A couple weeks ago I drove up north to a cabin in Algonquin Park with a bunch of books, a guitar and Damon Vicker’s audiobook “The Day After The Dollar Crashes” on my iphone for the drive. It was a weekend intended to be a mini-retreat where I recharge and map out the next year for my business, but I ended up thinking a lot more about business in general.
Perhaps it was a combination of listening to the Damon Vickers book, then after a long hike I ended up starting to watch Zeitgeist Addendum on the iphone. The first half of the movie does a great job explaining the insanity of the current monetary system, but the second half of the movie then steers hard-left as Jaques Fresco appears on the scene to explain how a world subject to his command would be utopia.
Once again, people make the old mistake of looking at what’s wrong with the world and blaming it on “free markets” and “capitalism”. What is now becoming a mantra for me,
What passes for “Free Markets”, aren’t and “Capitalism” isn’t.
Peter Joseph has done the world a service with his first Zeitgeist movie, although I caution one to watch it with a grain of salt and keep your tin-foil hats nearby. The world is not run by a shadowy cabal at the top who controls everything, but it certainly does operate within some very flawed and unquestioned frameworks, much to it’s detriment.
Alas, the left turn is a red a herring. As Jaques Fresco declares that it is impossible for a business to be “ethical”, his example is a storekeeper:
If you came into my store and I said this lamp that I got is pretty good, but the lamp next story is much better, I wouldn’t be in business very long, it woudn’t work, if I were ethical it wouldn’t work.
I found that one seemingly innocuous and simplistic example stuck with me and bothered me because it demonstrated such a clear ignorance of business.
Off the top of my head, here’s why an ethical businessman could inform the customer about the “better” lamp next story and remain viable:
- The lamp next door may be better, but more expensive.
- The lamp next door may be better, but harder to get replacement parts for.
- The lamp next door may be better, but the store may be closed.
- The lamp next door may be made from the skulls of baby seals.
- The lamp next door could be a 110V lamp while the customer needs 220V.
So there are all kinds of reasons why you could tell a prospective customer about the better, superior lamp next door which would serve to inform that person, and there are a myriad reasons why you would still make the sale of your lamp to that customer.
Let’s say you didn’t though and that customer went next door and bought the lamp. What could happen?
- You’ve done that person a service, and they will remember you for in the future. I know this from direct, personal experience spanning over 15 years of operating businesses. Figure out what the customer wants and then help them get it, whether it’s from you or not. I guarantee, that business comes back to you down the road. I know this to be fact.
- You’ve done the merchant next door a service, and maybe you carry something that’s better than what he has, and next time he’ll send a customer your way instead. By co-operating with the merchant next door, you both extend your reach into the marketplace.
- You could collect a commission from the store next door for the referral (and you could pay him one for any customers he sends over to you).
- Because you have put the customers overall needs first and given him information to meet that need, you have likely proven to be a worthwhile source of information, and earned permission to communicate with that person in the future. You could collect his contact information and generate a lead.
- The market could be communicating important information to you about the lamp sector and your place in it. This is the market’s job. Not a committee of experts deciding what lamp everybody should be using via the scientific method, but rather people making choices based on their requirements.
- And finally, if the store next door really truly has better lamps, at better prices and on better terms with better deliverability then maybe you shouldn’t be in the lamp business.
An unethical operator can always make the short-term decision for the “quick buck”, but what I and many other business people know from direct experience and from the operating results of our own (profitable) businesses over time: the quick buck is most often the last buck, or rather: putting the customers needs above your desire for a quick buck, results in recurring revenue over time.
Whichever way you arrive at goal of matching the customer up with the best lamp for his needs (taking the ethical route) you wind up with greater rewards over the long term. Because even by losing the sale, you may have acquired goodwill, a lead, a referral or important market signaling.
There is a new wave occurring and it is going in the opposite direction of the “Zeitgeist Movement” or “Venus Project”, it basically one where natural capitalism (real capitalism, and true market forces) are going to deliver the solutions to the problems we face.
In other words, to quote Amory Lovins in his “Winning The Oil Endgame” lecture…
“…thus the Whales Were Saved by Profit Maximizing Capitalists.”
…is the shape of things to come and the ethos of true capitalism.
Watch this space to see it unfold. In the meantime, get and read Damon Vickers book. It is more a book about repairing and rebuilding than it is about the dollar crashing.