"Everyone else is doing it". Warren Buffett is the highly successful investor and Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. He said those are the "five most dangerous words in business" in a letter to the CEO's of the companies they own. Mr. Buffett is admired for his ethics and for his business acumen. What a great legacy to leave behind in this day and age of corporate mistrust and misdeeds. He has been a role model for many of us for years.
"Everyone else is doing it" has two connotations for me:
- It may be unethical, but since everyone else is doing it, it must be OK and justifiable.
- The current vogue in many industries (especially in my former industry, the airline industry) is to think short term, merge, and consolidate, to get bigger and supposedly gain cost efficiencies and market share...all in the name of the higher price of crude oil. So if my competitor is merging, damn the torpedoes and get on the bandwagon, regardless of the long term consequences people wise, customer service wise, or profit wise.
Not all mergers and acquisitions are bad. I don't mean to imply that. However, both of the above as I have defined them narrowly are not sustainable premises or strategies and neither one is a proven flight plan for success for any small, medium, or large business. I learned from my parents on the Iowa farm many years ago that you could never "chase two rabbits." You can't catch either one. You can't pretend to be the good guy on the surface, but your actions demonstrate exactly the opposite. I have seen great speakers espousing 10 great points to wealth and success in a meaningful and ethical way on the stage and in their books but...their personal lives exhibit exactly the opposite. Ethics?
I have known and observed CEO's, who early in their careers on the way to the boardroom, were down-to-earth, honest, and genuine people. Later, they let their egos and temptations in the marketplace change their ethics and character. They pretended they were the same, but everyone knows they aren't. They tried to catch both rabbits.
Most of us are consumers of air travel. Customer service is at an all time low in the airline industry, except for Southwest Airlines. We always said at Southwest, and they still do, that our people were # 1, we "hired attitudes" that fit our family culture and developed their skills. The airline industry has had a very difficult time the past few years economically due to high costs, 9-11, security and too much capacity in the skies. Several airlines have had to utilize chapter 11 bankruptcy. In all cases they have cut employee salaries and benefits several times. They have downsized and customer service and morale have suffered. A lack of trust has widened the gap between management and employees. Work rules have been modified to increase productivity.
Employees in many industries have been through bankruptcies, salary cuts, loss of pension benefits, furloughs, longer hours, etc. Yet, where is the management focus in many cases? How do they increase the stock price? How do they enrich their stock options? How do they please Wall Street and the big investors? How do they increase global market share?
Everyone else is doing it. How do you want to be remembered? What legacy do you want to leave? We all have a choice.