The topics touched on here represent deeply held beliefs but centre around business & the more positive role it can (& does) play in the world.
“Businesses are the building blocks, not just of an economy but of a whole way of life. What they do and how they do it have an impact that extends far beyond the economic sphere. They shape the communities we live in and the values we live by and the quality of the lives we lead. If the businesses don’t hold themselves to a high standard, the entire society suffers….Having more of them can’t help but make our world a better place.”
“Small Giants” – Bo Burlingham
Quite apart from the Corona virus pandemic, there are many other issues confronting businesses. These include a lack of engagement by people in their work. Recent information suggests that 80%+ of people are simply not engaged in that work. And then we have the climate crisis. All of these are rightfully forcing rethinks on how to go about things. Or perhaps it might be more accurate to say that the issues have accelerated the rethinking!
So, what to do & how is business tied on to all of this? Waving a magic wand, the three things I would like to see in the morning are:
- Business being better & not simply bigger – adding value to society as a whole
- Enabling people to infuse their work lives with real meaning, on a human scale
- Business being a key player in achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Easy to say of course, but not so easy to achieve.
But why do all of this? This piece opened with a quote about business & how it can play a key role in world issues. For that to happen, it is really about building people up – helping them reach their potential. For business to succeed, it needs great people. After all, what is a business when you take people out but a collection of systems, hardware, buildings & stuff! So, for business to succeed, people need to succeed. And if people are to succeed, they need to be nurtured & given the skills. Growing people is a much more effective way to grow or develop a business. As the late Herb Kelleher (founder Southwest Airlines) said:
“The business of business is people.”
This is not just about specific technical skills but the soft skills, the people skills & the management skills.
So how does someone that started their career in finance & accountancy, gaining extensive experience in the world of business, come to be interested in transforming business & looking to do something about it?
Some Key Influences
Some of the things that brought me to this point are:
- United Nations Upbringing – my father worked with the UN for 35+ years – this gave me an exposure at an early age to the idea of development, economic & political harmony not to mention cultures
- “Small Is Beautiful” – in studying for degree in Economics, I read E F Schumacher’s “Small Is Beautiful” – it had a profound effect
- “In Search of Excellence” – reading the Tom Peters & Robert Waterman book early in my career sparked an ongoing passionate interest in how businesses can succeed – this in turn lead to how the people in them make it
- Leonardo da Vinci – Become your own version. Never stop learning, exploring – but do it to your own tune. Decide what you want to do & then go do it, rather than waiting for an organisation to tell you
- Business & the Accountancy Profession – Earning a living as I have & continue to do, has provided innumerable insights into how business, large, small, private, public & not for profit can have such an impact (both good & bad) not just in their respective areas but on society as a whole.
The key things that drive me are:
- There is nothing better than seeing PEOPLE succeed
- Education transforms lives
- Business is more than simply economic opportunity – more than being profitable.
Part 2 of transforming business as usual into business at its best to follow!