Today was a beautiful day in the Northwest. My wife, my dog, and I went to Falls Creek and completed a 3.5 mile hike. We trekked 1.7 in, and sat down at three waterfalls. They were wonderful and well worth the hike up the hill to see them. We then walked back another 1.7 miles, and then drove to Stevenson, WA to have a late lunch. We are all tired tonight, but thankful for a wonderful late summer experience.
This time of the year it seems that I start to get serious about thinking and writing. I guess it is a result of being a professor. The thoughts I wanted to share with you tonight were motivated by a conversation I had with a friend on the golf course yesterday evening. He is an HR manager for PGE, and as we were walking the 18 holes yesterday he asked how my students felt about business? As I think about what I told him, I actually gave him what I thought about business. Now I wonder what my students really think about business.
The questions that I want to ask them are questions that I have grappled with. What is the purpose of business? This is the first and most important. Is it just to make profit, or is the purpose something a bit more lofty than that? I would tend to think that there is a higher calling than just profit. Don’t get me wrong profit is important, especially if you want to stay in business, but if that is the only reason I am in business then I probably wouldn’t have the fortitude to hang in there no matter what. I think the purpose of business is more about the mission than profit. What is the mission of my business, and am I fulfilling that mission? I think that is key.
The second question I want to ask my students involves the process of business. If I am a businessman then how do I treat my employees? Do I treat them like a commodities to be exploited for my own benefit, and then reward them accordingly? Or do I treat them like human beings who want to accomplish things in their lives just like I do? This is a very important distinction. Something that Douglas McGregor that was important enough to write a book about.
The last question I want to ask my students has to do with a business’s responsibility to society. Do they believe that a company that takes resources from the community owes anything to the community it operates within? I tend to think the company does owe the community something. How many companies have just picked up stakes and moved somewhere else to lower their costs without any concern with the community they were leaving. Singer, GM, Caterpillar, and other companies like them have chosen to lay off millions of employees in search of lower costs, devastating communities throughout the United States.
Don’t get me wrong, I know we have to control costs and maintain healthy margins, but I also think we have to rethink how we do this. I wonder if my students agree with me.
I wonder what my students really think about business. I think it is time I ask them
And that is my thought for the day!