Saturday, April 4, 2015

Wealth versus ruthless behavior

One of my favorites from last year was a post concerning Henry Ford. He is an icon of American business for good reason with good and bad elements to his story, but one thing that impressed me the most was the bravery and audacity he showed by more than doubling the salaries of his workers. Can you imagine today? What if your boss, if you have one, doubled YOUR salary?

And it was a fierce fight for him to get that done, though he controlled his company. There was a lot of opinion against, but thankfully he was brilliant enough to see the possible, and make it happen.

But what about the fierce rich? What about the cruel wealthy who ruthlessly fight to limit pay to their employees? And the reality is that we more often associate brutal, ruthlessness with the wealthy, even though there is plenty of evidence it's not the best way for them to gain greater wealth.

Surprised? I'm sure plenty of people believe all kinds of things not true about how you build a fortune, including ruthless back-stabbing, lying to your employees, regulators and anyone else. Avoiding paying taxes. Cutting salaries and endangering employees by not paying attention to safety. And many other ways of cheating that are often associated with wealthy people and corporations and every single one of those things is horrendous for actually making profit in the real world.

Customers don't exactly like shoddy products that fall apart as soon as they try to use them. Disgusted and angry workers don't exactly build the best things. Bad safety practices, well, can burn down entire buildings. And you can dream of beating people into doing what you want, but reality is people don't exactly respond well to it. Would you?

Fantasy is one thing. Actually running a business is another.

So why do people believe otherwise? Because I think there are plenty of businesses that engage in those behaviors and claim it's to make money.

Why do they make that claim?

While there are cases where bad business practices, or changing business climate can push people to cheat, I think usually it's because they like doing it.

That ruthless boss who is so hated by his staff that they dream of his death, probably enjoys inflicting pain on them--even if it hurts the company's performance.

That supervisor who humiliates and demeans employees, just likes to do it, even though it hurts company profits.

That person who cheats and cuts corners, may just be lazy, or even stupid, possibly in a position because of who he knows, or whose son he is, when he has no clue what he's doing.

And I could go on, and on.

People make excuses for bad behavior because it IS bad. Claiming it's a way to make money, even when it's not, is easy. Easy is appealing to some.

But the best in business can't afford the business consequences of stupid behavior.

Henry Ford went on to become even more fantastically rich, where doubling the salaries of his employees was just one part, but an important part of his success. Those around him who thought it would bankrupt him were just plain wrong. It helped do the opposite.

It's weird to consider: but if Henry Ford had listened to those people American history would have been drastically different, and he would probably never have become as rich as he did! They were counseling against the path to far greater wealth and stature on the world stage. Those who thought he was wrong to do it, even though also wealthy, were just not as good at business.

And thanks to his stubbornness he helped invent modern America.

Appropriately Henry Ford is given a lot of credit for the rise of the modern middle-class--around the globe.

Today with that group under siege by ruthless wealthy, who dedicated tremendous efforts to unraveling this country's economy, it's worth thinking back to how much has been undone.

Some wealthy will always be convinced that inhumane ruthless behavior is the key to success, but who ever said that being wealthy meant you were also smart? I sure wouldn't.

These people lost American lessons that go back to Henry Ford.

Ruthless people have made their way in business. I'm sure. But who gets to make America?

Thankfully, we're learning again that paying people what they are worth, or at least trying, is a lot smarter than ruthlessly trying to exploit them, as not only does that not best build profit, it breaks down the economic base of the United States of America.

We need a country that works for everyone. Lets everyone work best. And puts wealth in its proper place.

Our country does not limit how much you can make.

So no one in this country should limit this nation's potential.

James Harris
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