The phrase “It’s Just Business” has become an accepted way to dehumanize important decisions. The reality is that, in our relatively small industry where relationships are everything, it is impossible to negate the importance of relationships when faced with difficult business decisions. We cannot suddenly stop making important business decisions, but neither should we selectively disregard the importance of relationships when making those decisions. To succeed in the long run we need to make people, not business, the primary focus of our decision-making process.
Making Sound Business Decisions
This past year our company celebrated its 30th anniversary with an open house to which we invited as many of our previous employees as we could track down. We were surprised by what we found: most of our previous employees were still working locally; many were leaders of change affecting our business everyday; and dozens were now our clients.
Looking at how these former employees have continued to impact our company has reinforced the importance of these long-term relationships. Sound business decisions should consider not only immediate needs of the company, but also the company’s future, which is based largely on a culture of trusted relationships. Business decisions made with the “It’s Just Business” philosophy embrace the faulty premise that the company is more important than people. By making decisions that are best for people we strengthen our companies and build teams that believe in our decisions and leadership even after individual team members depart.
An Industry Built on Relationships
In his blog, Mark Buckshon, President of Construction News and Report Publishing, states that, “You will achieve the highest results if you think longer-term and in the context of giving.” His statement is especially true in our industry, which is a leader in recognizing the importance of relationships as the key to our successes and failures. It is important to note this as we make business decisions, knowing that others in our company and industry will evaluate our motivations and, based on their observations, will develop trust in our leadership accordingly.
It’s Just People
Many companies have succeeded at making people the center of their decisions. Some examples include: the company that tries to find new jobs for employees facing layoffs; the manager that mentors an underachiever instead of firing the employee; and the owner who respects seniority when promoting a young project manager over an experienced individual by changing a title or adapting team structure. Undoubtedly, this people-centered approach to business decisions can be more difficult in the short-term, but most successes are built on long-term, not on short-term gains.
It’s Just Smart Business
Perhaps it is time to give up our “It’s Just Business” slogan and instead focus on the value of every relationship – current and past employees as well as clients. Next time you are making an important decision think about the potential long-term benefits of maintaining strong relationships.
This article, written by Tim Klabunde, was originally published in the August 2008 edition of Marketer, the leading marketing publication of the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction industry.