At one time in my CFO career, I worked for a union shop. My boss instructed me to go to Tulsa to the National Steward School. I had no idea there was such a school! At this point in my career I had no connections with blue collar folks. I was told by my boss that that was exactly why I needed to attend that school. He wanted me to figure out how they think.
The first thing I learned was why they become adversarial regarding the companies they work for. The constant friction was the belief that management provided little real work, was consumed with greed and treated workers unfairly. The thing that impressed me the most about the workers I met was the dedication to their craft. Often their fathers and grandfathers did this same sort of work. They bring value to a group of people that is worthy of our respect.
What is Greed?
Let’s stop here and define greed. Greed denotes an excessive desire for something often more than one’s proper share.
I submit a different definition. I have worked with many rich people, and a couple obscenely rich people. People who would lust for money and power so strongly they really did not care about family or relationships. Through my experiences from both sides of the fence, I have concluded that the real greed comes not from the amount of wealth you have, but from the heart.
For example, I played an integral part in assisting a son and father sell their business and retire leaving each with millions. The son put his money in T-bills and precious metals like gold, focused solely on principal preservation. The father put his money in stocks and invested in people and companies he could influence and guide.
I submit to you that the greed in this case was from the younger man who cared nothing about the people who took the journey with him. He did not invest in growth, infrastructure, jobs, relationships like his father had. This may contradict current political sentiments where we are taught to believe the rich control companies, work to escape taxes, cheat their employees out of a fair wage, and promote their values on others in an oppressive fashion.
What is “Fair”?
Let’s also define what is fair. Equality and fairness are words that cannot be defined and do not have absolute meaning. What is fair for me is not fair to another person on this planet. The only way to achieve fairness is to agree on a creed, from a power much larger than any individual, group, or country. It seems to me that people with a strong sense of fairness often create bitterness and resentment in the people who hold these values too strongly.
Secondly, I have a broad base understanding of entrepreneurs and how they think. My background as a CFO and tax CPA has enabled me to work with many problem solvers in the execution of their vision. These successful people, without exception, are overly optimistic. They believe so strongly in their vision of the world and how they are going to help it that they often believe their own projections, even if they know them to be unrealistic. The focus is so strong that almost nothing distracts them.
Yet, distractions from their big vision or goal do arise when someone tells them they are now required to pay a minimum wage, grant paid time off, or not discriminate against a people group. These issues may be important or unimportant to the entrepreneur, but they seldom align with the owners accomplishing their vision.
The Problem Solvers
Every owner thinks like this:
They start with a company/product/idea and they decide they have the magic formula. Maybe it is a healthy food, a piece of software that makes our lives better, a building that helps us live comfortably, a drug that cures our ailments.
Of course, there is always a profit motive, but this is more the score card than the actual birth of an idea to implement into people’s lives that make substantial improvements.
In the early stages, sales grow and positive cash flow follows. When they get to $5 million in revenue or 50 employees – something happens.
Suddenly they take their eye off the ball. The get involved in the hands-on work instead of delegating. They find themselves mired in human resources, taxes, insurance, bookkeeping etc. Perhaps a lawsuit or merger pops up and they cannot think about anything else. This is when they enter the cash flow danger zone. Some make it past this stage!
I love business people. They are focused, goal driven, energetic, optimistic, and often brash. They are creative problem solvers. As we say at B2B CFO, they are all valuable contributors to our communities.
Both labor and owners contain element of adversaries, in the end both are worthy of our respect. The point I want you to consider is the value that each individual or group within a business brings to the overall success of the business. After all, without the owners – there would be no jobs. Without the workers – there would be no business. One is not independent from the other.
Perhaps an answer to the animosity between the owners and the employees is mutual respect, and clear understanding of the value each group brings to the business.