3 takeaways from the recent Business Roundtable statement
Wednesday, August 28, 2019
Why should small businesses care about the recent statement from the Business Roundtable? After all, the lobbying group represents some of the largest and most powerful companies in America and thus is not necessarily representative of the thoughts, feelings and challenges of our country’s smaller organizations.
However, before moving on to the next headline, business and HR leaders should consider these three takeaways.
Cart or horse?
There is a reason it is hard to turn a freight ship on a dime — freight ships should not turn on a dime. Similarly, while the businesses represented in the Business Roundtable (BR), of which 180 leaders signed the statement, are large and powerful, they are not built to shift missions quickly.
Instead, such large organizations often use their power to create or invest in progressive, cutting-edge or out-of-the-box initiatives from which they can reap any benefits without being subject to massive risk if the whole organization shifted direction.
On the other hand, they can lobby government to shape policy to benefit their philosophies, agendas and operations.
Because of both approaches, leaders can take away from the statement that adding priorities alongside the priority of maximizing shareholder value is important both politically and operationally. And, if the leaders of these organizations are at least thinking about turning their ships in that direction, small businesses that have not should as well.
Smoke and mirrors
It can be argued that undergoing such a shift could be massive, with implications so far-reaching that even if the members of the BR could do so immediately, they should not. Conversely, it was a politically savvy statement and as the B Corporations were quick to point out in their full-page ad in The New York Times, the statement does not commit these businesses to anything.
While B Corporations created legislation and are legally bound to commit to more than shareholder value; few of us can make that type of commitment with our businesses either. Instead, our takeaway can be that we are nimble enough to take the best of both approaches and adopt it to our needs.
Tea leaves and free coffee
For example, one trend consistent among both groups, academics and economists over recent years has been the importance of the employee. From the growth of fair trade to the growing normalcy of nontraditional perks, employees have become an important aspect of organizational operations.
While companies still look at employees as an expense, more and more are shifting to the idea that people are an expense in which they should invest. Whether it is attracting the next generation of workers or keeping the expertise of the boomers, organizations across industries are trying to find creative ways to support this unique asset.
With fewer employees who in turn can have a greater impact on our bottom line, we should take this opportunity to understand and optimize the assets sitting in our offices.
Because we are smaller, we have our eyes and ears on the ground in our communities. Though that often makes us more susceptible to the shifting winds of change, it also positions us well to take advantage of that knowledge.
By taking another look at the purpose for our organizations, we can take action to ensure our organization’s values are properly aligned — whatever they may be.
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