My Dad used to say that Business is Business, and Personal is Personal. I think he was advising me not to mix my personal life with my professional life. It sounded like good advice, at the time, but the longer I live, the less realistic, practical and productive it actually is.
We could have much better, faster growing, more profitable businesses if we changed the way we approach business and people.
Sometimes we want “Business” to be “Business.”
There’s another business saying Dad used, and I hear even today:
“Don’t take this personally. It is a business decision.”
The only time Dad ever said this was in situations where someone was getting axed, fired, laid-off, removed or replaced. It could be employee or a vendor.
Dad has no exclusive use of the term. Last December, just two days before Christmas, a friend of mine heard similar words. “This is not about you, Bill. It’s a business decision. We wish you all the best.” Then he was handed his walking papers.
“It’s not about you, Bill.” What a ridiculous statement. Of course it is about Bill. Why else is he at the meeting? Tell that to his family.
Sometimes we want “Business” to be “Personal.”
We use an entirely different choice of words when we are courting a client, or new employee.We say things like:
- “We care about you.”
- “Your success matters to us.”
- “We want to be your partner, not a vendor.”
- “You can trust us. You can count on us. We have your back.”
These are unmistakably personal words. Some are even terms of endearment of sorts.
So, we see that:
- Business is personal when doing something pleasant. Otherwise, it is business.
- It is personal when we’re giving; it is business when we’re taking.
- It is personal when we’re helping; it is business when we’re hurting.
Flip Wilson’s character, said, “The Devil made me do it.” We say, “The Business made me do it.”
We want to take personal responsibility and get credit for the pleasant things we do. But we want no responsibility or blame for those that are unpleasant. We blame “the business.”
I have a shocking observation based on my 30+ years doing business:
All business is personal. Every business is personal. Everyday, all the time.
Think about it. Every activity, every decision, every system, every process, every procedure, every innovation, every creation, every interaction, every sale, every buy, every complaint, every problem, every solution, every idea, every interaction, every communication, every error, every misunderstanding, every lawsuit, every mishap, every success, every failure, all without exception are the result of personal involvement somewhere.
There’s nothing that happens in any business that doesn’t have a personal involvement. Everything in business is done by, for, at, or with people.
Example from The Bailey Building and Loan Association
It’s a Wonderful Life depicts the story of George Bailey, a man whose life is inextricably connected to his family’s business, The Bailey Building and Loan. The personal/business connection is made obvious in each of the business situations presented in the movie.
- George saves drugstore: Mr. Gower, the druggist, has received a telegram with news that his son had died in combat. (personal) He is so upset that he mis-fills a prescription with poison. (personal) George sees the telegram and realizes Mr. Gower’s mistake. He saves him from certain ruin risking his job (personal) by not delivering the inappropriately filled prescription. (Personal)
- George rescues his business from 1st run on the bank: George witnesses a “run on the bank” and steps in, canceling his honeymoon. The “run” is caused because his customers heard something and reacted by demanding their deposits in cash. (personal) George’s intervention (personal) convinces them to take only what they need, (personal) thus keeping the bank whole for another day.
- Uncle Billy’s mistake, and Mr. Potter’s choice creates a problem: The bank is in its worst situation when Uncle Billy mistakenly leaves a deposit in a newspaper at Potter’s. (personal.) Potter knows what happened, and he keeps the money and calls the bake examiners. (personal)
- Mary Bailey, intervenes to save George and the Building and Loan. George is in dire straights, drunk and looking for a way out when his wife gets word of the situation and takes a course of action. (personal) She calls the bank customers and some of George’s friends and asks for their help. They overwhelmingly come to his aid with their savings and other significant contributions. (personal)
- The Bank Examiner changes his mind. The bank examiner, seeing the generosity of the community and support of friends, and caught up in the spirit of the moment, tears up the subpoena, and sings with the others. (personal)
It is inarguable. Business is personal.
In fact, a business can only work as well as its people work. The success of an enterprise is directly related and proportional to how well that workforce works together and with the marketplace and the community.
People! People! Everywhere!
If business leaders could realize just how personal business really is, they would prioritize an optimized workforce. It would cause companies to run better, to grow faster and to make more money.