Educate February 2018

Juggling for Business


Written By: Philip N. Kabler

Juggling is so much fun to watch. One great juggling scene occurs as a segment of the “In the Room” episode of “The West Wing” when Penn and Teller jointly juggle a number of random office items, and Penn discusses how juggling unrelated items is more challenging than doing so with matched items like balls, fruit, bowling pins or running chain saws.

While juggling employs a specific skill-set involving eye-hand coordination, timing and focus, those skills are offset against a natural force – gravity. If a juggler cannot incorporate gravity into the act, then there is no juggling, just items on the ground.

Business entrepreneurs and operational professionals are jugglers. Think about all the unrelated balls they have to keep in the air simultaneously. Customers, vendors, employees, independent contractors, design, production, service delivery, logistics, accounting, finance, taxes, laws, government and compliance – to name a few matters which have to be attended to simultaneously and on an ongoing basis.

As gravity is a central underpinning to be addressed by physical jugglers, there is a parallel focal point for business professionals – corporate culture.

What exactly is corporate culture? How is it implemented internally to the company, and then perceived internally and externally? And why should anyone care?

While the meaning, scope and impact of corporate culture are topics of detailed academic studies, for the purposes of this piece let us use as a working understanding an enterprise’s “way of doing business.” And that way, in turn, is a consequence of a company’s operational ethics, whether intentional or not.

Business ethics, of course, is a huge topic by itself. It concerns matters like equity, trustworthiness, balance, dependability and communication to internal and external stakeholders because there are many elements and variables wrapped into ethics.

Once a company has determined that it has, or wants to have, a core ethic, it should reduce that backbone to three statements, and then implement those statements. They are:

  • Mission – What is the company’s central objective? That will be dependent upon whether the business creates goods, delivers services or engages in a variety of both. The mission should be a single-sentence set in an active voice. An example for a service business can be: “The mission of our company is to competently provide state-of-the art [choose the industry] maintenance and repair services, on-time and every time.”
  • Vision – How does the company and its stakeholders collectively see the mission rolling-out? An example can be: “We see our company performing our mission through prompt, courteous and price-conscious responses to our customers.”
  • Values – This one is a toughie because business operators do not necessarily think in terms of topics like the compass rose which underpins their operations. But there is one. The values may come from a moral, theological, economic, political or some other philosophical background. An example can be: “Our mission stands upon, and our business functions as a result of, a [choose the approach] basis.”

Identifying a venture’s core ethic, and setting the underlying mission, vision and values to paper is no simple feat. That activity entails mindful self-reflection, active listening and the human element, with both participants who are in-house (such as employees) and outside (such as customers and vendors); none of which come naturally to productive economic operations. And which are often coordinated during a retreat by a third-party consultant.

So, what? Why should a business operator bother worrying consciously about ethics? Simply put, because of return on investment. A company wants to attract and retain the highest performing workers. And advantageous financing. And high-quality material resources. Creating and maintaining a workplace exhibiting fairness, openness anddignity – setting aside the important matters of compensation, benefits and workplace safety – can serve to achieve those disparate but still connected goals.

And a company ,likewise, wants to attract new and returning customers or clients. Building and projecting a reputation in the marketplace for honesty and integrity – setting aside the critical matters of pricing and quality – can serve to achieve that objective.

To be carried out in real time, ROI influences must be translated into objectively stated policies and procedures, human resources manuals, trainings, marketing materials and contracts. And then carried forth into the world.

Not one of the matters discussed above is easy. None of them. They run somewhat contrary to normal interactions. They involve opinions and even feelings. They are challenging to capture in plain English. They have to become second nature to the company. They must be continuously monitored. Evolution may and will likely occur. But the end-result of an effective efficient, and economically running operation is well worth the effort.

So, juggle away.

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NOTICE: The article above is not intended to serve as legal advice, and readers should not rely on it as such. It is offered only as general information. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding their legal matters, as every situation is unique.

For more information, call Philip N. Kabler, Esq. of the Gainesville, FL office of Bogin, Munns & Munns, P.A. at (352) 332-7688, boginmunns.com where he practices in the areas of business, real estate, banking and equine law.

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Philip N. Kabler is an Incubator Resource for the Santa Fe College Center for Innovation and Economic Development (CIED), and has taught various courses at UF Levin College of Law and at the UF Warrington College of Business. H e is also a member of The Florida’s Bar’s Professional Ethics Committee, and the immediate past president of the North Florida Association of Real Estate Attorneys. He is currently a member of the Society for Human Resource Management. 

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