Why Not Treat Customers, Employees and Suppliers Badly?

We are not here merely to earn a living and to create value for our shareholders. We are here to enrich the world and make it a finer place to live. We will impoverish ourselves if we fail to do so.

- Woodrow Wilson

I cannot help noticing that the arguments for treating customers right are based on revenue and profits. I cannot help noticing that the arguments for treating employees right are based ultimately on revenue and profits. I cannot help noticing that the arguments for treating suppliers right are either missing or when present are also justified on the basis of the impact on revenues and profits.

If we justify action on the basis of revenue and profit then surely it is OK to treat:

  • customers badly if that will lead to higher revenues and profits?
  • employees badly if that will lead to higher revenues and profits?
  • suppliers badly if that will lead to higher revenues, profits or cash-flow?
  • the wider community badly if that will lead to higher revenues and profits?

If you are a customer how much trust do you put in a company if it treating you well as a means of harvesting high profits? As an employee how much trust do you put in a company that treats you well only because it expects to maximise profits? You get the idea.

One more point to consider, what was the source of the corporate scandals and the financial crisis of 2008? Was it not the pursuit of revenue, profit and bonus maximisation irrespective of the consequences falling on others?

Is there any other basis, other than revenue and profit maximisation, for treating our fellow human beings well? I say let’s stop for a moment and listen to the words of Srikumar S. Rao in his book Are You Ready to Succeed?

What a sorry pass we have come to when simple decent behaviour has to be “justified” in terms of some other benefit. What happens if behaving without integrity can get you growth and unparalleled profit?

… you treat the customer right because that is how you like to be treated. You treat your employees well because that is the proper thing to do. You behave with integrity because that is an expression of who and what you are. These are the givens. You DO NOT have to justify or explain or rationalise any of it.

…. if you attempt to link your values with external measures like profit, you cheapen them and you discredit your actions.

As I look around, I cannot help but notice that that the companies which are heralded as exemplars of customer-centricity and employee engagement are not pursuing revenue and profit maximisation. Instead they are pursuing a purpose that calls to their customer and employees, treating people right, and harvesting the benefits in terms of productivity, innovation, engagement, loyalty and advocacy.

What do you say?

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