I sometimes wonder if there are two ways to succeed in business: Being extremely bad, or being wonderfully good.
“Extremely bad” of course reflects – at its extreme – outright criminal behaviour, and there are plenty of corruption and organized crime out there. Shortcuts on health and safety, unethical bid rigging, cheating on taxes with under-the-table deals; all of these activities undoubtedly are part of the construction industry landscape. In most cases, if you are really good at being really bad, we won’t know about it – only the victims, who will lick their wounds.
The risk of being really bad, other than having problems with your conscience (which won’t be a problem for any true psychopath), is getting caught. You then face the prospect of expensive legal bills, civil actions, and possibly imprisonment. (The smart “bad” people use the legal system and courts, however, to intimidate their victims.)
There is another side of the story, of course, and that reflects the rewards of being good. Generous sharing, ethical service, engagement in community and association activities, and leadership, all pay off with repeat and referral business, public recognition, accolades, and if you have a moral compass, some amount of feeling good about yourself. We’re happy to report the good news stories in our publications, and it is always satisfying to discover good guys (and gals) coming first.
What about the grey areas; those places in the middle? Here things can get murky indeed. You might have a legitimate client entertainment and recognition policy, but if your counterparts exploit these resources for unethical personal gain, are you wrong?
And I’m sure all of us at some time or another have taken shortcuts or behaved in manners which go beyond enlightened self-interest, though we may brag that we really were enlightened in our activities.
However, there are arguments for going extreme, if you are going to go in any direction. Standing out from the crowd, reaching the peak or achievement and recognition, has real value.
I won’t advocate anyone go for the extreme of evil, of course.
But can we aim for extremes in “good”?
Here, I think of construction industry leaders who have allocated incredible resources for community and charitable activities, contributed to their associations, led in advocacy and educational initiatives and still thrived – even excelled – at their own businesses, outlasting competitors in hard times, and raking in the profits when the economy rebounds.
Yes, let’s do good, and do it to the extreme. Your business (and the world) will be better for your achievements.