Monday 22 December 2014

Do You Know Where You're Going To ; Ethical Entrepreneurship, George Eastman photographic evolution & Seth Godin makes a ruckus

Running a business is hard work. Make no mistake about it. But the rewards at a personal level are immensely satisfying; you are the person at the top and that can be the best feeling in the world. When the sales are made, the deals are done and the team and workforce can fullfill those orders, then it's you who gets to enjoy the fruits of those labours first. It's fantastically gratifying, and drives you onwards to do more and share more, depending on how you are geared internally.

But it's a fine, double edged sword and you need to keep your wits about you, and have a strong mind and will to run the show. In short, it's you who is ultimately responsible for your 'bottom line'. So if you haven't shipped the product, made the sale, closed the deal or delivered the goods or services, then you'll be the one to foot the blame. 

My parents, together with a business partner, ran their own business successfully for over 25 years. As a teenager, I'd help in the summers and eventually did a seven year stint there myself, post university. I wasn't sat in the office, occasionally coming out to stroke my tie and snap my braces either.

My tenure there taught me more about the world of work than any other job I've ever had. It was trully at the deep end and felt that way for a number of years. Contrary to any myth that may be perpetuated about being 'one of the family', I did the lot. From loading vans, to even sweeping the factory floor and cleaning the canteen kitchen if the cleaning lady didn't show up ( that wasn't something my father was happy about at all, but I saw it as 'it's got to be done!') as well as all the administration, and sales work. I even designed and implemented a stock & inventory flow control system for finished items, which they carried on implementing well after I'd left the business.

I'd learned many lessons in that environment, which are with me to this day. One of the most important lessons I learned, was retaining a sense of emotional perspective when dealing with all aspects and developing emotional intelligence moving onwards.

In essence,being an entrepreneur shouldn't be all about money and squeezing the last penny and nickel out of each and every deal. Whilst profit is important, it is solid morals and ethics that stand the test of time :-

Real Business Ethics and Meaningful Entrepreneurship

Making meaning as well as money, is something that a  lot of entrepreneurs are doing right now. Witness the level of 'how can I help?' rhetoricising that comes up in differing ways within mission statements. Leaving less of a carbon footprint, for example, or in the case of Toms, you have the company donating a pair for each pair you buy and also the gift of sight program they implement. This 'one for one' is something that was built into the corporate structure from the start, which is remarkable and would have been considered a risky move even 10 or 15 years ago.

My feeling is that if you can do something in a similar vein, then you have managed to give something back from the moment you have decided to crease that metaphorical leather chair. Furthermore, it doesn't appear as if you have 'bolted on' some sort of ethical halo in order to make a business appear more altruistic, which can be a backfiring tactic in these times of greater information and transparency.

On the subject of transparency, one man made it a 20 year quest to take the then cumbersome process of photography, into a portable medium :-

How George Eastman Revolutionized Photography

Kodak was a name synonymous with cameras for almost 100 years, and it's instamatic range, together with rolls of portable film are what it was best known for. It's a sign of the times that Kodak went through near bankrupcy in the last five years, to re-emerge as a digital platform based business. Clearly the brand name still has large value attached to it, and it has been involved in the development of the micro four thirds camera, which came out earlier this year. Let's hope they carry on developing and innovating in the years ahead.

Someone who never stops innovating and coming up newer with ideas to facilitate change, is Seth Godin :-

Seth Godin: Keep Making a Ruckus 

I own a number of his books and recently bought 'The Dip', which at less than 100 pages, has to be one of the slimmest tomes I've had the pleasure to own. But just like any book by the late Paul Arden , it is packed with powerful and valuable advice. That's the raison d'etre with this sort of thing. It's not there to patronise or condescend, but merely to help with pushing you towards the 'eureka moment', where it all just slots into place.

Just like in life itself, a similar conundrum can apply. You can know where you're going, but are unsure about how to navigate towards your destination. Providing you've got a map and are willing to be guided when needed, you'll get there. You may even decide en route, that it's time to go in a different direction. That's fine, as adjustment and change are part of the deal, irrespective of which road you chose.

In any event, provided that you keep yourself fuelled with enough drive, energy and compassion, both to yourself and for others along the way, you'll remember the ride for years to come.

And that's a journey worth taking time and time again.

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