The weekend brought snow and took away electricity. Unlike the power loss from Hurricane Irene, dealing with the cold is an issue here along with the inconvenience of working remotely. Then again, no trees fell on the house or car although we saw several that did just that as we drove around yesterday to a relative’s house for shelter. You feel for those people – it’s far easier for us to replace the food that will spoil than the roof or a car others will need to fix. Which of course got me thinking about something we sometimes neglect in business.
That thing is the other guy (I’m using “guy” here but it’s inclusive of “gals” as well). When we read about politicians cutting projects, note how often those cuts don’t apply to their home districts – it’s in the other guy’s. When Citibank sold bad loan packages to investors and shorted them at the same time to make a huge profit, the other guys got hurt (thanks, Tom Friedman). I watched the Madoff piece last night on 60 Minutes – am I supposed to feel sympathy for a family that lived so well while stealing from the other guy? When we sell inferior products or spam folks while making profits, the other guy deals with it while we count the money.
People make decisions, not “companies.” I’m not sure why for each decision we make, the decision isn’t handled as if it were affecting our own families instead of faceless strangers. Then again, maybe it’s the drive to enrich their own families at the expense of others that is pushing these misguided folks. A couple of years ago, I wrote this:
The real key is conducting yourself and your business in a way that your Mom or Dad or friends or kids would say is a manner where you and they will sleep well. Having trouble sleeping? Ask yourself why. If you don’t like the answer, DO something about it, painful as that may be.
I still believe that. By hurting the other guy, by doing business (or politics) in a way that ignores the ramifications of our actions to the other guy, we’re missing a very big piece of what makes business great and enriches us as people way beyond monetary gain.