Compliance, Ethics and John the Baptist

You’re at the office, negotiating with a potential partner that, if consummated, would result in a joint-project that would be highly profitable for both companies. After the end of a long day of negotiations, your potential partner goes back to the hotel. One of their team members calls you and asks to meet you at a local bar. She wants to tie up one more loose end with you before heading to bed. You agree to meet her. At the bar, you learn that the “loose end” she wants to discuss is actually an invitation to spend some time with her in her hotel room. She has the power to kill the deal, yet you don’t want to get involved for a variety of reasons. You’re now in a no-win situation.

There is a difference between compliance and ethical behavior, says Michael McMillan, director of ethics and professional standards at the CFA Institute. While it is possible to be completely compliant, this does not mean that one has acted in an ethical manner. The difference, says McMillan, is that compliance behavior meets a legal standard whereas ethical behavior meets a values standard. The latter is more difficult to measure than the former, but it is the latter behavior that customers really want.

In Mark 6, we read the story about John the Baptist and how he had publically told Herod that it was unlawful for Herod to have his brother’s wife, Herodius:

17 For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, 20 because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.

21 Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.

The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” 23 And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.”

24 She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?”

“The head of John the Baptist,” she answered.

25 At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

26 The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, 28 and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. 29 On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

In this story, clearly, all of the actions taken were technically legal because in that culture, the King decided what was legal on a moment-by-moment basis. Herod had the power to order John’s execution and it was legal. The daughter was allowed to dance in front of the men to please them (presumably fully nude – otherwise, why would it please the King and his guests so much?) when she could not do this type of dancing in other places – that would have been illegal (presumably). Her request for John’s head was legal because the King gave her a window of opportunity to make a one-time request that would have otherwise been impossible for her to make.

It’s all legal, but it’s all unethical. The King – weakened by his sin – is unable to overcome his embarrassment in front of his guests and unable to stand up to the peer pressure, so he orders John’s death. The daughter – apparently able to use her sensuality to manipulate and control men – sees nothing wrong or unethical in participating in John’s murder. In fact, she’s working to get closer to power and wealth via her mother, so she willingly goes along with it all. Her mother – infused with hatred for John because she enjoyed her position of power and wealth more than her first husband – murders John by proxy. And the guests just sit there, lusting after the daughter while getting more and more drunk. They don’t care what happens to John. They are the approving masses who lack any real moral backbone. John is murdered as a result of a conspiracy between a cruel cowardly leader, a vengeful and selfish mother, a sensuously manipulative daughter and the silent masses who won’t stand up to obvious wrongs.

It is possible to be compliant without coming close to being ethical. One can follow the law while fully disregarding core values that give rise to the better and higher acts of virtue. As a Christian Business Owner, it’s not enough to be compliant. You need to be ethical. And it is the Holy Spirit who decides what’s ethical for you in a given situation, not your lawyer. Walk with God, be free from the bondage of sin, and you will find yourself not needing lawyers as much as you act more and more in alignment with the values God has for you and your business.

Bill English
CEO, Mindsharp
Associate, The Platinum Group
M.A., M.Div., LP
Licensed Psychologist, State of Minnesota

The Six Buying Motives: Are They Only Present When Purchasing a Good or Service?

Recently, I began the process of engaging an outside firm to help us execute the sales and marketing team and a skills on staff to execute well. Our initial consultation, the outside firm gave me a book entitled “World Class Selling” by Roy Chitwood. In chapter 9, Chitwood described the six buying motives that all of us have what we are purchasing anything. Those buying motives are:

  • Desire for gain
  • Fear of loss
  • Comfort and convenience
  • Security and protection
  • Pride of ownership
  • Satisfaction of emotion

It occurred to me when I was reading through the chapter about and six emotions, they are probably present when we are running a business too. I’m not sure that the six emotions are unique to the purchasing process. For example, is there any business owner on the face of this planet who doesn’t have a desire for gain and a fear of loss? Do not all of us as business owners, have a pride of ownership in our businesses? And when times are good and cash flow was plentiful, do we not invest in our own comfort and convenience?

I think the author is getting the idea that these emotions are really motivations for purchasing a product or a service. My thought here is that these motivations exist in our lives more generally that just when we are purchasing a product or service.

It also occurred to me that these motivations might be reasons why we enter into sinful activities. For example, we might purchase an unusual amount of insurance to help alleviate our fear of loss and give us a sense of security protection. But if we don’t find our core sense of security in our relationship with Jesus Christ, then we are likely by attempting in my security in the ways.

The lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life are three motivations that seem to be present in all sin. I would suggest that it is not a far leap to mind these six motivations for buying inside the three motivations that First John says as present in all sin. As we run our businesses and attempt to honor Jesus Christ the marketplace, what should be aware of ourselves and our motivation that give rise to our actions including our purchasing decisions.

Bill English
CEO, Mindsharp
Associate, The Platinum Group

Goats on a Roof?

I thought I’d seen it all……until I came to Sister Bay, Wisconsin. In this quaint, lovely town is a store/restaurant with a sod roof. On the sod roof were goats grazing. I’m not kidding. Pics attached to verify my story. In all my travels, I’ve never seen a goat on a roof grazing in the middle of town.   Just so you think this first picture isn’t a joke:     Store is Al Johnsons’ in Sister Bay, WI.   Bill English, MVP

Why Businesses Fail

From an accounting perspective, reasons businesses fail because of exceed their income over a long enough period of time to require bankruptcy or liquidation. But the reason that expenses exceed income over a long period of time is usually the result of several factors that result from me the business owner’s inability to successfully manage core aspects of his or her business.

Arrogance

When a business is in decline, most business owners believe that through the power of their own will and action they can pull the business out of decline and get back on the road to profitability and success. Even more sinister is the business owner who only looks at topline revenue and assumes that as long as the topline revenue is high enough, the business will be profitable and therefore successful.

I can’t say that I’m not committed the sin. Arrogance is a sin that leads to a lot of bad decisions. Arrogance clouds our judgment and is both a state of mind and an emotion that makes us feel insulated from the dangers of running a business while simultaneously exposing us a greater measure to those same dangers.

I was speaking with a commercial loan officer yesterday and we were discussing why businesses fail. The gal with whom I was having this conversation deals with businesses in the 5,000,000 to 20,000,000 range. She commented that most of the time, when she sees business is beginning to fail, that it’s nearly impossible to talk to the business owner and help them see the danger that they are in. She commented on how arrogance is the number one factor that she sees in businesses failing. I couldn’t agree more.

This is especially true of new business owners who are running a business or first time and experience sustained success out of the gate. I know one business owner who has started a consulting company and on the first four years of existence has grown his company into a $5 million business with net profits in the 20% range. He’s making the mistakes with his employees and his culture, but when these mistakes are brought to his attention he just brushes them off. He honestly thinks he’s right and everybody else on the team is wrong.

The Christian Business Owner can escape such arrogance by ensuring that he is practicing 2 Chronicles 7.14 – confessing and repenting of his sins and asking God to heal his business and his land. If you ever want to mitigate arrogance in your life, just take time every day to ask God what sins you have to confess and then repent of those sins.

Shame

After a long run of success, most business owners upgrade their standard of living under the assumption that their income that results from their success will continue indefinitely. And often, these owners live on the edge, spending nearly all of their income on pleasures and luxuries.

When a business starts to decline, the income of the owner will be declining too. In this scenario, the owner may experience shame about not being able to keep up their standard of living – believing that a public degrade of their standard of living will result in ridicule or rejoicing from others.

This type of shame betrays a belief that one’s worth is tied to their material success. For the Christian Business Owner, we can escape this sin by ensuring that we understand our worth comes from who Jesus Christ has made us to be and not from our successes in business.

Inability to hire and fire well

I think this is the number one reason that businesses fail. Owners hire the wrong people for the jobs they need accomplished within their business. Employees can be “wrong” for positions when one or more of the following exists:

  • Their skills don’t match what is needed to perform the tasks required for the job
  • Their passions don’t match what is needed to perform the tasks required for the job
  • Their attitudes don’t match the values of the company
  • Their compensation doesn’t match the range of market compensation for the job
  • Their character doesn’t align with the company’s values and degrades those values
  • Their interpersonal skills degrade the culture of the company

When these mismatches surface – as they inevitably will – they negatively affect other employees in the office. If not dealt with directly and swiftly, other employees will eventually lose faith, confidence and trust in the owner’s ability to manage people in the office and the result is a degradation of the overall culture of the business, turf wars, back-biting, gossip and unresolved conflict. You see, strategy is trumped by culture. You have to have a good culture first before you can have a successful strategy implementation.

Most Christian business owners got into business because they have a skill or knowledge that the market needs and they saw an opportunity to make some money. But they never anticipated the hiring and firing responsibilities that would ensue from growing a business.

In order to fire well, one needs the ability to “face into the negative” and deal with conflict well. That inability to face conflict and deal with it head on is the core reason most businesses fail.

Take a look at a sample of businesses that have failed. Take a long step back and assess the reasons why that business failed. In the end – at the core – you’ll find that those businesses failed because the owners were unable to hire well, fire well and resolve the conflicts that surfaced from their lack of employee management skills.

As Christian business owners, we need to understand that our abilities to hire and fire well must be developed. But developing those skills is paramount to our success in fulfilling the four purposes that God has for business.

Bill English
CEO, Mindsharp
Associate, The Platinum Group

Why are You in Business?

Most people start businesses – not because they think they can make a ton of money, but because they “fall into it” – they have a talent or competency that is rare and that is needed by a market. So they see an opportunity to make some cash and they think “Why not?” So they start a business.

I was surfing the web this morning and came across this site that listed the 7 reasons that businesses fail. Interestingly enough, the first reason had to do with a person’s motivation – why they are in business in the first place. What struck me was that they felt that being in business solely for the purpose of making money was a sure sign you were going to fail:

“Would the sole reason you would be starting your own business be that you would want to make a lot of money? Do you think that if you had your own business that you’d have more time with your family? Or maybe that you wouldn’t have to answer to anyone else? If so, you’d better think again.

On the other hand, if you start your business for these reasons, you’ll have a better chance at entrepreneurial success:

  • You have a passion and love for what you’ll be doing, and strongly believe — based on educated study and investigation — that your product or service would fulfill a real need in the marketplace.
  • You are physically fit and possess the needed mental stamina to withstand potential challenges. Often overlooked, less-than-robust health has been responsible for more than a few bankruptcies.
  • You have drive, determination, patience and a positive attitude. When others throw in the towel, you are more determined than ever.
  • Failures don’t defeat you. You learn from your mistakes, and use these lessons to succeed the next time around. Head, SBA economist, noted that studies of successful business owners showed they attributed much of their success to “building on earlier failures;” on using failures as a “learning process.”
  • You thrive on independence, and are skilled at taking charge when a creative or intelligent solution is needed. This is especially important when under strict time constraints.
  • You like — if not love — your fellow man, and show this in your honesty, integrity, and interactions with others. You get along with and can deal with all different types of individuals.”

This site is hardly Christian in their viewpoint. Yet, the elements they point to that will ensure you have a better chance of success – passion, love, drive, determination, persistence, independence – these are some of the same elements that exist when God calls you to business.

As part of the Christian Business Reference Architecture, we find that in order to run a business God’s way and be successful at doing so means that you have a call from God to be in business. God’s call to business – just like any vocational ministry – is a passion to perform a certain business, the skills to do it and the funding to make it happen. In my experience, God “bridges” what we’re good at with what is needed in the Kingdom – we put our work toward furthering the Kingdom when God calls us.

Why are you in Business? Hopefully, it is because God has called you to business – to the marketplace – and has given you a passion, drive and determination to run a business His way. If you’re in it for the money, you won’t last long. Owning a small business is not for the faint of heart. I always say – if you can do something else other than owning a business – go do it. Only own and run a small business if it’s all you can ever see yourself doing and if you sense God has called you to this endeavor.

Bill English
CEO, Mindsharp
Associate, The Platinum Group

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