Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's Business, Never Personal

For some time now I have been pondering upon this fact: Altruism in business and, it's erosion. When did business ignore and forget about the people who are at the core of the business, the workers? Workers are undoubtedly the heart and soul of any business, without them a business is pretty much done for. Ever since I entered the work force all I have ever heard is that business is about profit, profit and more profit. At all costs. Some of this profit has come through the sacrifice and at the expense, if not exploitation as well, of workers. Minimum wages, irregular working hours, poor working conditions, are the order of the day. That's just my impression of how business operates. Not only in a South African context, but the world over.

Another issue I have is this: Business in general, is engaged in corporate social initiatives. Business never makes the mistake and not take part and contribute to charitable causes. The paradox, for me, lies in the fact that business does a lot to invest in social initiatives, yet doesn't put the same impetus behind it's workforce.

When I was first introduced to NBA basketball, I became very fond of the Atlanta Hawks. And, and an even bigger fan of Dominique Wilkins. It was a sad day for me when The Human Highlight Film was traded to perennial losers, the Los Angeles Clippers, sometime during the 1994 season. I couldn't, for the then teenaged life of me, fathom why the Hawks would do such a thing. How could someone who was a proven leader, scorer and face of the franchise, be traded for Danny Manning? As far as I was concerned, business didn't care about the fans, me. It was a business transaction that suited the Hawks on the financial side, more than the fans, on the entertainment side.

Is greed the main driving force? The story about energy company Enron suggests that. While employees worked tirelessly for the advancement of the company, there was unprecedented accounting and financial mismanagement taking place. When all of this irregularity culminated in the demise of Enron thousands of employees had lost their jobs, and lost even more in financial returns that had previously been guaranteed to them, in the form of pension and provident funds.This is a classic case of busines caring about profit and not the driving force behind the business.

A current case in South Africa, is that of Aurora Mines and its handlers. One of the directors is related to the State president, Jacob Zuma. Mine workers from this mine have not been paid since February this year. Things have gotten so bad, that the same miners went on the rampage looting offices and the canteen because they were hungry. The way the directors of Aurora are going about this saga is stupefying. Instead of toning down on modern exceses, they are instead doing a good job of running operations into the ground (excuse the pun). Explain this, how is it that someone can drive an SLS Mercedes-Benz and yet fail to pay the very people who are directly contributing to the purchase and maintenance of said vehicle?

I fail to understand how people who have been in a particular job for 7 - 10 years, can all of a sudden be deemed incompetent to carry on with their jobs. And make way for people who are either new to the industry and the job specifications. Where is the continuity? Where is the vision? Where is the humanity? Mind you, these individuals who have been thrown out of their jobs have contributed positively to the business and the way it is perceived by the public. I said in the beginning it's business, never personal, yet one can't help but wonder if whether it is personal. A business decision taken to perpetuate a personal agenda?

The way the economics of the world are today, I don't see this scourge abating. The old truism applies, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. We live in exciting times indeed, however it has become survival of the fittest. Everywhere you go.

PG: Man to man, generation to generation.


spoozyliciouzz said...

I definitely agree with you, but for the last sentence: studies have shown that the survival of the fittest does not mean the strongest will survive, but the one best adopting to ever changing environments. Egoism and greed might have been the fuel for some misleading developments in the past, but i strongly believe in an old saying: you allways get back what you give.

I prefer not to live as if the whole earth was mine alone, polluting my environment, leaving behind my co-workers, friends, families. I believe in values and urge everyone out there to disprove all the pessimists out there: we can change the world, but we got to believe and start changing.

Aaron Christian said...

Love the blog. Especially repping for south Africa. Keep up the great work>

Tyrone MacStiophain said...

I don't always keep up on the news from S. Af., so it's great to check out your style blog and get a feel for things. The blog is cool.
Regarding "corporate responsibility", I think much of the problem lies in the idea that spending a little on charity absolves one of taking responsibility for impoverishing other people. For instance, your Merc-driving mine owner probably donates to charities, but never gives a thought to the fact that if he didn't do business in the way he does, there would not be such a need for charity.