Chuck Kovacs: Guest Column: C.J.'s 20 cents of ethics
As an occasional financial adjunct at three universities, I find C.J. Marshall's experience - taking two months to get a 20 cent an hour raise, reprehensible. According to C.J., a writer for The Daily Review, some time ago, he overheard a college teacher telling students how to cheat employees. First of all, such suggestion indicates a lack of appreciation for HR (Human Resource) initiatives. It undermines retention, losing hard to find employees, - the ones who come to work on time, perform independently and are customer centric.
Reading between the lines of C. J.'s essay, there is some degree of simplicity of cheating, and idealism relating to "ethics" which some would consider a touch of naïveté. Placing ethics and business in the same sentence is like mixing oil and water in the same pot. The two seldom mix.
Given the state of competition, the "early bird gets the worm" is a great story, - yea, if you're the bird. If Wal-Mart decides to expand to your neighborhood, and carry the same products you did - fair or otherwise, you've just become the worm.
C.J. seems to imply that a profit motive prevails over needs of staffing. While that may be valid in some cases, a great many (large and small) businesses are hanging on by their fingernails due to the effects of the Internet and global commerce from China.
There is another material element missing in C.J.'s article - who pays employees. On every interview, I ask the same question - and hardly ever get the answer I want to hear. No, it's not the employer. Who is it? Employees tend to forget that it's the CUSTOMER! Think about that when you see them. Thank them for coming. Treat them like royalty - for they are ultimately the people who makes handing you a check possible.
If customers don't come in the door, how long do you think you're going to work there? C.J. would have been more savvy had he asked for a $2 raise, by telling the employer that he loved the job so much that over the last 5 months, he studied and saved the company 20 percent on maintenance materials by finding a competing vendor with better terms. On his own time, he took a course in Lean organization and scaled Six Sigma techniques which allowed the company to re-organize the stock room. Now the tools are quickly available to all, no more hunting for hours for the special wrenches. Safety hazards have been eliminated.
An ambitious C.J. joined a business forum and found that there were two larger local companies that needed the same services.
He presented a draft with the business manager to outsource the services with a potential revenue of $3,000 a month. Would you hire C.J.? Certainly, because he understands that every employer's ability is limited by sales written, less the cost of the goods, less fixed costs such as heat, phone, rent, advertising, insurance etc. - and yes, - payroll.
Lastly, there is a prevailing attitude that because staff needs $15 an hour to make ends meet, a business should have to pay that. Newspapers in cities and small towns are loosing readership and advertising revenue. The option is not pretty, sell more papers, sell more ads or C. J. will have to be given a pink slip.
The customer is always right! They decide where to spend their earnings regardless of employee's wants and needs, ethics, rights and wrongs.
Fail to internalize such truths, and you're on the path of the dinosaur - and extinction. You can't send a duck to Eagle School. You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. Learn from Starbucks, when they noted that "We aren't in the coffee business serving people."
"We're in the people business, service coffee." Such attitudes represent the hallmark of eagles soaring the heights of possibility and success.