Bad or good business

The damage done by the financial crisis of 2008 to the image of business is mostly unrepairable.

The greed and self-centred ethic in banking and financial services flowing through to business, global or local, through the so called Anglo Saxon model has widened the gap in inequality and lost opportunities of employment for many especially the young. Narrow results orientation, fixations with KPIs, numbers and analytics dehumanised the way we conduct trade. Efficiency and bottom line eclipsed negotiation and persuasion through human contact and building relationships. Neutralising the enablers in business interaction in the pursuit of reaching income and Ebitda targets is short sighted and unsustainable. Most are labelling business as bad and harmful to mankind. Many are saying that business is intrinsically bad.

The problem does not lie with business but with human beings. Business models are designed and developed by people and they can be badly constructed. Focus should be on the values of the persons who are behind the wheel at banks and business in general. These are the decision makers and influencers.

The values that contribute to constructive business interactions are those of achievement and ascendancy but underpinned by modesty, listening, integrity, transparency and involvement. Follow the intentions behind these decision makers, their ability to be creative and innovative and their judgement on issues related to their colleagues, their companies positioning in the market, respect for privacy, competition, relations with local authorities and governments.

Besides providing shareholders and the public interim and annual financial results, board of directors and management should provide information on qualitative matters including information about their relationships with their employees, regulators, and the community through their policy and activities in corporate social responsibility. Take note of the money invested in these activities and their impact in improving the quality of life of others.

Our perception of business will change if we are convinced that it has carefully designed its purpose beyond the restricted realm of profit, and that it follows its business on a daily basis through policies and actions that put first human dignity and potential.

About the author(s)

Joseph F.X. Zahra is a Malta based economist with over thirty five years of corporate leadership and business consultancy experience.