Never Apologize for The Human Side of Business
There’s an utterly common misconception out there that the Human Side of Business is somehow a less profitable side of business.
I hear it from board members and CEOs who say things like, “We’d like to be more human-centric at our firm, but we can’t afford those kinds of changes right now. Our market is too competitive,” or “our profit margin is too slim.”
I hear it from authors, speakers, and consultants whose careers are dedicated to promoting the Human Side of Business in the little things they say, such as, “It’s important to put people before profits,” “there’s more to business than profits,” or “we need to change from a single-measure model (the single bottom line measure of profitability) to the emerging three-measure model of people, planet, and profits: the triple bottom line.”
Wrong! Please, stop that. I beg of you!
Is this some kind of heresy against my own trademark business heresy? Am I going back on my life’s work? Have I rethought everything I stand for? Am I selling out and firing up my stogie to grumble “har har har” with the old schoolers of Wall Street?
The Human Side of Business is more profitable. Absolutely, indisputably, and with a full stop.
I’m doubling down, and it’s time you did, too.
I am sick and tired of excuses from leaders who would like to change, if only they weren’t under so much pressure to make their bottom line perform. I am bone-weary of my own friends apologizing for our movement. They don’t do it to purposefully undermine the Human Business movement, not at all. And no, not every one of my peers does it – some are already with me in framing the Human Side of Business. But many aren’t there yet, and this is their wake up call. Ready, here it is:
The Human Side of Business is more profitable. Absolutely, indisputably, and with a full stop. We don’t need a triple bottom line, because even if we’re just measuring by the one, simple bottom line of the Industrial Age, guess what? There’s more green stuff in the Human Side of Business.
Here’s something that occurred to me recently and inspired this post: I do not know a human-centric company that is not incredibly competitive, and more profitable than its old school rivals.
Think about that for a moment. I study companies of all sorts for a living – for my life’s calling! I compare competing companies to figure out why some thrive while others trying to sell the same products and services in the same market languish. Of course my own experience is anecdotal – maybe I’m just not looking hard enough – but I haven’t found one human-centric company that’s failing? Isn’t that kind of… weird?
I do not know a human-centric company that is not incredibly competitive, and more profitable than its old school rivals.
Weird, or for a very good reason. I’m convinced it’s the latter. And stay tuned, because in June we’re going to feature a whole bunch of remarkable companies that, together, will make this point to the world.
But even before our June series launches, here are a few data points among so many:
- Start with the three companies I featured in my top post of 2013, Good Karma is Good Business. Especially remarkable to me is Parnassus, an investment firm that outperforms the market year after year by only investing in other good-karma businesses. So that one company is an intro to hundreds (or thousands?) more like it.
- Many of our Top 75 Human Business Champions are heads of their own corporations. They don’t just talk about how business can be run more profitably by focusing on the humans involved: they do it!
- Our Friend Rich Sheridan’s software company, Menlo Innovations, is human-centric to the core, and thriving as a result.
- Patti Johnson runs her firm in such a human-centric way that we recently added her to the League of Extraordinary Thinkers. Read her work and see for yourself.
- Or check out longtime Leaguer Frank Sonnenberg, whose human-centric business has done so well for so long that he’s one of the world’s most trusted leaders.
- Barry-Wehmiller runs on the Human Side of Business and, again, crushes it – and they’re a massive multinational focused on commodity industries like mining.
- Stay tuned for the wisdom of a new contributor, NetApp’s Vice Chairman Tom Mendoza, whose posts will share the how and why behind his companies perennial spot on Fortune’s 100 Best Places to Work list. As he and I have discussed, his firm has become as successful as it has because of its focus on the Human Side of Business. Because.
This isn’t a “people first, profits second” movement, but a “profits as a direct result of putting people first” movement.
This list is a tiny sample. It’s completely unfair to so many of the other incredibly successful business leaders focused on the Human Side of Business that we here at Switch and Shift have identified over our careers. If that’s you, I hope you can pardon me for not mentioning you in this post.
But if we haven’t featured you already, we will soon. Brace yourselves!
Our aspiration is for any one of you to have a one-stop resource to draw from any time someone says, “We’d like this business to focus more on the Human Side, but we just can’t afford it right now.” Any time that happens, you can say to them, “You know, I used to think that too. But there’s this website I’d like to show you….” That website is Switch and Shift. And going forward, we promise to only make this case stronger, less deniably.
So you’ll never have to be meek or hesitant again when you tell business leaders,
There’s a more human way to do business. In the Social Age, it’s how we engage with customers, collaborators and strategic partners that matters; it’s how we create workplace optimism that sets us apart; it’s how we recruit, retain (and repel) employees that becomes our differentiator. This isn’t a “people first, profits second” movement, but a “profits as a direct result of putting people first” movement.
If you know of a company that focuses on the Human Side of Business and thrives as a result – or one that is failing! – please, let me know in the comments below. I’m dying to add to my collection of fascinating companies!
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