by Pam Baker, veteran journalist and business consultant
All the political pontificating, politician posturing and anything- but- unbiased media sideshows are distracting us from the one single, simple truth we should be addressing: businesses failed. They simply and undeniably failed.
You can demonize Bush and fawn over Obama; or, fawn over Bush and demonize Obama – it really doesn’t matter, because whether a company is profitable or not is more a matter of management than public policy.
So get over yourself and your politician or party of choice already. Politics and policy are no excuse for business failure. Yes, Bush threw out all the rules; some say the Clinton administration had a hand in that as well. To which I say, so what? You mean to tell me that Fortune 500 companies failed because the teacher was out of the room?
If that’s the case, then the onus is on boards, stockholders and stakeholders for putting unruly children at the helm in the first place. And, they deserve the bruising they are taking now if they stubbornly and foolishly keep those children in place.
Had these companies held to solid business principles, ethics and best practices, they would have prospered no matter who sat in the White House. That, my friends, is the bottom line.
Since so many business leaders lack basic business acumen, self-discipline and solid ethics, government will institute regulations again and rightfully so. Trash the room and bully other kids, and the teacher inevitably comes back into the room.
You want to stop the red ink bleeding and bring business back in the black? Then simply return to tried and true business principles. Here’s a starter list to get your business moving in the right direction:
1)Adopt the physician's credo: "First, do no harm."
2)Never invest in a get-rich-quick or shady scheme, e.g. bad mortgages packaged as derivatives.
3)Don’t invest in -- or with -- friends; invest based solely on facts and pragmatism. Be diligent; there is a Bernie Madoff on every corner.
4)Do your homework before proceeding in any direction.
5)Build a business case before making any major decision.
6)Remember the customer is always right.
7)Put all costs and profits on the books.
8)Never “play with the numbers.”
9)Weed out sandbaggers from your ranks.
10)Remember employees and customers are vital elements in your business plan.
11)Police your own actions before someone else does so that you gain tangible rewards and avoid painful punishments.
12)Don’t bend or break rules just because you can.
13)Remember what you do to others can be done to you.
14)Do away with any sense of entitlement: no, management doesn’t need a million dollar bathroom make-over, for example. Make it clear that bonuses are for exemplary achievement, not for just showing up to work.
15)Hold upper management completely accountable for every decision – or lack thereof. Reward or punish accordingly.
16)Put solid turn-around actions in play long before you hit bottom.
17)Plan for the long-term rather than react to today’s stampede mentality.
18)Business should never be “as usual” it should be “as planned.”
19)Remember demonstrable integrity and goodwill are better safeguards against lawsuits than the best of lawyers.
20)Be mindful of politics but not overly so. Remember power shifts from one party to the next regularly and your business must prosper throughout.
21)Never, ever let the clowns run the circus.
22) Always, always, always have ample cash reserves on hand.