“Take care of my sheep.” – John 21:16
“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” Ebenezer Scrooge tried to remind the ghost of his late business partner Jacob Marley in Dickens’ timeless story A Christmas Carol. “Business!” cried the ghost in response. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
I once found myself in a somewhat heated debate with another gentleman over whether it was the role of business to be compassionate. Although he himself was a compassionate person, he took the position that compassion was not the purpose of business. I argued to the contrary. But I’ve since had second thoughts. If I could relive that debate I might agree that it is not the role of business to be compassionate, compassion being a word that seems too soft a term. Instead I would argue this way, that regardless what business or profession one is in, it is first and foremost a people business; for no business or profession would even exist except to help other people meet their needs and desires.
Curious as to what was behind the success stories of some of America’s most exceptional long-lasting companies, James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras of the Stanford Graduate School of Business did an extensive six-year study of eighteen visionary companies, as they called them, in direct comparison with one of each company’s competitors. Using long-term stock performance as their measure, what they discovered is that a dollar invested in the visionary companies over a long period of time outperformed a dollar invested in the comparison companies by six times, and over fifteen times that of the general market. While their findings were extremely complex, the differentiator essentially boiled down to this: the visionary companies view their core purpose as serving mankind, while the comparison companies view theirs as achieving profitability. (Reference, Built to Last, by Collins and Porras)
“Take care of my sheep,” Jesus instructed his apostle Peter. Similarly, Marley cried out to Scrooge, “Mankind was my business!” I wonder, had Scrooge and Marley been operating that way all along, would they have been lesser “good men of business”?