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It's a Business, Babe...

posted Oct 25, 2012, 11:55 AM by Lisa Shelley   [ updated Jul 8, 2013, 2:30 PM ]
Have you ever had a seemingly small interaction that just sticks with you?  A moment that hits you in such a way that you still find it coming back to mind years later?

I had such an experience 20 plus years ago while attending a charity walk event.  I was a relatively young professional, supporting my organization's team at the event.  My husband and I arrived early on a Sunday morning to a nearly deserted downtown.  Other than the event that we were attending, there was nothing else happening that morning.  As we pulled into a parking lot close to the start of the walk, typically only used during the week by business commuters, I was surprised to see a parking attendant there collecting a rather significant parking fee.  Considering that there was nothing else going on downtown, it was clear that they were there specifically for the opportunity to earn revenue from the volunteers attending this charity event.  Never shy about expressing my thoughts, I called out to the attendant as my husband paid, "I assume that you are donating a portion of what you collect today to the cause?"

His response still pops into my head decades later.  While looking at me as if I were completely crazy he said "It's a business babe."  Far beyond my indignation at being referred to as his, or anyone else's 'babe,' the sentiment behind his statement has been bouncing around my subconscious ever since.

Where along the evolution of business did the idea develop that the opportunity to earn a profit somehow justified the means?  

That because something is legal to do, it's the right thing to do?  The phrase "it's business" is used to justify many types of behavior that would not be considered acceptable in general society, to the point that in some business circles a strong pre-disposition toward doing the 'right' thing is viewed as weakness.

I believe in a different kind of business.  One where opportunity is balanced against the impact and value to all stakeholders.  Where relationship is valued, and decisions are based on long term sustainability of the enterprise. And where it's not just OK to pass on an opportunity that doesn't feel 'right' for all stakeholders, it's expected.  

It's a Smart Business, Babe.