It’s a well known maxim – “the corporation has no soul”. I believe that with my whole heart. People have souls, enterprises don’t. Sometimes, the culture of an organization allows the collective souls of its employees to set a shining example, but those efforts are still led by feeling, thinking humans.
There are lots of reasons for business to exist, but the overwhelming and primary reason is to make money. And… if a corporation focuses on that goal without wavering, they will do a lot of good along the way.
Most of us understand the basics of the enterprise. Every business in the world – from Campbell to Planters – has followed one script…
- Have an idea for a business.
- Figure out what it’s going to take (people, objects, information).
- Gather the necessary resources (people, objects, information).
As with so many other things, the devil is in the details of my “four steps”. Having the right resources – people, objects, information – when you need them, will make or break your company. Corporations need employees, equipment, capital, governments, knowledge and natural resources to do business. Exploiting any of these, over a period of time, will leave the enterprise without a viable way to make money. Let’s take a really quick look at each of these, and maybe a few more, from a standpoint of “sustainable business”:
- Equipment – Equipment needs to be maintained. If you refuse to keep a machine oiled, for example, it will eventually seize up and stop working.
- Employees – You pay for labor, but your employees are really like delicate, sometimes temperamental machines. By making sure they are satisfied – or even better, that they are encouraged to improve – you reduce cost and improve opportunity.
- Customers – Having customers is a wonderful thing. Imagine how long they would stay if you refused to pay any attention to them?
- Suppliers – Cutting cost is a positive move. But cutting suppliers to the bone just means you have to go out and locate new suppliers.
- Systems – Try this… Buy some new IT, fill it with initial data and then never add another thing to it. Or add a bunch of inaccurate / incomplete data and then expect positive results.
- Knowledge – Similarly, once you have established some facts, try clinging to them like grim death. Or, conversely, try keep an open mind… Staying current and sharp is about constantly building your knowledge base, not maintaining it.
- Capital – There really is a finite amount of capital. Every time you get some, you should be thinking about how to use it to produce more. (Remember, money is the name of the game for business.)
- Governments – If we ask too much of government – especially considering our primary reason for being (money) – we may start to notice that they stop being good at doing the things governments should do, like provide public infrastructure, societal security and rational laws.
- Natural Resources – Every farmer knows that you have to recondition your soil, or it will stop producing anything. The same goes for everything we take out of the earth. If we’re not replenishing at the same rate, we’re playing a losing game.
This is how we should all start thinking; the primary goal is money. And, if we want to make money one or 10 or 100 years from now, we have to think about how to protect and enhance our business resources right now. In every enterprise, the key to survival is making sure we have what we need to do business.
It’s okay that the corporation has no soul. We just need corporations to selfishly keep their eyes on the future as they travel along their soul-less paths. The “four step business” is already remarkably simple, but it becomes unbeatable when we add the natural last step, “5. Replenish.”