Originally created 07/05/99

Money is the root of all business

There is only one real measurement of success for business. Money.

The more a company makes, relative to cost, the better value a company appears to investors, competitors and the marketplace.

The less a company makes, the worse its quality or value.

Simple stuff. Capitalism at its core.

So why do we humans have a reluctance to cheer on the big guys, the super-successful companies that make gobs of money and operate with the efficiency of a well-oiled machine?

Microsoft, arguably the most savvy and profitable of today's companies, gobbles up competitors like jelly beans with hardly a swallow. Its products reign over virtually everyone's desks.

It's a household name.

Yet Microsoft has been in the midst of a legal battle with the Justice Department over whether it illegally sold its browser software below market prices in an attempt to squash the competition.

It might have. It might be guilty of unfair competition.

But even if the company is found innocent of the charges, we'll probably smirk, knowing that Goliath may be falling.

Why do we do that?

We love an underdog, a come-from-behind challenger.

And somewhere in the back of our minds, we feel there's something unsavory about a company, or person, that makes a lot of money.

Most folks won't begrudge a reasonable profit, but they're not quite clear on what "reasonable" means.

Is $1 million too much? How about $10 million?

A billion. Now that sounds too much, doesn't it? Anybody who makes $1 billion profit is having far more fun than he should be allowed.

But our market system is built on encouraging companies to generate as much profit as possible. It's the reward for good service and quality products.

It's the blessing of the marketplace.

Companies that turn customers off at the cashier's counter or build inferior cars should get the consumer's wrath. Consumers illustrate that anger by a vote. They choose not to spend money.

Therefore, the public often treats companies with skepticism when they roll out a new social campaign.

When a shoe manufacturer inaugurates an inner-city health program, we know it does it ultimately to sell more shoes. Every company has an agenda, and it's motivated by money.

Cynical? Not really.

It's natural. If companies were motivated by something other than money, that would be unusual, a fracture of the immutable laws of capitalism.

We expect organizations to make money.

We expect them to sell.

But companies aren't people. They're made up of people, but they're not human.

There's a tendency among professionals to think of themselves as little companies, which in and of itself isn't such a bad way of thinking.

But when we equate personal and even career success with money, it's a mistake.

Certainly, sales representatives love the bottom line and work on weekly and monthly revenue goals as proof of their worth to the company. But if they think that's the only yardstick of success, they're missing the big picture.

There are intangibles at work here.

A six-figure salary and bonus may not be worth putting up with a overbearing boss or giving into immoral demands.

And companies, whose prime objective, as we've said, is to make money, sometimes forget this human element.

It's too bad.

Happy, honest employees are profitable.


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