Make a decent profit decently

The German economist and member of Thinkers 50, Hermann Simon, said it so well: the future will be about Leaders who make a decent profit decently. As strong advocator for long-term profit orientation over short-term profit orientation we could not agree more. Greed and fear that showed their ugly faces during the Financial Crisis are here again, spurring panic moves or immoral choices. Neither will secure long-term survival.

First point sounds easy: Make a decent profit. However, a surprisingly high number of companies, also publicly held, has not a made a profit for years. Yet investors keep believing what management is selling with seemingly endless patience for not getting their money back. As leaders and as employees we must always remember to be profitable. It is a healthy and humbling attitude towards the fact that we are spending Other People’s Money every day.

Second point is a bit harder: Making a profit decently. However, no person or no company is an island, and while it is tempting to cut corners and sacrifice integrity chasing the last cent, it often holds some dangers. Apart from the moral issues with a lack of decency, immoral choices also hold performance costs. Indecent behavior damages pride in the company, lowers motivation, and removes the feeling of fighting for a higher cause. It often spurs poor judgement lower in the organization where people simply copy top managements obvious disregard for the greater good. On top of this there is the risk of being busted, which only grows higher as transparency through SoMe increases. In the end indecency is a bit like infidelity – it’s generally cheaper just not to do it.

Let this be your new mantra: Making a decent profit decently. By respecting the dual obligations, you will commit yourself to both profitability and decency. That is a winning combination which will steer you through any crisis.