Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Just Say No

This word has long been in the minds and vocabulary of human beings. To many parents it seems to be the only word their two year old knows. It is the response we are taught as children to have when confronted with illegal and damaging behavior. Teenage boys fear it because of its potentially tight hold on their romantic confidence. It is the enemy of the people pleaser and the friend of the prudent. In a world of grey hues and fence riders it is one of the last remaining concretes that allows us to take a stand verbally. It takes our hand and leads us through every stage of our lives, yet many businesses are releasing it's grasp and clinging instead to the hand of the "yes man."

In my short and incredibly humble time as a contributer to society I have noticed this trend with many companies who are in growth mode either as a company or regionally. They are so desperate for business they take on unrealistic or unclear projects the client throws their way in an attempt to gain market share or professional respectability. If the contributors are not able to deliver however, the opposite unfortunately occurs. Time and resources are spent and after weeks of spinning and churning the product is frustrated contributors and an unhappy client. Had Mr/Ms Salesperson declined the project and continued to dig for more feasible opportunities would the company have been better off?

Let me be clear. My stand is not to look adversity in the face and quickly retreat. The '66 UTEP Miners and the '80 USA Hockey Team were both historical proof that perserverence through seemingly impossible circumstance can end in victory for the under dog. The imperative aspect however is those two teams had a definite time line of either success or failure. When the buzzer sounded they were either winners or losers. Time outs, half time, and periods were their opportunities to make adjustments.

Perhaps time limits and intermissions are the answer to the difficult decision of whether or not to take an opportunity on. Have the contributors give it their best for a set amount of time with an intermission half way through to reevaluate and if they do not deliver to the client's specifications when the time clock expires simply walk. Of course this theory is incredibly simplistic and naive. After all the fault could be in the contributors and I acknowledge that. However, if you find yourself with a team of contributors you trust and no results for the client, take it from Nancy Reagan and "Just Say No." If you have the killer instinct in you and want to swing for the fences atleast put a time line on it. After all, even baseball sends you back to the bench after three strikes.


kamerm said...

Hi Bethany,

What you're discussing is another angle on business ethics - in this case, not making promises you don't expect to be able to keep. Simply put, society works better for everyone when people act ethically (when contracts, implied as well as explicit, are likely to be obeyed), rather than folks cheating as much as the law will allow.

Unfortunately, ethical behavior isn't always a winning strategy for individual actors. For ethical violations to be impractical, there has to be a mechanism by which society can punish cheaters for the damage they do to the common-weal.

A bad reputation is the mechanism by which society traditionally punishes cheaters whose offences aren't legally culpable. However, the traditional, word-of-mouth reputation mechanism breaks down in large, effectively anonymous, markets where short-term, low-value, low-bidder wins transactions are the norm.

Credit Reporting Services have long provided a surrogate for reputation in C2B relations. More recently, sites such as resellerratings and epinions have begun to serve the same role for B2C. Likewise, linkedin is beginning serve a similar role in C2C and C2B, especially for HR. However, AFAIK, there's no site for managing B2B reputation (I imagine there's some thorny legal issues), though such is much needed.

Companies and consumer groups should assess the degree that they are more likely to be the victim rather than the victimizer wrt a given area of unethical behavior. And, in each such area, they should underwrite and encourage the use of the relevant portals so that ethical behavior is encouraged.

However, I'm not sure if or how "contributions to encourage forms of ethical behavior beneficial to our enterprise" would be declared under GAAP ;->


Bethany Pirttima said...

I think what you are describing goes well beyond the reach of the local Better Business Bureau. Regulations of ethics have long been and I'm sure will forever be a source of contention among our citizens. How in the world do you regulate something that is relative. Ahhh a discussion isn't a discussion until you have reached the topic of relativism...