Doing good for the customer is good for the account book too
Why did Andrew Hoggard’s book ‘Business from the Heart’ catch the corporate world’s eye? The author is not known for any global business triumph. He managed businesses only in Australia and New Zealand for over 35 years, with most of the time devoted to the healthcare industry. Hoggard has not been part of management academia either. Yet his 2018 publication fortified his position as a motivational and guest speaker at organisations of multiple shades.
How did this happen? Reason: while most of us have our heart in business we seldom do business from the heart. This minor change of words actually denotes a world of difference.
Invariably, businesses are supposed to earn profits. Their success is measured by the health of their bottom-line. Breakthroughs on other fronts attract scant attention. With profit and profitability being the leading measures of business achievement, corporates tend to turn ruthless in accomplishing this goal.
This is where Hoggard steps in. He highlights the need of heart-centred business. In the process, he tries to bring out the best in us. By viewing life from a prism different from the conventional one, he suggests, we can change ourselves and make the mind and the heart act in communion. When this truly happens, business processes get rid of their rough and abrasive edges. Business becomes more humane and the world is that much less hurt. A caring business is good business. But no business school can make you more caring. The transformation needs to come from within.
With all due respect to Hoggard, one would like to assert that business from the heart is nothing novel. It has always been there depending upon the person who ran the business, company or conglomerate. If the person had a heart, then he or she viewed and ran the enterprise differently from mere number crunchers.
Hoggard’s concept has drawn some attention because businesses, world over, are turning more and more profit-oriented. Thanks to growing globalisation and trade wars, competition is only increasing in intensity. Ensuring existence itself has become a challenge. Day in and day out, we hear news about companies going bankrupt, folding up or retrenching employees in large numbers. Seen on the face of it as smart business decisions, such moves have grave social repercussions. Their impact is all the more severe in developing and underdeveloped countries where a state-backed social security network is conspicuous by its absence. The situation is alarming. The government and the captains of industry need to focus on the looming crisis. They need to show more heart and be more sensitive towards the underprivileged sections of our society.
Business is much more than merely making money. In fact, beyond a certain level of wealth creation all businesses should start functioning like trusts. After all, it is the trust between the capitalist and the labour that keeps an enterprise going. It is a sacrosanct social contract.
Another worrisome development is the growing clinical approach that many businesses adopt towards their employees and customers. We have been often told that customer is king. Is he? Ironic it may sound, but the fact is that customers are mere data for many consumer product behemoths. Customers are today wooed in a most brutal manner. They are manipulated through sly advertising and unscrupulous influencers. They are badgered by tele-calls, SMS volleys and questionable marketing and sales schemes.
There is no dearth of instances when the advertising claims of a corporate or its products are far from reality. Thousands of unsuspecting customers of financial products and services and real estate have lost their hard-earned savings to greedy and heartless businesses. The culprits are many but only a few are brought to book. Such is the nexus between avaricious business and authorities. One laments that this anarchic situation prevails the world over but more so in the economically backward countries where the writ of the law hardly prevails.
So what needs to be done to alter the current state of affairs in business?
Rasheed Ogunlaru, leading life and business coach and author of ‘Soul Trader – Putting the Heart Back into Your Business’, responds so pithily: “The world has changed. We want to run, work in, and buy from businesses that care about us – in tune with our values and in balance with our lives… Running a business from the heart is now a necessity. We’re sick of businesses that don’t care about us and just about our cash. Unless you love you, what you do, and those you serve, your health, home life, staff/supplier relationships or sales will suffer.”
The change in the business world is best characterised by the recent spurt in entrepreneurship. To survive and then to thrive, infant enterprises need to have a heart-to-heart link with their teams and the customer segment they have chosen to serve. It takes time and perseverance for entrepreneurs to strike roots. There is many a fall between the start and the goal. The journey is witness to much disdain and mocking by big business.
But how can we forget that the world’s biggest companies today include names like Alphabet (Google), Microsoft, Amazon, Alibaba, Facebook, etc. which figured nowhere just a few decades ago. These ultra-successful companies are the product of the burning zeal of virtually resource-less and young entrepreneurs. Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Jack Ma, Mark Zuckerberg, etc. are the stuff of legends. Theirs is a heart-centered business; their mission was doing good. They have made our lives better and happier. They have delighted the customer.
No wonder, over 90% of the businesses over the free world fall in the small category. Their bond with their customers is marked by high level of compassion, creativity, courage, cooperation and communication. The same cannot be said about business giants. They have lost their soul somewhere along the way. The human touch is missing.
Just cast a glance at the micro and small businesses in Nepal. A majority of them are run by women. Millions of able-bodied males from poverty-struck society of our country have migrated to West Asian and other countries to eke out a living for their families here. The mantle to run the show has, therefore, fallen on our women, and they are doing the job splendidly. They run businesses dotting our roads, streets and hamlets from the heart. They are the keepers and protectors of our society. They are doing work that matters. Their example needs to be emulated by Nepal’s established businesses which seem to be fascinated by the ruthlessness of the West’s big business.
However, there is a false notion doing the rounds in our social and business circles. Business from the heart is often viewed as an ‘effiminate’ system in a largely male dominated world. It is accused of missing the killer instinct generally viewed as vital for business success. Nothing could be farther from the truth. To move up the business ladder you need constant planning, thinking and strategizing. And to succeed at that you need to be in sync with the changing needs of the customer. You need to be compassionate enough to empathise with the customer’s requirement and change your business style and product line suitably. Only a woman’s heart and sensitivity is capable of accomplishing this.
Returning to our friend Andrew Hoggard, let me bring to you a few relevant quotes from him: “A great business comprises good people and systems coming together to provide the customer with an extraordinary experience” and ‘It’s about everything that you do, by being motivated from the inside out. It’s about seeing life not from a set of rules, but from a perspective where you want to, and long to do things for others.”
Although Hoggard’s business-from-the-heart philosophy focuses more on the sales function, I view it as a trigger to include the entire gamut of business. Quite a few business personalities have excelled using the heart as their compass. Profits came as a natural by-product.
It’s time we grew the tribe.
Basant Chaudhary is a Poet, Writer, The Chairman of BLC and Basant Chaudhary Foundation. (email@example.com)